Nutrition research is miserable for lots of reasons. Author bias, poorly designed interventions and reliance on epidemiology are three big ones. Implicit in all of these and more is the issue of food recall and tracking. Humans are notoriously TERRIBLE at recalling how much food they eat, what they ate and when they ate it. This is a HUGE problem in observational studies trying to find associations between eating and disease but also makes achieving health goals a challenge. There is contentious ongoing debate about the benefit or possible harm of tracking food personally.
The benefits of food tracking either manually with pen and paper or through a sophisticated app like My Fitness Pal or Cronometer are many. The Hawthorne Effect describes how behavior changes purely through knowledge that the behavior is being observed. This is true with eating. Knowing that you and someone else will view your food record clearly changes what you eat and the integrity around your food choices. Sophisticated trackers that can give you a breakdown of macro and micro nutrients also provide additional value in dialing in nutrition related to specific goals. There is no doubt that tracking food will help you reach your goals and influence how you eat as long as you have integrity and discipline in your documentation.
However, with every action there is a reaction. Documentation can have negative consequences. Some mental health professionals worry that fastidious documentation can result in unhealthy behaviors around food and result in harm. Not surprisingly though, most people I work with already have unhealthy behaviors around food and I have yet to see the increase in accountability and knowledge be detrimental. The second concern which I do believe is more common is that people change their food choices to items that are easily tracked, particularly with digital apps. Switching from a whole foods diet to one that has easily scannable bar codes is not the direction we are hoping for with our patients. While this is common it is easily avoidable with a little leg work. Once your meals have been entered as a recipe you can easily add the same item back again. This is just as easy as scanning a bar code!
Ultimately, not everyone needs to track their food. I have been hesitant to recommend tracking in the past but as I continue to see benefit in myself and in my patients I am now a much bigger advocate. As is true with certain wearables like sleep trackers and continuous glucose monitors, food tracking is a great tool to do intermittently. To understand what you are consuming and the nutrient composition and quantities related to your choices. To that end we have partnered with Cronometer to offer a branded food tracker that our team will have access to with patient permission. Access to this tool should be available by the time you read this email!
You may have already been offered access to this digital tracker. If you haven't and are interested let us know and we will get you access! This tool will help us help you to reach your goals, whatever they may be!
If you want to work with a physician led team that utilizes tools such as these schedule your consultation with our team HERE! We look forward to hearing from you and learning how we can serve you.