Do you want to lose weight, but aren't sure where to start or how to do it? Keeping a food diary can help you find opportunities for improving your diet and even helps with weight loss all on its own. It is also easy to get started, can be used along with any diet, and does not require any stringent rules or restrictions.
One of the problems with many weight loss programs today is that they are extremely limiting. Adhering to “clean eating” or avoiding certain “unhealthy foods” may seem ideal, but is ultimately setting you up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations that lead to a rebound in weight gain.
Studies have shown that those who are able to make small adjustments to their eating habits when necessary, are more successful than those who attempt to stick to stringent rules. I've been a personal trainer for over 5 years and have had many people come to me after trying extreme diets or exercise programs. They frequently pinpoint the reasons for those types of diets not working on the same thing: they weren't maintainable. I've seen the same people make great changes and maintain them simply from making strategic adjustments steadily over time. Monitoring food intake with a food journal can help you identify where to make these small adjustments and will increase the likelihood of not only losing weight, but maintaining weight loss.
Food monitoring gives you immediate feedback and awareness on how your choices either accelerate or hinder your progress. Once you start monitoring you’ll start noticing things like:
How many calories you typically consume each day
Meal portion sizes
Times of day or days of the week you tend to snack more/over eat
Environments or social situations you tend to snack more/over eat
Once you are more aware of your intake and can identify triggers that make you over eat, you’ll most likely eat less, exercise more, or a combination of both. There is a strong theoretical foundation for self-monitoring as it is closely linked to behavior change. Studies where self-monitoring records were most complete lost significantly more weight that those who had less complete records. This indicates that the better you keep your food journal, the better results you get.
There are several great methods for keeping a food journal, so try a couple out and pick what works best for you! Some examples are:
Using sticky notes or a notebook with pen and paper to write down what you eat and drink.
Logging into an app such as MyFitnessPal or Fat Secret (We like MyFitnessPal).
Keeping a photo journal where you take a picture of everything you eat and drink.
Don't feel like you have to get caught up in the calories or meticulously track all your macro-nutrients when you first start. Just the act of keeping a food diary is beneficial, even without making any conscious changes to your eating patterns. One study showed that participants who consistently recorded their intake, even without improving the quality of their diet, still lost a significant amount of weight. This goes to show that just making food journaling a habit can be helpful, even without other changes. Of course, we still recommend you check your journal and look for opportunities to improve, as this will yield even better results.
If you'd like professional guidance on other habits or adjustments to your diet and exercise routine, or just need help getting the motivation to get started, come in for our free Transformation Session. At the session I or another trainer will tell you what changes to make to your diet and exercise program, and how to build them into your life as habits, in order to get the best results for your body and your goals. If you sign up for one of our programs we will continually coach, guide, and motivate you through making steady strategic changes that help you burn fat, add muscle tone, and feel healthy, in shape, and confident.