100 lb. Club - Using a food journal (article)

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08-21-2008, 08:46 AM
I am always looking for motivation or things online to keep me going. I came upon this article last week. I log/journal my food - because I am a calorie counter. Here are a few other ideas. Frankly - I don't think I can take the time right now to do all this. However, there are some good ideas here that I will add in.:)

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The Key to Weight Loss Success
It's Write In Front of You
-- By Rebecca Pratt, staff writer

Finally-- here it is. You have been waiting to hear these words for years...or at least as long the zipper on your skinny jeans hasn't budged. The key to weight loss success! It's not a shake, a supplement, or an exercise gizmo. You have it already, right at your finger tips.

"I feel the most important action one can take when trying to lose weight is to keep a food diary," says dietitian Becky Hand. "Yes, it takes time to write down everything consumed during the day, but this in itself can curtail overeating and be vital for self-assessment and monitoring.

Studies show that people who keep food journals lose more weight and keep more of that weight off in the long run. The National Weight Control Registry–an ongoing research project tracking more than 3,000 people who’ve lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for five years–found that keeping a food journal is the one strategy used by the majority of successful dieters. In fact, in a study of 685 dieters conducted by a health insurance company, the best predictor of weight loss throughout the first year was the number of food records kept per week. Another recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that dieters who tracked their food intake in a "food diary" lost twice as much weight as those who didn't track their food.

Do you use a food journal? It gives you a proven, fighting chance. If you're not - try it out for a few days and see if it doesn't help you make better choices, too.

Why keep a food journal?

* Tracking the food we consume forces us to take responsibility for our food choices. It shows what we're really eating.
* An accurate food journal helps us see eating patterns, giving us insight into when and why we eat.
* Monitoring the foods we eat helps us estimate calorie intake, so we can make adjustments, by eating less or exercising more.

If you're beginning a program to change your habits, you may want to start with a baseline food journal that keeps track of a "typical" week of food choices and exercise. This way, you'll have a better handle on what you need to work on-- problem times or situations, circumstances that make it difficult to eat healthy, and so on. The level of detail you record depends on your goals, but some possible things to jot down include:

* What you eat and how much you eat: You can estimate portions, but be honest and be thorough-- don't forget items such as candy, condiments, etc. Record as you go to ensure accuracy.
* When and where you eat: Time of day, how long you were eating, if you ate in a fast-food restaurant or the company cafeteria, etc.
* Who you were with and any other activity you were involved in: Were you reading or watching TV, or having brunch with your best friend?
* Your mood while eating: Were you bored, frustrated, happy? This may tell you whether you engage in emotional eating—eating triggered by mood, not hunger.
* Any exercise you did, including the activity, length and intensity, and estimate of calories burned.
* Any special categories for which you want to monitor consumption, such as carbohydrates, fat, or fiber content.

Once you have a baseline journal, you can set priorities for what to work on. Do you eat well when eating by yourself, but go overboard when you're with friends? Does the routine of a workday keep you in line, while the freedom of the weekend weakens your willpower? Do you subsist on convenience foods that are heavy on processing but light on nutrients and real taste? Important things to consider include:

* What is your real motivation for eating? Are you truly hungry when you eat or are you eating for emotional reasons?
* Do you eat well-balanced meals with reasonable serving sizes? If not, map out the changes you’d like to make.
* Do you eat at appropriate intervals, or do you eat a little and then overindulge later? It may seem counterintuitive, but eating smaller amounts more often may keep your energy high, and prevent overeating.

A food journal allows you to compare your habits to the healthy habits recommended by experts: getting 25 grams of fiber a day, limiting fat intake to 35 percent of your total calorie intake, and consuming fewer calories than your body burns daily. You can then continue to track what’s important to you—whether it involves elaborate detail or very simple information.

Keeping a food journal can make us uncomfortable because doing so forces us to recall things we’d rather not take note of—that chocolate shake we had for lunch, or that extra mound of mashed potatoes we regretted as soon we inhaled it. In other words: no pain, no gain. When you see the foods you’ve eaten listed in black-and-white, you can’t wish them away. But pain, even metaphorical pain, can be the impetus for change—and if used consistently, a food journal can be the instrument of that change.

08-21-2008, 10:29 AM
Thanks, BeverlyJoy that is so true. This reminds me how important keeping a food journal is. I will start today.I have kept one in the past but not for very long. I know this will help me. I had just read the other day in Prevention magazine that a journal was the number one major factor in weight loss. Again thanks so much for this I will begin a journal this morning and be consistent Thanks, Dumplin

twilit tera
08-21-2008, 12:36 PM
Ok, we have now come to the second difficulty I have starting out again - journaling (the first was setting a goal weight).

