“What gets measured, gets managed.” This simple quote gets to the bottom of…well, how to get rid of your bottom. The essence of this quote is in self-monitoring, or tracking and analyzing your habits. If a goal of yours in 2016 is to lose weight, the best way to accomplish this is by keeping A FOOD JOURNAL. Thirty-60% of people have the goal to lose weight, and as we all know, most people fail at their dieting goals. It has been shown that those that keep food journals lose TWICE AS MUCH WEIGHT as those who do not. Even beyond that, those that are more diligent in using their journal are more likely to lose more weight. It is proven that it takes about 30 days to build a new habit, writing it down as you go will only help enforce that change. So why does a food journal help to lose weight?
- It increases awareness. You KNOW how many calories you are eating each day. On average, Americans underestimate how much food they consume by 25%. Tracking your calories immediately eliminates this error.
- It helps you make smarter choices. Daily. When you are keeping a journal EVERYTHING gets written down. This will make you think about food choices, and not overlook BLTs (bites, licks, and tastes of food). There are approximately 25 CALORIES/mouthful. Over time this can add up to an extra 15 pounds gained per year. Alerting yourself to these cheats will help to steer you towards smarter snack choices.
- A food journal is a great resource to understand food serving sizes and how many calories are in each. Over time you will have a greater understanding, and will even be able to tell visually, what a proper serving size looks like.
- You can locate diet “triggers”. These would be cheats that keep derailing your progress or situations that may cause you to go outside your normal food regimen. Knowing when you do poorly is just as important as knowing when you are doing well. This is all information that we use to help continue the progression.
- You’ll work out more. Studies show those that track their workouts tend to have higher self-affirmation (can complete goals) as they can see small goals being met along the way.
- You have complete control over your food choices and eating schedule. For example, if you reach dinner and have 1,000 extra calories for the day you can have a bigger portion, and vice versa if you only have 200 calories left in the day. This allows you to be more flexible with your eating habits, which has also been shown to increase dieting success.
- You’ll immediately see how your behavior is impacting your steps to goal. The outward signs of weight loss may not show up for 4-6 weeks or more, and can cause frustration and the desire to quit. Knowing that you have reached your daily calorie goal, which will cause you to meet your weekly goal, which will cause you to meet your monthly goal, etc. is a great way to see that your change in behavior is helping you to achieve your desired results.
- You can cheat and not feel guilty. As I said before, even negative data is still good information. If you do cheat, you can easily adjust your calories or increase your workouts to get you back on track. Maintain a goal of 85% to 15% or 6 out of 7 days clean eating to a cheat day. By doing this you will neither derail your diet, nor deprive yourself.
- Finally, it is its own built-in reward system. Each day you meet your goal is positive reinforcement that you are heading in the right direction.
Keeping a food journal can be time consuming, especially at first, but doing so will give you important information about your dietary habits. It is a valuable tool that, if used properly, can greatly increase your chances of meeting your weight loss and exercise related goals.