Project Lifestyle – January Nutrition Workstream

Project Lifestyle Purple Cover


My nutrition workstream is to help me get my eating habits into a healthier state. It’s no secret I’m a binge eater and struggle with emotional triggers that make me turn to food. This is something I want to tackle head this year using a combination of all the aspects of Project Lifestyle.

Tracking Everything

“Research shows that it takes about 12 weeks on average to form new habits. By sticking to this routine for three  months, healthy eating and regular  exercise will become habits, which  are key to losing weight and  keeping it off.” NHS Choices 12 Weeks

Habits are hard to break and hard to learn.  I have to force myself to track, but it is the only way I can determine whether I am eating because I’m hungry or emotional sometimes. I want to break the habit of turning to food when emotions are overwhelming so I am focusing on tracking everything this month. I’m not worrying about sticking to a calorie amount, but rather build an awareness of what I am eating and then review it to see where I am struggling.

Tracking My Food Portions

“Food portion sizes today are far bigger than they were 30 years ago” is a simple fact that even though I wasn’t around 30 years ago I can understand. Everything has supersized and no wonder people, including myself, has no idea what a normal or healthy portion should be. Another problem many of my generation have probably come up against is that our parents taught us not to waste and clear our plates. My parents were brought up in post-war Britain and my mum can remember rationing. At that time it was important not to waste and eat what you could when you could. I’m not going further back and looking at human history, but food is now available and plentiful (not everywhere I know). I learnt some habits from my parents that are no longer helpful in today’s world. Don’t get me wrong, wasting anything is not good, but I would rather waste food than continue to eat too much. There will be a lot of learning to do, but I am going to use this guide to help me develop healthier habits.

Guide for Women (allowance 1,400kcal)

  • Breakfast: 280kcal
  • Lunch: 420kcal
  • Dinner: 420kcal
  • Other food and drink: 280kcal

I hoping this guide, and I’m stressing the word ‘guide’, will help me plan my meals better and get my portions back to a healthier level. I’m not focusing on what these are made up of yet as I need more data for that, but rather focusing on learning what works and what doesn’t. I weighing my food again. A simple technique that really shows the difference between suggested serving sizes and what we think of as a serving.

Tracking My Snacks

A bug bear of mine is that people often say to me “quit snacking then you’ll lose weight”, but everyone is different and I was glad to see this written in the NHS guide – “Some people need a snack between meals to maintain energy levels, especially if they are very active.” – getting it right is the hard thing for me. By tracking everything I eat I want to better understand what works and what doesn’t work for my body. I have already noticed that when I eat something small before swimming on the weekend I feel much better during the session. It means I need to get up on time and plan to have the right snacks available. My go to snack at the moment is a crumpet with peanut butter or lemon curd. If I can get my snack timing right it makes it easier to have just one and then three meals a day.

Trying to Track Why I’m Eating

Using a small notebook I am trying to track why I eat. I want to start noticing the signs of hunger again and being able to differentiate them from emotional triggers. It’s a hard one to keep up consistently I find. I’m using a little notepad I’ve had for a while. I find it easier at work as I get it out and keep it on my desk

Using My Fitness Pal

I’ve decided to not pay for any tool or group as if I want this to be sustainable I have to be able to do it long term on my own. I can ask for help along the way and may try to see a dietician or nutritionist if some extra money comes my way, but otherwise I want to use free tool. So I’ve decided to go back to My Fitness Pal. I’ve got a few friends using it too so we are able to support each other.

I can’t decide if I like tracking online or if I am more aware when I write everything down by hand. I know I don’t want to try in multiple ways so have gone for My Fitness Pal over a Fitbook for example. I don’t want to this to take up too much time, but the right amount where I am aware of when and what I am eating and how it makes me feel.  I am getting better at using the online system and after putting a week or so worth of meals in it is easy to copy across the same things. I also love that you can scan barcodes to find the things you buy.  Again this is easy at work as I can quickly pop it open and update it. At home I tend to use my phone, I just need to get better at doing it before I eat, rather than after.

I’m tracking my fitness in MFP as well, but using my heart rate monitor to input the calories burnt, rather than the MPF calculation. The only thing this doesn’t work for is swimming, but as soon as I get a new watch battery for my poolmate I’ll be able to measure that more personally as well.

So at the end of the month in my review I will update you on my thoughts and progress on this workstream. I am tracking everything, everyday and will spend some time analysing what it shows me and then I’ll share it with you all. I suppose this one is really about reforming habits that I know are helpful, rather than concentrating on breaking unhelpful ones. I am aiming to replace the unhelpful with the helpful over time.

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