If you’re one of the millions of people who struggle with their weight, whether it’s to gain mass or lose body fat, I have a great tool to help you reach your goals. A food journal! Logging your daily food intake has so many benefits and with technology today it’s even easier! Here’s what you can do to start your journal.
The most basic food diary would be a lined notebook; small enough that you can take it with you each day. In the beginning it’s nice to keep things simple and just write down what you ate and the date and time. After food logging becomes a habit, it may be advantageous to slowly start to record quantities (cups, teaspoons, serving sizes), macronutrient profiles (carbs, fats, proteins), or calories. Little books like the Calorie King can assist you in looking up that information. After you try tracking one of those, another advancement would be to write down how you felt before and after you ate. Were you stressed before you ate three brownies? How did you feel after? What was your environment like? Who did you eat with? How fast were you eating? Using a notebook is nice too because you can scribble notes on each page and flip back and forth to compare.
If you’re technologically savvy you have even more options! There are hundreds of sites dedicated to food logging that will count the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) and calories for you. At my YMCA we use LoseIt!, which you can join for free program at northshoreymca.loseit.com. This program can be used on your computer or you can download the app to your iPhone or Droid.
There are many benefits to food journaling. At times, most of us are guilty of speeding through the day and inhaling our food as we watch TV, use the computer, or drive in our cars. Food journaling makes you slow down and stop to think about what you’re putting into your mouth. If you know you‘ll be accountable to your journal with each meal and you have to write down everything eaten, you’ll be more likely to make smart choices.
It also helps you become more mindful of food portions, quality, eating patterns, and caloric content in addition to the emotion surrounding eating. Very few of us only eat when we’re feeling physically hungry. We might also eat out of boredom, stress, or habit. Maybe you eat larger portions around certain people or eat junk food only in certain situations. Recording your food helps bring your attention to these patterns and when you become aware of them you can break the cycle with strategy, planning, and preparation. For example, let’s say every time you work late on Thursdays you’re so hungry once you leave work you always end up ordering less than healthy take-out for dinner. Once you become aware of this pattern you can strategize to have something ready to eat in the crock-pot once you get home, or eat a snack later in the day to curb your hunger.
Lastly, it can be a very helpful tool should you hit a plateau in your weight loss. You can look back and see what was working for you, if anything changed, or better yet hand it in to your personal trainer or healthcare professional to get their opinions.
Have you ever tried logging your food? How did it go?
In good health,
Ryan Healy, BS, NSCA-CSCS