Monday, June 20, 2016

Weight Loss and Health Trackers, Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

There it was on my food log tracker, I had an “extra” 200 Calories from walking the trail at work for 40 minutes.  Those magical ‘net Calories’ make me feel like I’ve gotten a bonus in my nutritional paycheck and was entitled to eat an extra 200 Calories…
This mentality occurs frequently in dieters and fellow food log aficionados.  “I burned an extra 7 Calories from making the bed!”
Unfortunately, all this food/activity logging can backfire.  Calories don’t always act like cash in your bank account.

The Nutrition Diva—Monica Reinagel (MS, LD/N, CNS), has a great article on her blog and podcast: “How Diet Trackers Sabotage Weight Loss.” 

Logging exercise or having a reminder to workout can build a great habit.  However, it’s not an incentive to eat more (unless your goal is to gain weight). 
Reinagel reports different ways that logging exercise can mislead your overall Calorie needs.
“If you use a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Jawbone or even a low-tech pedometer or step counter, you can use that to help you select the proper category for your lifestyle.
  • Fewer than 1,000 steps a day is sedentary.
  • Fewer than 10,000 steps or about 4 miles a day is Lightly Active.
  • Ten to 23,000 steps or 4 to 10 miles a day is considered Active.
  • More than 23,000 steps or ten miles a day is Highly Active” (Reinagel, 2016).
Currently, smart phones will track your movement (e.g. iPhones have the health app that can work well enough to give you a baseline or motivation to move more). 
In addition to getting a solid ballpark on your daily Calorie needs, the Calories burned from logging activities are frequently overblown (or they can get logged twice). 
Elle Penner, MPH, RD, is the Food and Nutrition Editor at MyFitnessPal.  She answers the common question “Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?”

Penner recommends the following mindful tips:
·         “Start with a hydration check.  Hone in on your hunger cues.  Don’t get stuck on the number.  Focus on high-quality protein and wholesome carbohydrates” (Penner, 2016). 

Let’s take fitness trackers and food logging habits with a proverbial grain of salt.  We know we can overestimate our exercise or portion sizes at times (and essentially cheat a little) but logs and trackers give us a picture of our eating habits and activity habits.  

Checking your steps may get you to take more short walks during the day.  Tracking your Calories may give you an idea of where you can add additional produce or other healthy foods into your diet.   

Your weight or body measurements may provide a more accurate or consistent measurement of progress outside of Calorie algorithms.  Consistency is key to starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Penner, E.(January, 2016).   Ask The Dietitian: Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?  Retrieved from:
 Reinagel, M. (April, 2016).  How Diet Trackers Sabotage Weight Loss.  Retrieved from:

Gina Volsko MS, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian and Health Data Analyst.  Follow her antics in health and technology on Instagram at gina.koko.