Please Don’t Make Me Food Journal

How can you make lifestyle changes if you don’t recognize the habits that need to change? A reality check might make you squirm a little, but squirming is good if it leads to positive changes. Sometimes all it takes is the gentle reminder from a food journal that our eating is out of whack. Maybe it’s the portion size, or maybe it’s the “splurge” that’s taking place three times a week. “I don’t eat desserts often” can turn into “Look how many desserts I ate this week!”

In an ideal world, it would make sense to break down every ingredient in every dish at every meal for itemized caloric values. But let’s face it, most of us don’t have ideal schedules, which is why the extra weight is there in the first place! So rather than feeling frustrated over your lack of time, why not just track your intake in a simpler way to jump start your diet makeover.

Food journaling can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be. For medical purposes it may be necessary to count calories with a dietitian, but it’s easier to start off in a simpler fashion if you’re just looking to make a few corrections for weight or training purposes. Some of the phone apps for tracking are pretty labor intensive, taking a great deal of time to locate the ingredients on the drop down menu. (Journaling shouldn’t take longer than the consumption part!)

Use a spiral notebook if you like paper journaling. You can find some cute journals at book stores and online. Or just start a word or excel document in a blog fashion, noting breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, posting most recent at the top of the page. If the portion size was out of the norm, make a note about it. If you’re stress eating, write it down. This is how patterns are identified and corrected on the simplest level.

Be honest, including all beverages, as sometimes a small change in beverage consumption can lead to significant improvement. For instance, multiple cups of morning coffee can contribute to multiple bakery breaks. And you already know what extra alcohol consumption can do to our common sense gene. (“Yes, I ate the whole pizza”)

Finally, find a partner to swap journals with. Share a blog, email each other, pass your journal across the lunch table. You’ll get feedback, you’ll see someone else’s challenges, and you’ll have an accountability factor. Try it for 30 days. And if you can’t recognize your weak spots, find a dietitian or weight management consultant to help steer you in the right direction. 80% of you probably know what foods to choose, but forget to practice it daily. Writing them down will keep you focused and kick start your correction.

Remember, it’s YOUR health tool. Use it or set it on the shelf next to your Ab Roller.