Keeping a food diary is one sure-fire way to make you aware of what you are eating. There is a lot of supporting research that says that tracking what foods you eat helps keep weight off longer. Most people hate the idea of keeping a food diary. Tracking everything that goes into your mouth can be tedious and overwhelming. I'm going to change that mindset by sharing some tips on how to make a food diary easy. You will see that it is much easier than it is.
Be as specific as possible. Make notes if that food was part of the main meal or just a snack. Not only should you track what you are eating for your bigger meals, track what you are snacking on and what kind of beverages you are drinking. Those 3 or 4 pieces of Goldfish that you nibble on while you are helping your toddler eat need to be tracked. Taking a piece of that bagel in the break room at the office needs to be accounted for. Grazing throughout the day can lead to an excessive amount of calories that add up over a week!
Was it Happy Hour or was it someone’s birthday at the office? Were you sitting in front of your TV and started to snack? Noting your mood at that time can also help you recognize eating behaviors. Were you depressed or anxious or tired? Tracking events and your moods at the time can be a big eye-opener. You will start to see patterns of the types of foods you are eating during certain times of the day and what feelings you are experiencing at that time. You will begin to recognize that being depressed, anxious, bored or fearful cause you to eat unhealthy. Once you have identified these triggers, you can then begin to change what you are eating in response to those feelings.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to get out the food scale and weight all your foods. Initially, it’s important that you need to learn about serving sizes. Pay attention to how much food is in a serving size. Knowing how much is in a serving size will make you more aware of how big a portion of the food that you are eating. We always overestimate portion sizes. Don't worry about keeping track of your macros when you start tracking. The point with keeping a food diary is to make you more aware of portion sizes. Keep weight loss simple. Start working on your portion sizes and that will lead to reduced caloric intake. You’ll start to drop some weight once you start to pay more attention to portion sizes.
If you are looking to drop the last few pounds after you have met your initial weight loss goal, that could involve some more detailed food tracking. But for most people, just being more mindful of portion sizes can lead to successful weight loss and keeping it off. Here is a handy tip sheet for eyeballing portion sizes while you are on the go.
Make a note of your hunger level BEFORE you eat. (0= not hungry at all; 10= starving)
Tracking your hunger level can help clue you in if you are eating out of boredom, happiness or anger. Remember, behavior has a lot to do with successful weight loss.
If you can’t do it daily, then pick 2-3 days during the week and the weekend. Track days that are close as possible to your typical routine. You may want to track two days on a weekend if you participate in a lot of social outings. You can eat clean during the week but you can blow a solid diet during a weekend if you are not conscious of what you are eating. Don’t forget about alcoholic beverages too. Those are empty calories.
This can be an app or old fashioned pen and paper. If you tried a few options and haven't found the right tracking option for you, don’t give up. Keep looking for something that will work for you. Whatever you do, don’t ditch the process. Keep at it and find a tracking method in which you will be more inclined to do consistently and not sporadically. It has to be easy for you.
I’ve had clients choose different methods of keeping a food diary. Some are old school and prefer a pen and paper. Some use apps. There are hundreds of food diary apps out there. Some like a detailed food diary. Some like simpler food diaries. Which method you use for your food diary depends a lot on your personality, how detail-oriented you are, how patient you are.
This can be a personal trainer, health coach, a friend who is also tracking food or maybe an office coworker.
Don’t make keeping a food diary overwhelming. Start small by logging just one meal. After a few days, add in more foods to your log.
Tracking food is a necessary evil if you want to make improvements to your health and to drop some unwanted pounds.
There are three main reasons why you should keep a food diary. One, record your food and beverage intake and what factors influenced the intake. Being aware of what influences your food intake can help you make changes to your diet. Two, assess the quality of what you are eating and drinking. Three, compare your current diet to a clean nutritious diet. To make food tracking work successfully, you need to find a way that makes it easy for you. Start to implement some of these tips and you will begin to see positive changes to your health and body composition.
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