How to Start and Stick With an Online Food Journal

How to Start and Stick With an Online Food Journal

What is a food journal?

A food journal also called a food diary, weight loss diary, or diet diary is, in my experience, the most important habit when you want to lose weight.  Food journaling is simply documenting your daily calories, exercise, along with other health habits you want to observe. Keeping a daily food journal had a significant role in my weight loss. In fact, I think I could say that without it I would have never lost the weight. With my experience being so positive and because many of you, in the New Year, are just starting the weight loss process I thought it would be fitting to start the series with the healthy habit of keeping a food journal.

Keeping a Food Journal is Essential for Weight Loss

Keeping a daily food journal works for weight loss because it makes you aware of what you are eating and holds you accountable to the calories. It is harder to deny a 500 calorie donut when you have to physically plug it into your food log. There have been many times when I didn’t eat something that I normally would, because I was using my food journal.

Sometimes it is not the meals that are the problem but the mindless snacking and grazing. As a busy mom there were many times I would find myself eating the leftovers or picking while trying to get dinner on the table. Those calories individually don’t seem like a lot but over the day can add up quickly. Keeping a food journal keeps you conscious over sneaky little calories that in the past you did not even realize you were eating.

Of course the reasons we are eating is just as important as the actual foods.  Having a food journal helps to identify the motives behind your meals and snacks. Where you actually hungry when you ate that cookie? Is that 3rd cup of coffee essential or has it just become part of your morning routine? What about the couple pieces of cheese you ate while fixing lunch? I am sure you can tell I am writing from experience. Recognizing the reasons we decide to eat helps to keep calories in check.

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You can use a food journal for more than weight loss and maintenance. I use it to make sure I am eating enough fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and also to track my exercise. Life is busy and it is easy to let our health slip through the cracks. Food journaling keeps us aware of what we are doing or need to do to keep ourselves healthy. Remember a healthy mom is a happy mom J

How to Start a Food Journal

You can start a food journal with something as easy as pen and paper. However, there are much more advanced and efficient tools out there now. If you have read my weight loss story or resource page then you already know I use the free calorie counter and online food and exercise diary, My Fitness Pal. There are other online tools but this is the one I am most familiar with. My Fitness Pal has apps for the Droid, iPhone, and iPad so you can have it with you on the go.

The features that I like the most are:

  • Helps you identify the number of calories you should eat based on your current weight and weight loss goals.
  • Has the calories and nutritional information for 1000s of foods.
  • You can figure out the nutritional information of any recipe using their recipe nutrition calculator.
  • You can save meals and favorite foods to simplify things.
  • Weekly progress reports.

There are many more features but this is what I use on a regular basis. My Fitness Pal really is a fantastic weight loss tool and it’s all free!

How to Stick With Food Journaling

The big question is always “how do I stick with food journaling?” As with all plans it means nothing if there is no action behind it.

Here are some tips to help you succeed with keeping a food journal:

  • If you have a smart phone or iPad then use the apps. They completely simplify the journaling process.
  • Record your food as you eat. Don’t wait till the end of the day.
  • Use a menu plan. If you menu plan (and you should) then it will be very easy to keep up with your food journal because your foods are already planned out for the day and week. I try to leave a little wiggle room for snacks but for the most part, because of my menu plans, I know what I will be eating each day.
  • Commit to it. Once you begin to use it and see the results it will become much easier to stick with it.

Starting a food journal is one habit you can start TODAY that will quickly make a huge difference in your weight loss process.

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  1. On my fitness pal do you track your veggies
    And fruits?

    • I don’t, and it encourages me to eat more fruits and veggies than I ever have. Why penalize yourself for eating them? Plus, I am sure NO one has gotten fat from them!

  2. You’re so right, it makes all the difference. I had been “trying” (aka wishing) to lose weight for months. I started using the Lose It! app and poof! 6 lbs melted away. Mindless eating dissappears each day I use the journal. Plug in a food you’re tempted by and watch what happens. That’s not just a cup of coffee with a little honey, it’s 60 calories I could save for the delicious dinner i’ve planned.

    Thanks for all your tips and recipies! Thanks to you, I’m a freezer cooking convert!

  3. Just signed up for Fitness Pal. Very excited about starting this journey.

  4. gettingfitnebr says:

    I agree with this article 100%! I have tried several online journals but am currently using MFP also. The feature I like best is that there is an option to copy different days meals. Since I tend to make my snacks etc ahead of time for the week, this feature comes in very handy!! I have gotten bad about journaling over the holidays so this is a great weekly habit for me to start. Thanks for a great site.

  5. I’ve used myfitnesspal, sparkpeople, and weight watcher’s food journal apps for iPod and MFP is WAY better! I started using mfp a few days ago and I’m rocking it!

  6. Amazing! I started using MFP last week. I was able to lose 2.5 pounds! The most important part is that you become more aware of how many calories are in the food you are eating plus it helps stop the mindless snacking. More importantly I was even able to have a cookie once or twice without feeling like I wasn’t “allowed” to. Thanks so much! You really inspired me!

  7. Wow! I just signed up. I’ve been up 15 pounds from my ideal weight since having my second child 3 1/2 years ago. I have said so many times that I’d like to drop those pounds, but haven’t done much about it. I just put my meal plan in for today and was SUPER HIGH on carbs, but way too low in all other categories. I had already eaten breakfast and wasted a ton of carbs on a big bowl of oatmeal, so I couldn’t change that. But I did change my lunch to add in a lot of protein, and can cut down on the carbs at dinner with some added chicken, a salad as my main portion, and what I have planned for the rest of the family as my side. The kids all had an Oreo after lunch. I’ll usually grab one as well, but today I skipped it knowing I was already beyond fixing the day in carbs. I also looked at and then away from the Twizzlers sitting on my kitchen counter. Hopefully I can start using this to help me plan my meals to make them much more balanced!

    • Michelle thanks so much for stopping by. Keeping track of what you are eating will help so much. I know it did for me. Especially in the mindless eating department.

  8. I am starting this a little late, but I started! I have been almost 1 week with logging my food intake into my loseit app on my phone. I am amazed athe the difference its making! yay! I am blogging about my expereience here:

    Thanks for doing this! I needed a kick! 🙂

  9. Katrin – You can make adjustment along with bowling line and length.
    Once you’ve decided to buy a book from a particular site, make sure you put in that little extra effort for finding a discount coupon. The weather condition is very unpredictable.

  10. Tammy do you share your MFP profile with others? If so I would like to follow you. Mine is Tami Geneva Cooper.

  11. do you think my fitness pal is better then doing weight watchers? I have started doing plan to eat which I love. Right now I do weight watchers.

    • That is a great question. I would not say that one is better than the other. They are different and it depends on your needs and how much structure/accountability you need. WW has meetings and provides you with a plan of sorts. MFP you are on your own to figure that out. Not saying that is bad it just how it is. Also WW cost money and MFP is free. Both are good it just depends on what you like and prefer.

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