In my weight management practice, I can restrict my patient's calorie intake. I can ask them to give themselves daily or weekly injections, I can suggest they drink only shakes and eat only protein bars for an extended period of time.
But... when I ask they document their food intake...
Why does everyone struggle to maintain a food journal? It is the first thing every slacks up on yet, it is the single most important thing you can do to not only lose weight but to maintain the weight you have lost.
And, the food journal is not just something you must bring to me for review. It is handy to have when you are struggling to lose weight and we can look at it together but your food journal is actually most beneficial to YOU.
I like to compare a food journal to a checking account register (if you are a millennial, I will give you time to look that up HA).
We must keep our checking account balanced to know how much money we have in our bank account or else we risk overdrawing our account.
How many of us have failed to balance our checking accounts thinking we can do the math in our heads to only miss a transaction and come up short at the end of the week or month?
The same works for daily calories. When we have a daily calorie goal, we cannot rely on our memory to keep a running tally of how much we have consumed. We will always forget that handful of chips, that one cookie, that second cup of coffee (with cream and sugar), or those three starburst you found in your desk drawer.
So, how do we make documenting less daunting?
Here are a few tips that might help you stay on course:
Use a phone app instead of a notebook. Who doesn't always have their phone with them? And, most phone apps are very user friendly these days. I recommend My Fitness Pal or Lose It. And, you do not have to upgrade to the premium versions. The free version is sufficient!
Document it as you eat it. Don't wait until later or you will surely forget something. I mean, you are probably looking at your phone while you eat anyway! So, pop off of Facebook for a sec and chart your food. Then, you can continue to check in on the latest social media drama:)
Let your food journal be your food planner. Instead of documenting as you eat, document what you are going to eat. For example: plan your meals ahead of time, document them and then stick to the script. For some of us, this makes life much simpler and so much easier to stay on course!
Use the "my foods" tab on the phone app for easy logging. Most apps have the option to save frequently ate foods to a tab that you can go to so that you do not have to search for that same food each time.
If you cook frequently, plug in a recipe the first time you make it and save it on the app (or write it down in your paper journal) so that you do not have to repeat it each time you make that meal.
And, remember, a food journal is more than just about keeping up with calories. It can help you find patterns in your eating behaviors. It can also uncover food sensitivities or reactions to foods that you may not have discovered without documenting. And through months of journaling, you can look back at the weeks you have been most successful in losing weight and what you ate during those weeks. Otherwise, you would never have known how you lost all that weight!
Journaling also helps us catch ourselves when we start straying off course. By looking at our documented meals, we can see our daily calorie intake slowly creeping up over the weeks and know we need to buckle down before the scales start creeping up.
It just makes sense to keep up with your caloric intake if you wish to lose weight or maintain the weight you are currently at.
Diabetics monitor their carbohydrate intake to keep blood sugar levels normal.
Everyone monitors their gas gauge to ensure they do not run out of gas.
Most of us are keeping up with the number of hours we have put in at work to ensure we are paid the sufficient amount (unless you are lucky enough to be retired).
So, why wouldn't you monitor the amount of food you eat in order to reach your weight goal?
It just makes sense!
Use whatever method works best for you:
A phone app, a spiral notebook, a pocket notebook, a fancy food journal with inspirational quotes, or a homemade journal with stickers and different color gel pens from your scrapbooking days (speaking from personal experience).