This week (starting yesterday on Saturday) I am trying out Reverse Tracking. I am doing this experiment with Weight Watchers tracking, but you could actually use Reverse Tracking with calorie counting or other forms of tracking. This is not my idea. I got it from the Weight Watchers message boards (which I recommend to those following Weight Watchers). Here is a thread there about reverse tracking (FYI, I post on those message boards as catspell).
What is Reverse Tracking
Reverse tracking is a way to pick your tracking day to start whenever you want. The default for most people is to think of the tracking day as beginning with breakfast. In my case, with reverse tracking, I am starting my tracking day to begin with dinner (actually starting it at 6:00 PM to be precise about it). To do this, I track the dinner I eat today (as well as any snacks thereafter) in tomorrow’s place for dinner. Therefore, my Weight Watchers “day” starts at 6:00 and then continues for 24 hours until the same time next day.
Here is how it looks in my online tracker for today:
The breakfast and lunch were eaten today. However, the dinner and snacks were eaten last night. For snacks, I am putting in the snack slot only what I ate for snacks after the prior night’s dinner. Since I am doing this as an experiment, I want to be able to know what foods were eaten during today versus those eaten for dinner and evening snacks last night. So, the snacks I ate this afternoon are included in my lunch entry.
I am still doing my dual tracking in MyFitnessPal using regular tracking starting with breakfast. Note that for regular tracking (whether at Weight Watchers or MFP) if I eat a snack after midnight, I count it as part of the day that I just recorded my meals on. That is, my “day” on Weight Watchers and MFP has traditionally started with breakfast and not at midnight. I know some people start their tracking day at midnight, however.
Note that I could do reverse tracking with MFP if I wanted to. In that event I would do the same as above. That is I would have recorded Saturday’s dinner and evening snacks to Sunday. However, at this point I am doing the reverse tracking only with Weight Watchers?
Why Reverse Track
The idea of reverse tracking is to find the most difficult part of your day (from a food standpoint) and start your Weight Watchers day at that point when you have all of your Daily SmartPoints available.
For example, last night I ate 11 SmartPoints from dinner until I went to bed. When I woke up, this morning I knew that I had 19 SmartPoints left to eat from breakfast until I had dinner. I say dinner, but really, I will put a time on it of about 6:00 pm.
So why do that? Because I think it may be easier for me. I love SmartPoints, but I have struggled at times with the fact that I have more Daily SmartPoints now, but have less Weekly SmartPoints. I’ve noticed that the calories I am eating on SmartPoints has crept up from what I was eating before. With PointsPlus I usually ended the week with 10 to 25 Weekly SmartPoints left. Now, I usually use them all. I usually don’t eat many of them when I don’t go out to eat. But, if I go out to eat twice in a week (and sometimes I eat out more than that), I end up using most of my Weekly SmartPoints when I eat out. I usually have a few left over for the non-eating out days, but not many.
On some days, I actually struggle to get to 30 SmartPoints, particularly on days that I eat a lot of protein. But, I have found some evenings difficult. I usually eat dinner fairly early in the evening but I stay up late. I often eat most of my snacks in the evening because I may not go to bed until 6 or 8 hours after I have had dinner (sometimes even later).
So, what I found was happening, was that I would have breakfast and lunch and maybe an afternoon snack and then eat dinner and I only had a few daily SmartPoints left. I would have a snack and use those up. Then, it would be midnight and I would be hungry. I would go eat a small snack, but have to use Weekly SmartPoints for it. With PointsPlus, this wasn’t an issue for me. I did that every day and usually ended the week with Weekly PointsPlus left. With SmartPoints, I was finding that I was eating all my Weekly SmartPoints and often eating some or all of my FitPoints. I wasn’t eating a lot of Weekly SmartPoints on days I didn’t eat out, but I was eating a few on most day. It adds up and I only get 28 Weekly SmartPoints.
