The Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal
The days are getting longer and that’s the first hint that summer is soon approaching. Problem is, as diligent as you are with your fitness routine and diet, you are just not meeting your objectives. According to scientists at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, you may need to be more methodical about your weight loss. They say the key to losing weight is to keep track of the food and calories you intake since, for example, 100 calories of an apple is not the same as a 100-calorie bag of pretzels.
There are many studies that show food journals are a key factor in weight loss success.
Dr. Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. and her fellow group of scientists, have conducted several studies that are published online at the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Through these studies they have found that women keeping food journals generally lost anywhere from 6-8 more lbs than those who did not. Ding, ding, ding, ding!!! We like those results!
HBO also released a 4 part documentary called The Weight of the Nation. Two of the women interviewed in this film, Rhonda and Elana, link their weight loss success to their food journals. They say it takes work, but the payoff is huge. In addition to their daily exercise routine, they write down anything and everything they eat. Each has lost over 100lbs and has maintained it for a year! Those are amazing results!!!! Losing weight is hard, but maintaining that weight loss is even harder.
A food journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be an app on your smartphone, a piece of paper in a binder or a plain notebook. The thing is, there has to be a food journal and there is certain information that you have to keep track of. The more detailed you are about it, the more you will know why you are, or are not, losing weight and keeping it off.
All these success stories have something in common, a food journal. And these food journal successes all share these characteristics:
You have to write down everything you eat. EVERYTHING. Whether it is one lousy little M&M that won’t do a thing, or that handful of almonds that are good for you, everything has to go down in the journal. Don’t forget its also what you drink: glass of water, glass of juice, diet soda etc. Write it down and BE HONEST. The journal is for you to read and to help you with your process and progress. Honesty plays a big role in that success.
Don’t just write down that you ate broiled chicken. Write down that you ate 4 oz of broiled chicken with a dash of salt and a 6 oz of boiled white rice. You have to be precise about measurement. Don’t guess.
Include as many details as possible. Don’t forget the toppings, how the dish was prepared (frying food is not the same as boiling food) and condiments. They all have calories. Again, don’t forget to also include what you drink. Write down when you ate & drank these calories to see if certain points of the day are your “weak points”.
Use a method that works for you. Don’t search the web for the “perfect food journal” because the perfect food journal is the one you are going to use. I started with a plain notebook that fit in my purse. Then I switched to the notepad on my iphone and now I have an intricate 3 ring binder with a sheet of paper that I designed myself that includes things like my weight, food intake, drinks, portions and then I’ve added sections regarding how that food has made me feel, if and how it impacted my mood etc. I’ve evolved but I use a process that works for me. And it has been a process, because I can tell you I would have never succeed if I started keeping track of all this information on day 1.
Start your journal now.
Don’t wait until Monday to start. I always tell people that I have a friend that diets 52 days out of the year, every Monday. Don’t be that friend. Today is the day. Keep it simple so you don’t overwhelm yourself with all the information you have to put down, but remember the key points of being honest, precise, complete and consistent. If at that moment you can’t write it down, take a picture with your phone and do it later. But get it done before you go to bed. Be accountable. Do it for your success.
Your food journal is your friend, your best buddy and your accountability partner. Your journal will help you stay focused, motivated and will help you stick to your plan. It’s a great way to document your successes, understand what works for you or doesn’t, because you can go back and check patterns. The more information you put into it, the more you will get out of it. This is why my food journal has evolved and I’ve included sections on how food makes me feel. I started to notice that dairy made me feel bloated, caffeine made my mood change and sugar got my mind all foggy! I have achieved and more importantly maintained my weight goals as well as improved my overall health! I sleep and feel better overall and I think that makes me a better person for those around me.
So, what are you going to keep track of in your food journal?