A Food Journal is Key to Weight Loss Success
They discover they may not be eating enough. They discover they may be eating too much. They discover they are just eating the wrong things.
How do you stack up? Do you know if you are eating the right amounts and types? Knowledge is power, and in this case it’s a simple fix: start keeping a food journal.
It may seem boring and it may feel tedious, but keeping a record of what you eat can make the difference between weight loss failure or success.
A study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that keeping a food log can actually double a person’s weight loss. Similarly the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks over 5,000 individuals who have lost large amounts of weight and maintained that weight loss, found that a large number of successful study participants tracked what they ate.
Writing down what you eat puts your food habits in perspective. A cookie here and there, your child’s leftovers, the four breadsticks with dinner…they all add up, and shockingly fast. Oftentimes people do not know how many calories they are actually consuming, especially among those who dine out frequently. Restaurant portions are often much larger than recommended sizes, and are laden with richer, higher calorie foods.
Food journals can record all that and help you make better choices. Many web sites offer nutritional information for popular restaurants and fast food establishments. Web-based journals (both free and “for fee”) also store much of that information in their databases, which can be easily plugged into your daily records.
Depending on your needs and style, your journal can be a few simple notes or highly detailed. Calories and fat are usually recorded, but what about carbohydrates and fiber? Do you have high blood pressure and need to track your sodium intake? Are you a vegetarian and need to ensure you are consuming enough protein? What about fruits, vegetables and water?
Keeping track of your emotions is also an effective way to identify triggers that cause you to overeat or make unhealthy choices. If you ate three pieces of cake, ask yourself why and write it down. How did you feel before? Were you tired, bored or angry? How did you feel after, both physically and emotionally?
Kristin West, Certified Nutritionist/Post Rehabilitation Specialist and founder of ACHIEVE Weight Loss and Wellness in Temecula, California, uses food and exercise journals with her clients. “Many of us are traveling on a dangerous road to disease and pain. You will never realize it until you start journaling what you are eating. That is the only way you can look back on the path to see just how destructive it really is.”
There are many methods of keeping track of your food consumption. Whether you write your entries down in a notebook, purchase a bound food journal, or use one of the online journaling web sites, the options are as varied as individual personalities. The method of recordkeeping that works is the one that works for you. You may have to try different styles until you find a match.
People are often surprised with the results their journals show and it becomes more clear why weight loss has been slow or stagnant. Record what you eat, if even for a short time, until you have a better picture of what you actually consume. It may not be pretty, but pictures don’t lie.