If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know it’s a hard thing to do. A food journal is a great weight loss tool to help you stick to your diet and lose weight. It allows you to see every bite that you put in your mouth, it keeps you accountable to yourself and your eating habits, and it helps you reach your weight loss goal even quicker.
In a 2008 study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, dieters who used a food journal experienced almost double the weight loss of those who didn't! But as easy as it is to use a weight loss journal, there are certain tricks to remember to keep you using the journal and using it correctly. Read on for our top 5 tips on keeping a food journal.
It you bite, write it! Note down your meals as quickly as you can after you eat - if you wait, you’re liable to forget. You’ll be sitting around scratching your head thinking, “What was it I ate last night for dinner?” You may remember most of what you ate but you’re bound to forget something. A sauce or dressing that slips your mind can add up to lots of calories. It’s all about being honest and straight with yourself. Even if you go off your diet, keep writing down what you eat. A healthy, sustainable diet is all about knowing what you’re putting into your body.
When you’re updating your journal, it’s not only the food you eat that you should note down. If you keep track of when and where you are eating, your journal becomes even more useful. If you’ve dieted before, you know that there are friends that are easy to be on a diet around and those that aren’t. You will learn that you have places and feelings that trigger overeating too. If you note down each mouthful in your food journal, you may be able to put a halt to that behavior once you recognize it.
If you exercise, write it down too! No diet can be effective in the long run without a good exercise routine. Exercise builds up your metabolism and makes it easier to keep the weight off, even when your diet lapses. Again, writing it down makes sure that you are honest with yourself. If you did a 45 minute walk last weekend, you’re going to feel guilty about writing ‘20 minutes’ on this weekend’s page, right?
A journal can help you stay motivated and keep track of your long term results. After a couple of months you might look back and realize that you’re running twice the distance as you were when you started. Again, this is great motivation. With a journal you don’t have to try to remember what you did when. It will all be down on paper.
A food journal really allows you to take ownership of your diet. Write your daily weight down next to the food you eat, and you will quickly see the effect that dietary changes can have. There’s no one else to blame and no excuses – a journal gives you all the information and tools that you need. If you’re still struggling with your diet, you can use it to get valuable advice – from a friend or an expert like a nutritionist, doctor or trainer. Maybe they will be able to see things that you’ve missed and pinpoint what you need to change.
This is probably no great surprise. When you cook at home, you see exactly what is going into your food. You can measure amounts and think about what combinations of foods add up to what number of calories. You can keep careful record of what goes into each recipe. Often you can substitute something healthy for something unhealthy - maybe plain yogurt instead of sour cream, or low fat ground turkey instead of hamburger meat.
When you eat in a restaurant, the fact is that you have very little idea of the calorific content of the food you are eating. It’s normally much more than you think. Often there’s hidden butter, oil, cream or something else that you wouldn’t dream of adding at home. If that’s not bad enough, restaurants often serve huge portions too. So while you’re keeping a food journal, it may be a good idea to eat a few more meals at home if you can.
There are, of course, days that you will want to eat out. There are celebrations, dates, nights you’re too tired to cook, holidays and times when you’re on the road. It’s tough to stick to a diet 100% of the time. But make sure you write down what you eat, even when you lapse from the diet. An accurate, up-to-date food journal might be the most effective motivation you’ll ever have for staying in shape!
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