The Importance of Keeping a Food Journal - Julie's Healthy Living
 
You can't change what you don't acknowledge.--Dr. Phil McGraw

This is true in any area of your life. In the weight loss journey this is true of keeping a food journal. It is absolutely imperative to get an understanding of what you are consuming. People who struggle with their weight tend to suffer from what I refer to as food amnesia. Before I got serious about losing weight I would forget what I had for breakfast, if I even ate breakfast, by the time I sat down to dinner. Never-mind all the bites, licks and tastes throughout my day and lunch. It wasn't until I started keeping a detailed journal that I realized how much damage I was doing to myself. Not just the weight, but my health. While keeping a food journal is recommended by every weight loss expert out there it seems to be the one part of the journey that people have the most difficulty in following through. I've heard all the excuses of not keeping one, but there is no excuse. If you are serious about this journey, then you will take the necessary steps to achieve your goals. There are also many people who argue with me that it's too hard to keep a daily journal. For whatever reasons they can justify, they skip this all important part. The definition of insanity--doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. It really boils down to taking responsibility for your actions.

I can't emphasize how important I feel this part of the journey is in regards to your overall success. One of the biggest comments I hear about keeping a journal is: 'I don't want to have to write down my food every day for the rest of my life.' I'm not asking you to do this every day for the rest of your life. I'm asking you to do this for one day. Just today.

The first thing I tell new clients is that for the first week I want you to eat like you usually do. Yep, that's right. I don't want any drastic changes made in the first week of starting out. This may seem counterproductive to losing; however, it goes back to the first statement in this note. You have to take account of what you are really doing before you can begin to see the changes that need to be made. I don't tell them to track the calories or points (Weight Watchers members), just the food. This gives you a starting point.

Not tracking food you've eaten doesn't negate the calories you consume. Bites, licks and tastes can and will add up. The only way to KNOW what you are eating day in and day out is to write it down. This seems to be much easier said than done for masses of people. It truthfully is the only way to learn your habits. But there is so much more to this than just tracking your food. Food is only part of the equation. For those of us who turn to food for reasons other than nutrition it is important to learn what our triggers are in order to change the pattern.

Once my clients are in the regular habit of writing down their food I have them go to a free calorie tracking site. There are many of them, but my top three picks are:
1. The Daily Plate (www.thedailyplate.com)
2. Sparkpeople (www.sparkpeople.com)
3. Fitday (www.fitday.com)

These sites not only give you a place to chart your food and exercise, but they all contain a diary section. I feel that WHY we eat is just as important as WHAT we are eating. If you don't get to the why behind your eating, you will continue to eat. When you track your meals don't only track your calories. Notice the time. Are you eating because your body is truly hungry? If it has been less than four hours, chances are you aren't really needing food. So what is sending you to the pantry? Are you bored, stressed, angry, upset? Becoming a conscious, mindful eater will help you change your patterns. If hunger isn't the problem, then food isn't the solution. If you are being triggered by emotion to eat then deal with the emotion by staying out of the kitchen. Call a friend, go for a walk, punch a pillow, cry, scream. Then when you are done you can write in your daily journal about how you handled the situation without turning to the food as the answer. That's what I call a non-scale victory worthy of celebration.
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