Years ago, if you had asked Justin Seedman, ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and owner of JustinFit, LLC, if he encouraged his clients to journal their food intake as a way to assess how much they were eating, he would have said “yes.” And that was a great answer, because research shows that people who document what they eat are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off.
Today, however, Seedman, like many other health coaches, has stopped using popular calorie counting apps with his clients. He believes this technique is too time-consuming and tedious. Clients become overwhelmed with having to record every sip and crumb they consume and, while it can be done for a small amount of time, it eventually becomes a source of distress, which ultimately leads to noncompliance.
According to Seedman, issues arise when a client is solely focusing on counting calories using online apps. He saw issues with the databases and the food labels used in the databases.
“Research shows that the actual calories content of what you’re eating is often significantly higher or lower,” explains Seedman. “The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] permits inaccuracies of up to 20%. Food journaling based only on counting calories doesn’t take into account the nutrient content of those calories. Many people will choose foods lower in calories, but less nutritious than foods higher in calories that have more nutrients. For example, some people may choose a 100-calorie pack of cookies containing no nutrients over a quarter cup of walnuts that are 180 calories, but packed with nutrients. Plus, it’s difficult for most people to estimate their portion sizes, especially in restaurants.”
Today, Seedman prefers to use tools such as You Ate, which is an app that helps users stay mindful of what they actually eat. They take a quick photo of their meal and simply mark it as “on-path” or “off-path.” You Ate shows what was eaten on a photographic timeline so clients can make mindful decisions going forward. They can add notes and details to see why they made that meal choice and how it made them feel.
In addition to You Ate, Lee Jordan, ACE Certified Health Coach and Behavior Change Specialist, also uses Meal Logger, which is another free, photo-based tracking tool. Jordan specializes in working with clients who want to lose 100 or more pounds. For Jordan, having his clients become self-aware of their habits