Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lose Weight and Get Fit with Nutrition and Exercise Tracking

By Linda Thomson

If you have ever battled a weight problem or tried to get into better shape through workouts, you no doubt have heard a certain piece of advice again and again. Write it down.
Keeping track of your workouts, the foods you eat and the progress you have made may sound like just one more chore on your list of things to do. With everyone so busy these days, who has time? Moreover, does this really make a difference anyway?
Actually, it does.

2008 study by Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research showed that people in a control group who kept nutrition journals lost almost twice as much weight as the people who did not keep track of those things. More than 1,500 overweight or obese people took part in the research. They got information about healthy lifestyles, took part in group sessions each week and were asked to embrace a diet high in fruits and vegetables as well as exercise 30 minutes a day.
The participants who kept a food journal for five days a week lost almost twice as much weight as the people who did not track their food intake, and those who kept the journals also had far higher rates of success in keeping off the pounds they had lost.
With the tools available on fitness software products, you can easily track your food intake as well as your exercises and see how you are doing. The top-quality applications do the calculations for you, and many let you save favorite meals or snacks so you don't have to input the data again.
So why is tracking your food and exercise so helpful? Three reasons: accuracy, accountability and accolades.
When you write it down, you get, among other things, a truly accurate picture of what is going into your mouth and what is going on with your diet. You really can see the difference among various foods. A half-cup of honey-roasted peanuts contains between 280 and 380 calories, depending on the brand. A full cup of air popped popcorn contains 30 calories. A medium apple has 80 calories.
It is easy to make mistakes and bad choices when it comes to dieting – sometimes when you're not aware of it. Take the typical salad bar, for example. A big green salad with four tablespoons of a name brand low-fat bleu cheese salad dressing will weigh in at 140 calories for the dressing. However, if you slather the same plate of greens with four tablespoons of regular bleu cheese salad dressing from the same company, the dressing count shoots up to 300 calories.
If you indulge in that doughnut in the morning, then the only way to lose weight that day is to cut somewhere else. However, if you are not keeping track of what you eat, it's hard to keep all that information in your mind – and then you are miserably reminded of any poor food choices the next time you get on the scale. By tracking what you eat, you can balance the occasional treat with some less fattening foods later in the day and still stick with a weight loss regimen.
If you start an exercise plan and you are able to do only three measly push-ups at first, that's depressing. However, if you can knock off 20 pushups a few weeks later, that's a terrific accomplishment. If you are a man and your waistline once was 47 inches, but now is 35 after a period of exercising regularly, that is a huge change, and it carries significant implications not only for your appearance but for your overall health as well. When you can look back and see the progress you've made, you are more likely to stick with your new healthy habits. Tracking your progress with fitness software can really provide the motivation to stay the course with any exercise plan.
It might seem like a lot of finicky work to input the information you will need to track your nutrition and workout goals, but the software available today makes it a painless effort. In addition, the benefits of having all this data available at a glance cannot be overstated. You can see at once if you have made some progress or if you erred and indulged in one too many of those yummy treats that are not part of your meal plan. Having all that information there before your eyes can help you stay well informed and prepared to make any adjustments to continue toward your fitness goals.
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