I won’t bore you with the details of why keeping a food journal will help you lose more weight than people who don’t. If you haven’t heard that before or aren’t convinced, there are tons of articles on the internet that address the topic. Instead, let’s talk about how to make your food journal work better.
1. Tie it in with your planner so it’s more convenient! If you have and use a planner, a food diary section just makes sense. If you don’t want to create a specific section, create an 8-1/2 x 11 page for the week and keep it at the back of your journal or in one of the pockets. If you need a food journal form for your planner or the 8-1/2 x 11 sheet, check here.
2. Write down what you eat before you eat it. That way if you’re making a mistake, you can correct it before the damage is done.
3. Use detail. Instead of writing “soup” write 1 cup of baked potato soup. When you’re analyzing the data, “soup” isn’t very helpful.
4. Analyze the data. You can do this daily or at the end of the week or both. But analyzing the data can make all the difference in how you do in the future. For example, when you analyze the data, you discover that it’s candy that’s the problem. So you cut back or eliminate the candy. Or you see that you’re not eating very many fruits and vegetables so you make more of an effort to eat them. One thing I’ve consistently discovered as I’ve analyzed the data is that it’s usually one thing that throws me over my calorie goal. But you don’t see these things unless you analyze the data. And since this is the one thing that makes the most difference for me, I’m giving you three samples.
5. Write as you go. It’s best if you write before you eat, but if you can’t or don’t want to do that, at least do it as soon after as possible. If you wait until the end of the day, you’ll have a harder time remembering everything and then your journal might not be accurate.
6. Don’t lie or fudge the truth. If you ate it, write it. When you leave things off because you’re embarrassed or ashamed, you only hurt yourself.
7. Save your food journals. Some people throw them away at the end of the day, but if you keep them, you can see patterns. You can also have permanent records of calorie counts for various items rather than having to look them up each time.
8. If you don’t want to write it down, there are lots of smart phone apps available for electronic counting. I’ve played around with My Fitness Pal and Lose It.
9. Combine electronic and paper. The electronic food journal has some great features – like figuring your average and tracking your weight. But I don’t like taking the time to enter the information. My favorite method is keeping track on paper and then entering the information into the app later in the day. It seems like the best of both worlds.
10. Keep a food journal even if you’re not tracking points or calories. Even though you don’t have calorie counts, the information is still valuable and you’re still benefiting from writing it down. Also, if you notice that you’re not losing weight, you can take a look at your food journals and see what’s going on.
Do you keep a food journal? Is it electronic or paper? What are your tips?