When I first decided to lose weight I opted to begin a food journal as a strategy for weight loss. While it obviously took hard work and discipline, I believe that my food journal was the primary strategy that allowed me to achieve my 40 pound weight loss goal in just a few short months. If you have struggled to see results in your weight loss goals, or if you simply struggle to be consistent in making healthy choices, food journaling can be an incredibly helpful tool to keep you on track. It can also help you pinpoint things like food intolerances or sensitivities of which you may otherwise be unaware.
The basic idea of food journaling is that you record every single thing that you eat and drink in the entire day, right down to your morning coffee and the granola bar you eat in the car. You will need to keep your food journal close by and convenient so that you don’t miss anything. Some people make food journaling complex with calorie counts and in depth nutrition facts. I kept it extremely simple by recording only my food and drink, my weight, daily exercise, and any mood or physical changes (upset stomach, headache, etc.).
The incredible thing about food journaling is that you will find yourself making more consistently healthy choices solely because you know that you will have to write down what you eat! It may be purely mental, but it is much easier to say no to that slice of cake at the potluck or to the bag of chips in the pantry when you know you will have to write it down in your log. It has perfect built in accountability, even if that accountability is only between you and your journal!
Another option if you are still struggling to make healthy choices is asking a trusted family member or friend to be your accountability partner. It may sound silly, but having somebody look over your food log weekly can help to give you the motivation to stay consistent in your new healthy lifestyle and be able to reach your goals.
There are several apps out there for food journaling if you prefer to make your log electronically (Calorie Counter from MyNetDiary seems to be a popular one). Personally, I am a pen and paper kind of gal, and I recommend making your food journal in a notebook rather than in an app. It may just be my personal preference, but I liked recording only what I wanted without all the extra things (calorie counts, nutrition info, restaurant menus, etc.). I also liked to be able to flip through my log easily without having to navigate through an app. Having a paper log will also allow you to scribble in any notes that you want to have recorded.
There are also some food logs for purchase to make a paper log simpler and streamlined. The best one I have come across is the I Love my Food and Exercise Journal. It provides you with 10 weeks worth of logs and allows you to record food and drink, exercise, mood, hunger levels, and your satisfaction with your food and exercise choices for the day. This log helps to ensure that you follow through on the full 10 weeks rather than going strong for 3 or 4 weeks then allowing it to fall by the wayside. Ten weeks is long enough to instill wonderful lifestyle habits that will continue long after the food log ends. And at less than $10 this small investment will have far greater benefits.
What I loved about the food log was that it was a good way to keep track of my weight loss compared to my food choices and exercise. Not only was I able to see my progress over the many weeks of logging, but I also could see when my unhealthy choices in food or lack of exercise stalled or reversed my progress.
Finally, if you have ever wondered if you have some undiscovered food intolerances–perhaps you have frequent bloating, headaches, sluggishness, or GI distress–a food log can often pinpoint these issues. You may have never made the connection between a physical symptom and a specific food, but food logs can track what foods are consistently present on the days when symptoms occur.
I would have loved to share a picture of my actual food log, but unfortunately 3 moves later I have no idea where it is or if I still have it! But I have created a sample to show you the idea of what it would look like.
I am happy to answer any specific questions you have or help you set up a food log of your own. I hope that this can be a practical tool for you to create healthy lifestyles in your own life!