2012 marks the 6th year that I have been using a food journal!
It all started back in 2007 when I wanted to start eating healthier because I wasn't getting the fruits and veggies I needed, though I did like them, but I was reaching for the chips and dip for a snack over veggies or a piece of fruit. I figured with the new year and many people's resolutions are to eat healthier and lose some weight, I'm a health nut so I'd just like to share my way of staying at +/- 3 pounds of 120 for 6 years, through the end of high school and all of college!
Let me just skip how I could rant about how exercise isn't going to do anything to help you lose weight solely and you also need to make lifestyle modifications, such as alcohol use, sitting on the couch all night, eating when you're bored or stressed or emotional (I can be guilty of this, I admit!) But eating a healthy, balanced diet really makes you feel more energized and gives you vitamins and minerals you can't get from your same old meals.
Below is a photo of my food journal... I'll explain it all for you.
Sunday morning is weigh-in day. You shouldn't be weighing yourself everyday because it changes so often, you could gain a pound of water from just drinking a full water bottle, and then when you go to the bathroom next, it's gone! So once a week is good enough, always after using the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything.
2. I added a work out check off that really fueled me to get a workout in so that I could check off that box! At the end of the week, I can see how well or bad I did and improve for the next week.
3. I did a lot of research about the caloric amount my body needed and individualized my body's needs into my chart. Your body could be different, but this could be a good starting point for you. It's also important to learn how big a real portion size is! A small banana is one serving of fruit, a large banana is 2... same with baked potatoes, apples, etc. It's also important to learn where foods fit, like those lovely french fries. On my chart, anytime I eat french fries I have to put them in as a "Fat" as well because, if they're deep fried (most likely), it is filled with oils and fats. And on top of that, if I use keptchup, that's another fat. I allow 1.5 fats a day for my body, and it goes fast!
This is the hardest part of the food journal, learning the portion sizes, which vary for age groups. An excellent website is http://www.choosemyplate.gov/, which used to be MyPyramid.gov. It can teach you everything!
Once you get going with the food journal, you see after one day how your body has been eating. When I first started I was eating LOTS of grains/carbs. (I didn't name my first category "Carbs" because carbohydrates can be found in lots of things, baked potatoes, rice, fruits, veggies so the lovely people at the CDC have also changed that category to "Grains"). I wasn't eating enough fruits at all. Now I'm about to eat an entire lunch of strawberries, pineapple, and honeydew with some cottage cheese on the side because tonight I'm going out with the girls to Olive Garden, and we all know I'll need to keep all my grain portions for that! :)
It is a learning experience and takes time to get used to and improvement. Hell, it's taken me over 5 years and I still don't trust myself to eat daily without it.
Other quick tips for using a food journal:
- Don't wait till the end of the day to write down what you ate! That's not helping you make choices throughout the day.
- Write down everything, and I mean everything!, you eat. If you pull 2 Twizzler strings out of the cupboard, write it down. Those reaches can be adding up throughout the day.
- Know where food items count as more than one because of the ingredients, such as soups, stews, even ice cream counts as a dairy serving and a sweets.
- Don't skip days or skip because of vacations or days away from home! Getting into the habit helps you in the long run.
- Keep your past papers in a binder to look back on your weight progress or habits from the past.
- When you do eat more than the slots provide for the day, you squeeze it in at the bottom. It sort of makes you feel guilty and is a kick in the butt for having to veer from the chart.