I know it helps me because it did last time when I lost 100lbs and some. But one of the reasons I got frustrated with being on a plan in the first place was the constant attention to what I was eating. It was never, "what do I want for lunch" it was "what can I afford for lunch, what will I want for dinner? Am I going out later? Do I need to save points (calories, etc)?" And then there was the 10-20 minutes of logging at each meal or snack. (I tracked on my computer so I wouldn't have to do math.) The whole thing made me tired.

If I had to consciously focus on flexing my diaphram to breathe, it'd kill me. I want eating to be like breathing - something that takes place in the background so I can focus on classes, projects and people in my life.

So..... Here I am. I haven't set a calorie allowance or started a "plan" per se. I know eventually, I'll have to. Right now it's pretty easy to just change what types of food I'm eating, start exercising and avoid emotional/boredom snacks. Eventually that won't be enough and I'll have to start giving myself some kind of food allowance.

So what are my options? I could carry a small notebook around, write everything down, track calories on whatever foods I can or maybe go back to the WW system of tracking, even though I'm not officially in the program. I think Weight Watcher Points would actually be easier to record and calculate than calories.

When I was on that system last time, I made a beaded bracelet with a couple of sliding marker beads to indicate how many points I was consuming. It was extremely convenient (I'd just reverse the direction of the bead to "add" exercise points) but not as thorough - no records of what I was eating when.

I could use fitday. I've installed the full version on my laptop so that I have access whether or not I'm connected to the Internet. The trouble is that it is an older, heavier laptop that has 0 battery life. It's not something I could carry around and update as I went.

:?:That's about all I can think of. Does anybody have a system that I haven't described that I might prefer? Your input is appreciated.


08-21-2008, 01:05 PM
So what are my options? I could carry a small notebook around, write everything down, track calories on whatever foods I can or maybe go back to the WW system of tracking, even though I'm not officially in the program. I think Weight Watcher Points would actually be easier to record and calculate than calories.

I could use fitday. I've installed the full version on my laptop so that I have access whether or not I'm connected to the Internet. The trouble is that it is an older, heavier laptop that has 0 battery life. It's not something I could carry around and update as I went.

:?:That's about all I can think of. Does anybody have a system that I haven't described that I might prefer? Your input is appreciated.


I know it can be pretty tiring but once you get a system going it gets easier. I plan the majority of my days food (pack it all and bring it to work) so it's pretty easy to put the whole thing in fitday at one whack but DH likes the illusion of spontaneity so dinners have to be plugged in on the fly. If we go out somewhere, I'll use the notepad on my cell phone to make notes so I don't forget anything. I'm seriously considering getting an Iphone just for the internet access so I can log on to fitday any time :D

08-21-2008, 01:07 PM
Oh, BTW - Great article Beverlyjoy but, once again, 3FC members are miles ahead of the rest of the world - they've been touting food journaling forever ;) Maybe it's the 3FC members who've joined the registry that are responsible for the idea hitting the mainstream :D

08-21-2008, 01:13 PM
I've actually decided to try going without fitday once i get into onederland. I've already bought multi colored notecards and a holder from Staples.. with meal options that have fewer then 400 calories. and snacks with 300. Each day I'll take out 5 different colored cards (3 meals, 2 snacks) and know what my day looks like in a calorie budget. I have favourite meals that I tend to stick to.. but adding options wont be hard -- I'll just get more recipe cards.

Ideally I'll be able to glance through my meal options (the mini box fits in my purse.. it's not even an inch thick), plan my meals and snacks each day and stay around 1800 calories without spending time at fitday. I know I will need structure for awhile

ps. thanks 4 posting beverlyjoy! articles like that are what eventually got me committed to fitday.. and thinking about my lifestyle. It took a couple tries to actually stick to journalling.. but WOW!!

08-21-2008, 01:41 PM
Good article Beverlyjoy. I've been using the daily plate since January and I think it is the thing that has helped me lose more than anything else. I was one of those people that was totally oblivious to how many calories I was eating. At first I was overwhelmed by tracking my eating, but once I got in the habit of it, it has become kind of a hobby. I really think I'll keep using it even in maintenance. Otherwise it is too easy to slip into old habits.

08-22-2008, 02:19 PM
I have been a calorie counter in the past. I'm trying not to anymore, because it can be too restrictive... and restrictive long-term tends to overwhelm me.

