Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Should you track your calories? Yes or no.
For the vast majority I believe yes... and here's why.
I personally track every day. It's become habitual. The same way I get up in the morning and brush my teeth, whenever food enters my mouth, it gets weighed and tracked. Some may see this as a lot of effort (and it was initially) but it gradually it becomes the norm.
The main reason I track every day and encourage my clients to follow suit, is accountability. Hitting your calorie target every day allows you to be accountable with your food. It encourages constancy day to day, instead of eating very little whilst busy at work all week and splurging come saturday.
Calorie counting also allows gives some leeway in terms of food quality.
I would love it if all my clients ate nutrient dense foods 100% of the time, but that isn't realistic. There will come a time when cravings get the better of you and that's where tracking comes in. It allows you to have the occasional treat whilst staying within calories i.e. lets say your daily intake is 1500 calories, if 1300 is made up of clean healthy food but you reeeeally want that kit kat, well its 200cals, so fuck it, throw it in there and hit that 1500 for the day. This type of flexible eating encourages co-herance, sustainability and enjoyment from what you eat. All super important elements of a successful nutritional plan.
I've found over the years my knowledge of food has also greatly increased. Through simply tracking consistently I've learnt how many calories are in most everyday foods. I know what to have more of. What to avoid. What types of foods to eat if I need to catch up on calories. What type of foods I should have if I've got very few calories left. Not to mention the amount of protein, carbs and fat that are in most foods (but that's probably because I'm a straight up nerd).
This knowledge also comes in handy when I'm unable to track. If I'm out at a restaurant and I can't weigh foods (although it will make my year when I a restaurant that does). I'm able to make logical estimates in order to keep myself on track.
The biggest bug bear that some "fit-pros" have with tracking, is that the mobile apps which facilitate calorie tracking can often be wrong. Which isn't and incorrect statement. However, this is where my own knowledge of nutrition and common sense comes into play. If I'm having a huge piece of cake (which is rare to be fair - don't know why I said that) and it comes to 100cals. I know something ain't copacetic.
The app I currently use personally and professionally, is MyFitnessPal. Through this app I'm able to see what foods my clients are tracking from my own phone. Along with the quality of their tracking. I'm able to educate them on inputting certain foods and choosing correct and verified foods (verified by the app) in order to be as accurate as possible. Yeah they might make mistakes. Shit, I still make the occasional mistake. But it's through these mistakes that we get better and become more accurate.
The only time I would sway against tracking is with someone who really has a terrible overall diet. Who eats above and beyond most days and is looking to lose a lot of weight. Very simple nutritional changes could see this person lose weight without tracking calories.
But, if you're an average Joe, looking to lose a bit of belly fat, who's tried gyming and eating clean without seeing much success. It's probably time to start paying more attention to the numbers because that is the only way you can truly in in control of your results.
Remember... presumption is the mother of all fuck ups.