Would you like to add one simple habit to your day that would double, or even triple your weight loss success? What is this simple habit? Keeping track of what you eat. Studies show that those who keep food journals are more likely to successfully lose weight and keep it off. Keeping a food journal was also found to be the common factor in the majority of successful dieters in a survey conducted by the National Weight Control Registry. While most would opt to just casually reminisce about what they eat rather than lugging around a food journal, seeing what you eat every day, written down on paper, is a critical ingredient for permanent weight loss.
Why Not Just Estimate?
Tracking what you actually eat forces you to take responsibility for your food choices. You have to write it down, permanently, and look at your food choices for that day. Those little “snacks” of chocolate chips, handfuls of potato chips or second helpings at dinner don’t fall off the pages of your journal like they slip away in your mind. Having to write down everything you eat holds you accountable on the most important part of the weight loss puzzle —what you eat. No amount of running, biking, swimming or sweating will counteract poor food choices.
Keeping an accurate journal of everything you eat will help you determine if your nutritional habits are on par with your goal. What are you eating and how much? How frequently do you eat? Are you eating your vegetables? Do you tend to fall off the wagon during certain situations? All of these repetitive behaviors you can begin to see as you track them in your journal.
Let’s face it. We’re all inclined to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We have good intentions as we set out each day to eat better. But even when we think we’re doing great, we may be setting ourselves up for failure. A recent study suggested that people underestimate how many calories they think they’re eating when they indulge in supposed “good-for-you” foods. In the study, when people placed foods into “health” or “diet” categories they always underestimated the calorie content of what they were eating. Some common calorie-laden culprits? Nuts, trail mix, peanut butter, dried fruit and canned foods. Once you begin recording all these foods accurately, you may be surprised at how many calories they contain.
A food journal also forces you to pay attention to portion sizes. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a half-cup of peanut butter is one serving. Check the nutrition facts panel on all packaged food items to know how many servings you really are consuming. Even “too many” servings of carrots can be too much.
A Sane Approach
How can you track every single thing you eat without going insane? Keep it simple. You don’t have to write an essay for each day. (For ideas on what you should track, see “What You Should Track”). Food journaling is certainly more work than just eating the food, but the benefits are well worth the extra effort — worth it in pounds.
You’ll want to measure out what you eat with measuring cups or a digital scale to initially calibrate your portion sizes, but as you develop a consistency in the foods you eat, tracking your foods will become a breeze. You’ll already know how many calories and grams of proteins, carbohydrates and fat are in your staple foods. And you’ll know when you can allow yourself the occasional treat to reward your discipline.
Fitness, or lack of fitness, is just a set of habits. By creating and reinforcing good eating habits through journaling, you will set your quest for weight loss