A food journal is one of the best tools to help you reach your weight loss or weight management goals. I started keeping a food journal when I became a member of Weight Watchers in 2010. The motto was, “If you bite it, write it” and that has stuck with me the past six years. I started keeping track of everything I ate and drank to stay within my point goal. I lost eighteen pounds and my food journal made it possible. After I had my daughter in 2011, I began gaining weight and regressed to my poor eating habits. I knew exactly what I had to do to get back on track; start my food journal. I began using an online app to keep track of my meals and I lost the baby weight. Last summer I gained 10lbs and again, I knew exactly what I had to do to get back on track and I began maintaining my food journal. That 10 pounds is gone.
Over the past 6 years, I have been able to see the power in food journaling. It has been the one thing that I know will help me with my weight management. It may be the one thing you aren’t doing that you need to do to become successful. I would like to discuss the 5 benefits of maintaining a food journal and hopefully it will encourage you to tap into the power of a food journal to smash your weight loss goals.
1. Keeps You Honest
Let’s face it, we all say, “I don’t really eat that badly. I usually eat a lot of fruit, I only drink water and I don’t eat at night. Lies, lies, lies! They say the truth shall set you free, well a food journal is the key to the handcuffs. When you write down everything you eat and drink, you get a real sense of what your eating habits actually are and not what you think they are. Most of us don’t eat complete, balanced meals and we snack on junk food. Many of us are emotional and stress eaters and don’t pay attention to the massive amounts of calories we are consuming. When you maintain a food journal you have no choice but to face the truth about what you are eating. A food journal is the best way to take an honest look at where you are, and that is when real change can begin. You can’t make changes if you don’t know that there is a problem. You can’t fix something if you won’t acknowledge it is broken. When it comes to weight loss and weight management, denial is the biggest obstacle to overcome and a food journal will knock that obstacle right out of your way.
2. Makes You Accountable
When you start to maintain a food journal there will be an end goal and it will be your ideal weight. Your food journal is your own personal accountability partner. Being accountable means being “required to explain actions or decisions to someone”. Keeping a food journal also makes you accountable to yourself. You have to explain your food choices to yourself. When I keep my food journal, I will have to explain to myself why I ate 4 cookies instead of one serving. I will have to explain why I knew eating the other 3 cookies would cause me to exceed my calorie goal and may prevent me from reaching my goal. I am forced to assess my commitment, my resolve and make a plan to not continue actions like this in the future. A food journal forces you to take full responsibility for your food choices and become accountable only to yourself.
3. Keeps You Focused
A food journal allows you to keep your eye on the prize. You have that goal weight in mind and your daily calorie allotment to reach that goal. Distractions and temptations will no doubt come your way, but your commitment to the food journal will keep you focused. You will be compelled to do what is needed and that is make the right food choices. That second slice of pizza sure looks good, but knowing you will have to add another 430 calories into your food journal makes that pizza look much less appetizing. Often times we eat without really thinking, but knowing you are accountable and honest about what you eat shifts the focus to the overall goal.
4. Control Portion Sizes
One of the biggest issues I had and still have is watching my portion sizes. Boy I can eat. I can pile my plate up and eat every last bit. But when I keep my food journal, I don’t scoop rice on my plate until I think it’s enough. I read the label to see how much one serving is and I measure that amount put it on my plate. What I’ve found is that one serving is usually more than enough! The elders used to say, your eyes are bigger than your stomach, well a food journal fixes that problem. If I want seconds, I really have to decide if it is because I am still hungry or just being greedy 😉
5. Make Better Food Choices
When your goal is to lose weight, what you eat and drink will make or break you. You cannot eat whatever you want and how much of it you want and expect to lose weight. A food journal helps you make the right food choices that will keep you within your calorie range and allow you to lose weight. When you are writing down everything you eat and drink you become mindful of what foods will help you and what foods will hinder you. You begin to learn that fruits and vegetables are low calorie and full of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. You learn to measure how much salad dressing or ketchup you use because those calories can really add up. You begin to learn that 2 slices of pizza is 860 calories and maybe one is enough. A food journal allows making healthy food choices to become a habit and a way of life which is the ultimate goal.
Deciding to lose weight is not easy. It can be a frustrating and arduous process. A food journal will make you honest, accountable and focused while you watch your portions and make better food choices. Food journaling is a powerful tool and it may be the missing piece on your weight loss journey. So download that app, get out your pen and paper and remember, “if you bite it, write it”.
About the author: Kathleen is the Queen of Clean; a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant and founder of the Beauty In A Barbell Nutrition and Wellness Consulting Firm. Kathleen specializes in Diabetes and Hypertension management, weight management and making the switch to organic and non-GMO.