Keeping a food journal can make or break your quest to get in the best shape of your life.
Does any of this sound familiar?
A husband and wife make a pact. They are going to get in shape, and they are going to do it together, as a team. Shoulder to shoulder they stand; they’ve got this.
A month down the road, wifey is looking a little fitter, but hubby has noticed his jeans tightening. She looks over at dinner, and they talk about it.
Hubby: “I don’t get it, I’m working my butt off, doing 45 minutes every day on the treadmill, we eat the same things, but you look great, what gives?”
Wifey, with an uncomfortable smile: “Babe, you look, um…fine. I’m sure things will turn for you. Keep workin’ hard, sport.”
The man (let’s call him Eugene) has good intentions, and he is exerting real effort to change his body composition. Unfortunately, he’s oblivious to his own habits, built up over a lifetime. He eats breakfast with his wife and displays discipline in portion control. His salmon and broccoli dinners are on point.
So what’s going on with Eugene?
He grabs a chicken salad daily for lunch at the office, one topped with fried chicken strips, ranch dressing and a white dinner roll on the side. He thinks he’s on track by replacing his usual Dr. Peppers, not knowing that apple juice is high in calories and sugar. He has 17 gummy worms here and half a PB & J there as an afternoon snack because a fitness guru told him he needs to eat every three hours.
It’s easy to be lulled into an “I’m doing this right” trance, and find yourself frustrated by the lack of progress. To fix his predicament, he should follow a few steps I’ll pass on to you, just in case you share some eerie similarities to our pal Eugene.
- Keep track of everything that you ingest for a full week. Include times and locations of consumption.
- Be accountable, authentic and precise with yourself when recording amounts. Hard quantities are important. If you eat 36 Skittles, don’t say “I had a few Skittles.”
- Record calories. Perform a web search to find the calorie value of the foods and drinks you’ve had each day.
Food journaling’s greatest value is in the education it provides. Use this information to adjust as you go. Pay attention to where you’re consuming more calories than you thought. If your jeans are tight, try replacing your apple juice with water and your Skittles with a hard-boiled egg.
The more information you have about your behavior and the food you consume, the more equipped you’ll be to make better choices.
Throw a sample day in the comments below, and I’ll write a post soon with suggestions for a few of them.