Creating, and using, a food journal is one of the number one ways you can take control of your diet. Why? It brings about something called SELF AWARENESS. It’s something many of us struggle with in life – from our diets to our bad habits to the words that slip out of our mouths. The one thing I’ve had the most difficulty with in my life is my diet. I’ve never been truly aware of what goes into my mouth…and when…and why. That is, until I started journaling. I stopped for a little while, and like I expected, my goals got farther and farther away from me. I’ve learned more about myself than ever by journaling! It can be such an amazing tool for weight loss, trying to figure out a food intolerance, or for trying to trying to treat a deficiency. I thought I would take today to give you what I’ve learned from journaling.
1. Don’t lie…and don’t purposely omit. The whole point in having a food journal is to get an accurate look at your diet. Writing down that you ate a half a cup of ice cream, when you really ate a full cup, can mean the difference of upwards of 100 calories or more. Omitting a food can do the same thing. The food journal has a purpose: to make you aware of what you’re really eating. Most of us begin food journaling in order to figure out a) why our current diet isn’t working with our goals, b) what may be causing digestive issues, or c) to make sure we’re getting all the nutrients we need. It’s the truth isn’t it? Fibbing or omitting is only making journaling a waste of time. Be honest about that ice cream. Don’t forget to log your three glasses of wine. Those calories count, too. People who food journal honestly are more successful in their goals and usually continue to journal to maintain good habits and have a reference in case something changes.
2. Do journal for more than 1 day. Our habits are habits – they have a tendency to occur often. Logging food for one day will not give you an accurate idea of how you really eat. Our eating habits have a tendency to change from weekday to weekend. Some people have an easier time staying on track and eating healthy during the week, especially if they prepare their meals before the start of the week, and then indulge on the weekends with social events and adult beverages. Then there are others that eat poorly and unbalanced during the week because they are on the go and don’t have the time take the time to prepare healthy lunches or plan healthy dinners ahead of time. Instead, on the weekends, there is more time to prepare them. Then there are the people who eat really well a couple of days before weigh-in, but indulge more afterward until it’s time to clean up again. By logging your foods for more than one day, you’ll get a more accurate idea of how your habits change throughout the week.
3. Don’t forget to record the when, where, and why. If you know you have a tendency to eat when you’re bored, or when you’re sad, or when you’re partaking in a certain activity, writing down when you ate, where you ate, and why you ate can be beneficial. Awareness is key. A big key. You may not even know you have these particular habits until you journal…and when you figure this out, you’ll begin to become aware of your unhealthy triggers. You’ll know what to avoid or even what to focus on.
4. Do know the basics on your body’s requirements and your goals. If you’re journaling to lose, maintain, or gain weight you need to know your “numbers”. Your body, at its current weight, needs a specific minimal number of calories to survive, not counting your physical activity – and don’t be surprised if that number’s higher than you think it should be. Our perception of energy balance and calories is so overly skewed it isn’t even funny.
a. To calculate your BMR:
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight (lbs.)) + (4.7 x height (ins.)) – (4.7 x age (yrs.))
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight (lbs.)) + ( 12.7 x height (ins.)) – ( 6.8 x age (yrs.))
b. To calculate your daily energy expenditure:
Little to no exercise (sedentary) = BMR x 1.2
Light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week (lightly active) = BMR x 1.375
Moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week (moderately active) = BMR x 1.55
Hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week (very active) = BMR x 1.725
Very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training (extremely active) = BMR x 1.9
c. To calculate the number of calories you need to burn to lose, maintain, or gain weight:
To lose 0.5 pounds a week, you must burn an extra 1750 calories/week (or 250 calories/day).
To lose 1 pound a week, you must burn an extra 3500 calories/week (or 500 calories/day).
To lose 2 pounds a week, you must burn an extra 7000 calories/week (or 1000 calories/day).
Do you see why it’s crucial to understand that losing 5 pounds a week is simply not always a maintainable goal? (I have a whole separate rant for quick and major weight loss.) That’s 17500 calories/week or 2500 calories/day you’d have to burn!!!! For someone whose BMR falls below that number, you’d be eating nothing…and would have to remove nutrients. Be smart about your goals. Know your numbers.
5. Don’t overestimate how many calories you burn with physical activity and exercise. This won’t do anything for your goals. It’ll do for you what forgetting calories will do for you. Be honest. Move more. This is all about self-awareness.
6. Do make it your own. Journaling is about you. If you’d prefer to write it down in a pretty, handwritten journal with inspiring quotes and photos, do it! If you’d rather enter it into a spreadsheet, do it! If you’d prefer to scan the barcode of your foods right into a calorie tracker, do it! Do what works for you! If you don’t like the routine of logging your food because of something as simple as where you’re logging, then you’ll find yourself annoyed and giving up on it before you learn anything.
7. Don’t, don’t, DON’T allow yourself to become obsessed. You should indulge once in a while. It’s key to success. Those who deprive themselves crave more, and the temptation alone is enough to make someone crack. Allow yourself a treat, NOT a “cheat”. This isn’t about making yourself feel guilty for having something you enjoy. Moderation is key. Don’t let your journal run your life – use it as a tool to get to know yourself better. This is your life, your health, and these are your goals.
8. DO review your goals and your journal. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to elaborate on this, do I? These are your goals. Own them. Nurture them. Reach them and set new ones. Review your journal to make sure you’re in line with what you want. If you’re not, adjust.
QOTD: For you loggers out there – did I miss anything? Do you have anything else to add to this list? Why do you journal? What do you include?