Are you one of the many people who feel frustrated because you think you eat well and exercise regularly, but you just can’t seem to lose weight? If so, a food journal is a great tool to help you reach your weight loss goals. It will help to determine any patterns in your eating habits, it will force you to be accountable for what you eat, and it will help you to see where you are consuming your “hidden” calories.
The first thing I always tell people when they start to keep a food journal is to write down EVERY bite they put in their mouths. When most people think back over their day and what they had to eat, they go straight to their meals. It’s amazing, though, how all of those calories you consume in between meals add up. You might think that one little piece of chocolate doesn’t count, so you don’t need to write it down, but that one little piece of chocolate every afternoon can add up to quite a few calories over the course of a week. Many mothers of young children tend to finish what their kids leave on their plates, but a chicken nugget here and three bites of macaroni and cheese there really add up! Be sure to write it down right after you eat so you don’t forget.
It’s also important to be very specific when recording what you eat. For example, don’t just write “turkey sandwich” for lunch. Instead, write down “4 ounces turkey breast and 1 slice Swiss cheese on whole wheat, with mustard, tomato and lettuce.” The mayonnaise on your sandwich, butter on your baked potato, and creamer in your coffee may be contributing empty calories and fat to your diet that are easy to cut. And speaking of that coffee, don’t forget to write down what you drink. Your mid-morning mocha latte or your glass of wine with dinner contain calories, too!
Another thing to include in your food journal is the time you eat each meal or snack. Then, when you look back over your notes you can determine if you have any “trouble times.” If you tend to eat junk every day around 4:00, then you might want to start having a healthy snack each day before that time, before you get too hungry and grab whatever is in sight. Or, if you see that you get the munchies every night while watching TV, you are probably eating out of boredom. When you know that is a problem for you, it’s easier to distract yourself.
Keeping a food journal can make you accountable for what you eat. I know that I am much less likely to have a big piece of cheesecake if I know I have to write it down! It will also make it much easier for you to determine what your eating patterns are and where you can cut calories that will make all the difference in your weight loss!