In my experience, I have found there are quite a few types of eaters and journalers. Me, I have at one point in my life been each type of journaler. I have been the, “Omg I only have 100 calories left to eat and its only 4pm, so I think I will just stop tracking,” journaler. I have been the, “It’s only a cheese cube from the sample lady, not a meal or snack so I don’t have to enter it,” journaler. I have definitely been the, “I am cooking right now and just sampling to make sure I don’t poison anyone, these tastes don’t count,” journaler. And I have also at least once (ok maybe a few times) been the, “Eh it’s Sunday, I will start journaling again on Monday,” journaler. All of these types are very bad. By keeping my own food journal I was able to recognize that I have been all of those people and while I am not judging, I think we can all admit that at some point these same thoughts have run through your mind as well….we’re human, it happens.
But keeping a food journal does not work when any of the above situations occur. The point of the journal is not to make you feel bad about yourself, but instead to help you and/or your Dietitian focus on your eating disconnects, to help you make the necessary changes to further your success. When we write down, or enter into our apps, the amount and type of food we eat, we can see where we need to focus our efforts.
So, what does it take to keep a proper food journal?
The #happyslimhealthy rules of a real food journal are as follows:
- Begin your journal on a “normal day.” You want to start with a day that best represents what your normal eating habits are like. (This way if you are bringing this to an RD he or she can better see what your typical days are like and compare them to your “cheat days,” etc – an RD can even help you make a regular day include some of your “cheat day” loves so that you never have to feel like you are “cheating” on your health)
- Do not leave out any details. You must write down every bite and sip of food and drink you consume. (And yes, even a sample from the supermarket counts! If you find that you are the type of person that can’t resist the sample lady, I recommend chewing gum while you food shop. It will deter you from grabbing the Alfredo noodles she’s handing out.)
- Write down when you eat. Keep track of what time you get up, when you have your first bite or sip and then when your next meal and snack are after that. If you notice huge gaps or tiny gaps, these are things to focus on. If you wait way too long in between meals they end up being too big. But if your meals are eaten very close together, it’s possible the first one wasn’t big enough.
- Keep track of the quantities. Actually measure the serving before you eat. Buy measuring spoons to see exactly what a teaspoon or a tablespoon really looks like. This way if you have to guess, you are making a more educated guess as to what your portion really is.
- Include the ingredients and the exact quantities you used when cooking at home. If the recipe has the nutrition analysis included, follow those portion sizes exactly so you are not skewing the final numbers.
- If you go out to eat, note the restaurant in your journal. Keep in mind that your portion sizes are usually much bigger in restaurants.
- If you prefer to journal on paper, get a small notebook and carry it with you everywhere you go. It is best to journal immediately after you finish your meal so you do not forget the food or the portion size.
- Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, forget to include your beverages (yes, even the alcoholic ones!). If you are having a mixed drink and there is a splash of cran, include it. That splash has calories too.
- And most importantly…BE HONEST! This is not going to be published. It is a private document for your eyes and possibly the eyes of your health care professional. It will be used to help you make the changes you need to better reach your goals. When we start to “lie” in our journals, or conveniently forget to enter an item, that’s when we know we need re-evaluate…
If you follow these rules exactly and are honest with yourself, you may realize that sometimes you eat more than you may have thought you did, or that 1500 calories really isn’t as much as you thought it was when you make the wrong food choices. Take a look at your results each day. Did you notice if you are lacking a certain food group or eating greater portions of another? Notice what your biggest meal of the day was? If it wasn’t breakfast maybe that is the meal you need to work on. Did you eat more today because of certain emotions? These are all questions we can find answers to if we write down what we are eating the right way. And by doing this, your results will be so much better!
Best of luck #happyslimhealthy followers! Be true to yourselves and you can’t lose.