So, for me, the evening is my most challenging part of the day. The idea of reverse tracking is that I have all of my Daily SmartPoints available for the evening and eat them. Then, whatever is left over is what I have left for the next day (breakfast to 6 PM).
Last evening I ate only 11 SmartPoints. That was lighter than most evenings because I had eaten a large lunch out. But, I knew this morning I had 19 SmartPoints to eat before dinner. I had no problem holding to that and ate exactly 19. But, if I had eaten 14 SmartPoints last evening, I would have had 16 SmartPoints available during the day today. I would have found that easy to hold to as well. I would know that even if I got a little hungry I would be having dinner in the evening after my new Weight Watchers day started.
The risk of reverse tracking is that you fail to pace yourself. For example, I have not had dinner this evening yet. And, I know that I have 30 Daily SmartPoints to use (since it is after 6:00 PM and my new Weight Watchers day has started). Let’s say I ate 20 SmartPoints this evening. That would leave 10 SmartPoints for tomorrow from breakfast to 6:00 PM. That would be challenging and would probably result in me eating some Weekly SmartPoints. Now, if I was going out to dinner tonight as one of my one or two times during the week to eat out that wouldn’t be a problem. But, I am not heating out. So I need to pace my eating and basically set a maximum number of SmartPoints that I am willing to eat in the evening (probably about 15 SmartPoints would be my maximum).
How to Reverse Track
The important thing to understand is that you individually pick your day to start whenever you want to start it based upon what is the most difficult part of the day for you. When I used to work full-time in an office, there was a time when I ate out for lunch nearly every day of the work week. That lunch was often very challenging for me. In that situation, it would have made sense to start my Weight Watchers day at lunch time. My sense it that for many people, however, the most challenging part of the day starts with dinner.
So, how to start reverse tracking. I am using 6:00 PM as when my new Weight Watchers day starts. I elected to start reverse tracking on Saturday which is the start of my Weight Watchers week. To get started, I took my dinner and evening snacks on Friday and entered them in eTools both on Friday and on Saturday. So, when I woke up Saturday morning, my dinner and snacks slot was already filled in with what I had on Friday night. That first day is the only time you have to do that.
Now, I just know that anything I eat from 6:00 PM on will be entered in tomorrow’s dinner and snack slot on Weight Watchers. In the morning, I will get up and know that I have X SmartPoints to use until 6:00. For me, I am putting daytime snacks in with either breakfast (for morning snacks) or lunch (for afternoon snacks), but you could put them in the snack slot if you wanted. I do it this way so I actually do still know what I ate each day.
I am trying reverse tracking for this Weight Watchers week. What I am interested in is whether this will make it easier for me to handle the more challenging part of the day for me. The idea of it is that I can basically eat during the evening so that I don’t get too hungry and then during the next day (before 6 PM) I will be able to better handle my eating during the afternoon, since that is the less difficult part of the day for me.
This is all just mental really. I don’t have any more SmartPoints available to me doing this. It is a question of whether I will be able to better allocate my SmartPoints when the end of my day includes lunch and the afternoon, rather than dinner and the evening. For me, lunch and the afternoon is usually not a very difficult part of the day from a food standpoint. I think that if I run out of SmartPoints and it is 3:00 in the afternoon, I will find it easy to maybe eat some berries and hold on until dinner. In the evening, I find it hard to do that because I am having to hold on until breakfast. Since I stay up late, that can be very difficult if I am hungry. I am going to put a loose limit on dinner and evening snacks of about 15 SmartPoints except on evenings that I eat out.
So far, this has not been hard to do. Yesterday wasn’t difficult because I went out for lunch and ate 24 SmartPoints. I wasn’t really very hungry after that. I ate lightly last night (11 SmartPoints) so I had 19 SmartPoints left. I ate all 19 of them before 6:00 but, honestly, I would have been fine eating several less if I had had fewer. We’ll see how it goes for the rest of the week. I will report back at the end of the week.