Journaling: A Dieter’s Best Friend

Food journals are a great tool for helping people lose weight, and there is science to back this up.

Whether you aspire to lose weight, tone-up or gain muscle, one thing is certain: diet is key. Keeping a food journal can stretch a fitness regimen beyond the gym and enable outcomes that benefit clients.

A food journal is simply a place to document everything you eat in a day. Scientific literature has established that keeping track of what you eat and drink is an effective tactic for making dietary changes. A recent article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that study participants who kept consistent food journals lost significantly more weight than those who did not.

In another study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers found that people using a food journal at least 6 days a week lost nearly twice as much weight as those who tracked their diet for a few days.

Keeping a food journal works because it increases awareness and accountability. Recording everything you consume helps you decrease mindless eating by raising your consciousness of the quality and quantity of food intake. Knowing you will need to record that extra-large double-fudge brownie in your food journal may discourage you from eating it in the first place.

Clients can record their food intake on paper or electronically. An effective food journal should include:

  • Date & Time: It is best to note the day of the week for quick comparison of day to day intake. It is also important to record the times you eat because optimal spacing helps keep the metabolism running efficiently. One should eat every 3-4 hours for optimal results.
  • Food Description. Ensure that all food and drinks are listed in detail this helps with awareness. You may put down a salad but if it had bacon, fried chicken and a fatty dressing, that is a bad choice.
  • Quantities. Accuracy is very important, so measuring everything with a portable scale or measuring cups is suggested. A 3/4 cup serving of cereal is a lot less than one might just pour into a bowl for breakfast. There are guidelines for estimating portion sizes such as 4-6 oz of meat is the size of a deck of cards. For more suggestions ask your Fitness Coach.
  • Notes. Designate an area in the food journal for recording notes/feelings just before or after a meal. This can help recognize when one is more prone to unhealthy or unplanned eating, such as late at night watching the television, after a stressful workday, etc. If one can recognize these situations one might be able to work on changing the unhealthy eating habit to something healthy such as exercise instead.

Honest record-keeping is the foundation of a food journal, which is only as useful as it is accurate. A journal offers a very personal look into one’s lifestyle and habits. Some people will feel vulnerable knowing somebody is looking over their shoulder. No one is judging actions so try not to be an eager-to-please recorder and only document foods that are healthy. These actions can lead to food journal inaccuracies or omissions, which undermine your results.

Small incremental steps form the basis for long-term life-style changes. Therefore, goal setting for the week is important after your first review of the journal. Short-term goals keep focus and motivation throughout the week because they can be obtained easily. Objectives can be directly or indirectly related to a dietary issue, but they must be specific and measurable. For example, a goal to eat more vegetables may set a goal to incorporate an extra serving of vegetables every day for the week. Write the goal into the food journal for a visual reminder.

To stay focused and maintain momentum, here are some suggestions:

  • Minimize omission errors by making journal entries before or immediately after meals.
  • Keep the journal in a handy location that provides a reminder to log meals.
  • If you forget to log, simply begin again at the next meal. This helps eliminate the temptation to overindulge.
  • If you are unable to journal, take a picture for later recording.

Everyone will experience motivational lapses.  To help own the process ask yourself these questions:

  • What challenges in life are influencing your ability to maintain a journal?
  • Which habit would you have to give up to ensure long-term success?

Journaling is an effective self-monitoring tool to succeed at losing weight and staying on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

Resource: IDEA Food & Nutrition Tips Magazine

Michelle’s ability to wear many hats has made her a valuable asset to the Y.E.S. Fitness team.

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