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.
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.