keeping a food journal

[This week’s theme is eating habits.]

This goes hand-in-hand with eating mindfully.

Keeping a food journal is a really excellent way to be aware of what you are eating.  The concept is simple: every time you eat something, write it down.

This might start simpler and evolve for you over time, but for maximum effect, you would want to write down:

  • what you’re eating or drinking
  • what quantity (by weight, volume, whatever)
  • how many calories you consumed
  • your emotional state when eating it (this is to help curb emotional eating: another post for another day)
  • what time you ate it

If you write down all of that every time you ingest something, it will force you to be aware of what you’re eating, why you’re eating it, how often you’re eating.  You’ll see where all of your calories are coming from and how many in total you’re taking in.

Do the four M&Ms you grabbed from the dish as you walked by count?  Yes.  What about the diet soda?  Yes.  Just one bite of a piece of cake?  Yes.  The leftovers from your child’s plate?  Yes.  What about the mayo and mustard on my sandwich at lunch?  Yes.


Does this mean you should never eat an unhealthy thing again?  No.  But you can’t change an action that you’re not aware of.

I was talking to a trainer friend of mine who was telling me about a client of hers who was keeping a food journal.  According to the journal, she was eating few enough calories that she should have been losing weight, but she wasn’t, and she was frustrated.  So the probe began.

It turned out that her “turkey sandwich on wheat bread” was actually turkey, cheese, oil, vinegar, and various veggies.  The sandwich had 450 more calories than she had accounted for.  That’s a big difference.  Multiply missing details like that out over a week, and it became pretty clear why she wasn’t losing weight.

If you are looking to make changes to your diet for any reason, a food journal is an excellent tool.

Over time, you learn to recognize hidden calories, you learn to see healthy portions, you learn to pick and choose your calories.  But it does take some time.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shawn on 19 March 2010 at 20:49

    If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, there’s an app called Lose It! that makes this task so much easier. I’ve lost 35 pounds so far, and working on another 20.

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