10 Jul How to Start a Food Journal for Weight Loss
One of the hurdles of weight loss is learning how to prevent what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat from spiraling out of control. Keeping a food journal is one of the first tricks registered dietitians recommend to their clients.
In a 2008 study, researchers found that keeping a food journal doubled the participants’ chances of losing weight. The technique works because it holds you accountable, helps you identify where you need to make changes, and reveals patterns about your daily habits that lead to overeating.
If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, here are some tips to start and stick with a food journal to help you see noticeable, lasting weight loss.
Establish a Method
A food journal might look like exactly that—a spiral notebook or diary with lined paper where you keep track of your food intake. You can also go more high-tech by setting up a list or note on your phone. This way, it’s always easy to jot down the details of your latest meal, even if you’re eating out, without taking a notebook with you.
If you’re more of a visual person, take pictures of your meals and create a “Food Journal” album on your phone to review at the end of the day. There are even diet and fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal, with built-in food journaling features, including calorie counters, that you may find useful.
Record Times & Emotions, Too
When establishing your food journal, consider other useful factors you should document to help you identify emotional hunger cues that might be causing you to eat when you’re really not hungry. For instance, you might realize that you tend to reach for potato chips when you’re bored or ice cream when you’re feeling upset. When your food journal helps you identify bad habits like this, it’s possible to correct them and start new, healthier habits.
Write as You Go
If you wait until the end of the day, you’re more likely to forget accurate portion sizes and side items, such as drinks and condiments. You might even be tempted to skip it altogether if you wait until you’re climbing into bed to document your food intake.
Commit to recording every meal, snack, and dessert right as you eat them. This tactic holds you more accountable by making you write down the soda and potato chips you know you’re not supposed to have. Conversely, you feel proud of yourself when you record the fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt you decide to have instead.
Commit to Complete Honesty
There’s no point in keeping a food journal if you fudge your entries. This isn’t homework or an assignment you have to show your boss—when you aren’t honest, the only person you’re hurting is yourself.
Be Aware of Calories, but Don’t Obsess Over Them
When it comes to good nutrition, calories only tell half the story. After all, eating 1,000 calories of cookies and ice cream is far different from 1,000 calories of vegetables and whole grains.
Still, if you’re trying to not only track what you eat but also cut back on how much you eat, calorie counting can be useful. Just be mindful of the nutritional value of the different kinds of calories you feed your body.
Be Specific and Thorough
If it goes into your mouth, it should go into your food journal. Do you like tasting dishes while cooking dinner? Write it down. Do you always snag a Tootsie Roll from the candy dish at work each time you walk by? Write it down. It’s so easy to overlook this sort of mindless munching, but documenting it helps make you more aware.
Also, if you have a sandwich for lunch, break down all the ingredients in your journal. After all, a slice of cheese, bologna, and mayo on white bread are quite different from choosing turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and mustard on whole wheat. Also, don’t forget any sides and drinks you have with your sandwich as well. If your first thought is to have potato chips and soda, you can make a conscious decision to choose carrot sticks and low-fat milk instead.
Track Nutritional Content if You Have Health Issues
Some people skip tracking specific nutrients, but it can be useful to jot down your sodium intake if you have high blood pressure; sugar if you have diabetes; or fats and carbohydrates if you’re on a specific diet.
A food journal is also a great way to help you identify what triggers your digestive disorder or other symptoms of food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. Symptoms can appear hours or even days later, so it helps to have a record of what you ate recently to narrow down the possibilities.
Review Your Food Journal Regularly
When you sit down to read over your food journal once a week, reflect on your decisions and decide where you can make healthy changes. This is the most important part of keeping and benefiting from a food journal. If you team up with the professionals at Mile High Spine & Pain Center to help you lose weight, be sure to bring the journal with you so we can review it together.
Schedule a Nutritional Assessment
If you’re overweight, adjusting your diet is the key to weight loss. While a food journal is a good place to start, you may also benefit from a nutritional assessment at Mile High Spine & Pain Center. We can identify any deficiencies in your diet or food intolerances that could be making it more difficult to lose weight. We may also recommend a personalized dietary plan for you that includes whole foods and natural supplements.
Interested in learning more? Simply call us at (720) 507-0080 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.