However, in the Radiant plan, I'm required to journal -- not just what I ate, which I've done many times before, but when and how I feel both physically and emotionally. Because this plan focuses so much on the connection between what you eat and how you feel, it is imperative to track your body's reactions to what you eat.

So, for instance, I've learned that I must keep a morning and afternoon snack in my plan for now, because when I don't my mood and my body get all out of whack. I get "wobbly" (and when I'm wobbly, nothing in the refrigerator is safe!). I've also learned that when I have wheat for lunch, I get sleepy an hour later. So I try to eat rice instead.

These are things I wouldn't have learned from just calorie journaling. At first I was rather skeptical. But hey, I've tried almost every other program out there, why not this one, right? It's been eye-opening, to say the least.

So I have a written journal that I carry around (one of those theme notebooks), plus I put my food into Daily Plate. I don't "count calories", but it's the best way to track my protein and fat levels, so I do that. (And some part of me keeps an eye on the calorie levels, too, though they don't push my conscious choices about what I'm eating any more)

08-22-2008, 02:29 PM
I also journal, sort of. I logged all my food and the time of day, but not the emotions or anything.

I am on WW and do the flex plan. I use the e-tools to track all my poinst. It is basically Fitday for Weight Watchers.

When I use this tool, I do my best. During the week, the night before, I enter all my food for breakfast, snack, lunch and snack. Then I know what I can have for dinner and can plan accordingly.

twilit tera
I want eating to be like breathing

I know, I think we all do. But I have come to believe that for me, I will have to plan and track for the rest of my life. My ststem does not do auto-pilot when it comes to food. It's broke. SO if I was to be at a healthy weight, it will take effort...and tracking.

08-22-2008, 05:50 PM
I have to agree with the article. My best weight loss ever was when I was writing down everything I ate. At the top half of the notebook Id have a space for what I ate how much and how many calories. At the bottom Id have and exercise section, Id feel guilty If I didnt have at least one activity written in that section. And on the top line of every page Id have a total calories allowed, how many calories I had that day and week, and total amount of exercise done. This would make me asses the day each night as well as gave me something to compare each week if my weight was off. I would gradually lower calorie intake allowed while aiming to raise exercise done. It most definetly help me keep track of things and kept me from splurging because I knew I couldn't ignore that splurge Id have to write it down where the info would be kept to be seen for awhile. At that time I made it down to 199 lbs. The one and only time I been in onderland since i was way young, I cant even remember when that was. Im not sure how much total weight that journal helped me in achieving lost cause when I first started I didnt own a scale. But I am most positive that was best I ever did in dieting, and now that I think of it I should start a new one. Thanks for the post it has help motivated into the right direction :)

twilit tera
08-22-2008, 07:10 PM
Well, I can't argue with results, so I've started my food/exercise journal. Right now it's just a little notepad and I'm not tracking calories or giving myself any kind of restrictions, just being aware of what I put into my body is a good start. It might be all it takes for now and if I hit a plateau (er, when that is) I'll modify my habits, but at least I'll have gotten used to the regular tracking.

08-22-2008, 08:41 PM
I've been food journaling since september 06, and I know that I could not have been successful with out it. I am obsessive about it. I love the fact that I can look back to a week that was really good for me and repeat it if I've been struggling.

08-23-2008, 01:56 AM
I agree!

Keeping a journal has made a HUGE difference for me. It keeps me accountable. It also helps me see any mistakes or victories I may have on any given day.

08-23-2008, 11:11 AM
I started keeping a food journal July 23 and it has been one of the best things I've ever done. I had no idea how much I was eating in a day. At first, it was a little time consuming, but not so much now. I love pens, so I treated myself to an awesome pen and sparkly notebook. I also bought some of those glitter stars and put one of each page when I've stayed at or below my allowance that day. I also have written down the things I eat over and over inside the backcover for quick access. And I am so much more aware now and plan accordingly. Like on Thursday, I knew I would be going to Cracker Barrel today so I've already decided what I'm going to order and I already know how many calories it is.
I just love journaling!

08-23-2008, 11:36 AM
I'm a journal girl also!

I have an over-sized notebook that I use. It allows me lots of space to write what I have eaten, plus water intake along with what exercises I do for that day.

I also use bright colorful markers along with cute stickers! I am a visual girl and it sure helps out a lot to see a fun decorated page to jot down my items.

white oleander
08-24-2008, 12:55 AM
I read an article like that in Good House Keeping. I always start a journal but forget to write in it everyday,