Food Journaling Tips and FAQs: Write Your Way to Weight Loss
In my experience, keeping the following tips in mind will make food journaling worth your while:
While notebook paper works fine, loose pieces of paper too often get scattered and lost. Having an "official journal" makes all the difference in the world.
Are you wondering about the "hows" and "whys" of food logging?
Food Journaling FAQ's
Q: I hate having to keep a food log; it's such a pain. Do I have to?
A: I've been in the nutrition field 15 years to date and have yet to meet a single person who LOVES food journaling. Yet I have met thousands who would LOVE to lose weight. Consider the idea of choosing to keep a journal, versus having to keep one.
Q: Do I have to record everything, everyday, forever?
A: In the beginning, I recommend that you do. When you see your diet records in black and white, you'll be better able to analyze progress and detect areas that may need improvement.
That being said, I suggest diet journaling regularly for at least one month. At that point, if you are tired of keeping records every day, consider using the journal only at the times of day or week you have determined most difficult for you.
For example, after keeping diet records for an initial month, you may discover that what you eat on the weekend is undermining your "perfect weekday" intake. In this scenario, it may be most helpful to continue food journaling only on the weekends.
Or, if after a month you see a pattern of overeating in the evening, then maybe you continue to write in your food journal what you eat after 6 p.m. only.
You get my point.
Q: Do I have to record even when I am having a "bad" meal or "bad" day?
A: Absolutely. The time you want to write in your food journal the least is the time you benefit from journaling the most.
In my private nutrition counseling practice, I ask my clients to keep food records. They LOVE to share them with me when they are eating "perfectly." But then they cancel appointments or conveniently "forget" to bring food records after a "bad" week.
(We usually have a good laugh about it later, as I know very well what is going on...and they know I know.)
I subscribe to the philosophy that there is "never failure, only learning." If you can learn to accept that "bad" days provide you with valuable information about yourself and your choices, then eventually you will WANT to write in your food diary on those days. Consider it an opportunity to learn and grow.
Q: How can I use a daily food journal to assure my long term success?
A: Make a commitment to using a food log to record everything, everyday, for the first week of every month...regardless of whether you think you need to or not.
Using a food diary to bring yourself back to a state of heightened awareness on a regularly planned and scheduled interval will keep you on track...or get you back on track before you have strayed too far.
Q: I have established a calorie goal for myself.
A: A lot of really good info is lurking on the pages of your food diary! In my experience I have found there are no bad foods or bad meals or bad days...only bad patterns.
(Think of your shopping habits. One extreme shopping spree isn't likely to break you, but making a habit of it could.)
Look at what you've eaten and consider whether any of the following have become patterns:
Q: How often should I review my food journal?
A: I'd suggest reviewing your food diary every week. Once you have taken stock of your habits, assess what it is you want to change, and then set some concrete goals for yourself.
Q: What if I am keeping food logs religiously and am not losing any weight?
A: Go back and revisit the numbers.
It's easy to get sloppy with portion sizes. You may think you know what 1/2 cup or 3 oz. looks like after a while. If you are eating a 4 oz. chicken breast and recording it as 3 oz., you will be off by 50 calories per day. This translates to a 5 lb. weight gain per year! (Or 5 pounds you didn't lose!) You may also want to consider whether your exercise routine needs adjusting.
Q: I've completed an entire month of food records. Should I throw out the journal?
A: That's not exactly environmentally savvy, now is it? Why would you throw out such valuable information anyway?
Keep it so you can go back and use it as a reference when needed. When you were doing really well, what were you eating? When you were not doing so well, what were you eating? I'm sure there will be a point in the future when you will want to open up an old food diary in order to reflect on how far you have come.
See all the FREE printable food journaling templates I've developed!
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