As Julie Andrews said, “Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start…” For me, getting on track with losing or maintaining my weight always comes back to keeping a food journal. The fact of the matter is that taking this one relatively easy step can help most people gain a bit more control over what, when and how much they eat.
A recent article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics backs this up. The study found that the women who consistently kept a food journal lost on average 6 more pounds over a 6-month period than those who kept a journal more sporadically or did not journal at all.
Sounds like a no brainer to me – I write down what I eat, and I lose weight! Just the act of writing down everything you eat begins the process of making you mindful of what and how much you are eating.
The trick is being consistent. Figure out what format will be easiest for you to follow – are you a notebook and pen type, or do you want the latest app for your smart phone? The one that is best is simply the one that you will do most consistently.
For a long time, I kept a small notebook and pen in my purse. In addition to jotting down what I ate, I also ranked my hunger level from 0-10. Yes, I have been known to eat when I was absolutely not hungry! I also tried to put in a quick description of how I was feeling: content, tired, anxious, etc. While that isn’t vitally important, I do think it helps us get in touch with our feelings and how they may be affecting what and how much we eat. You may be surprised at the patterns you see over time.
Eventually, I loaded the Lose It! app on my phone, and while it took some getting used to, I found it to be really effective when trying to lose weight. I especially like the graphs that showed the downward trend in my weight! Other apps that have positive reviews include MyFitnessPal and CalorieCount. All three are great apps for tracking exercise as well, which I find helps with motivation.
Whether you put pen to paper, or use an app, try to document what you eat shortly after eating it so you don’t forget anything. And last but not least, be brutally honest and record everything (yes, that means the sleeve of Thin Mints). Now that we survived “Snowzilla” and my kids and I are back to school, I’m back to journaling. I’m looking at it as a mid-winter resolution. Why not give it a try–what have you got to lose?