It’s the weight loss strategy that almost sounds too good to be true: it doesn’t require exercise, it’s free and almost every dietitian says their clients see major success when they try it. The catch? You have to stick with it to see results.
Food journaling may seem like yet another line on your mile-long to-do list, but the time you invest could change your life. Shayna Komar, a licensed and registered dietitian at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, says that her clients who keep a food journal see significant success because they are held accountable for what they eat, which pushes them to make necessary changes.
“Food journaling is very important because it helps you stay accountable with what you eat,” says Komar. “Many people underestimate their portion sizes and snacks. If you aren’t seeing the results you want, a food journal can show your areas of struggle.”
Fortunately, food journaling doesn’t have to be a chore and is easy to customize to your lifestyle. Komar says some people carry a small notebook or a piece of paper with them throughout the day, while others use websites or smart phone apps to record their meals. She is a fan of MyFitnessPal, but says there are plenty of similar apps available.
How to get started
Write down or digitally record everything you eat and drink when you consume it. Try not to wait until the end of the day – it’s easier to forget exactly what you ate when it’s been several hours since your meal.
Small amounts of calories add up, so record the handful of candy you got from a co-worker’s desk or the leftovers you ate off your child’s plate.
“You need to write down even those little bites,” she says.
“People are shocked because I have them write down portion size and they see that they ate two cups of cereal when the serving size is three-fourths of a cup,” says Komar. “Or they think they are using one tablespoon of peanut butter on their toast, but they actually use three.”
Beginners cheat sheet: Exactly what you should record
If you’re new to food journaling, keep it simple, so you stick with it. Record the following categories:
- Everything you eat and drink
- Your portion size
If you want to take it a step further, you can record:
- How you felt after your meal
- Your activity level and any exercise got that day
Remember, record as you go for best results.
“A lot of people can lose weight just by writing down calories and protein,” she says. “[Those who journal] have a lot of success with weight loss because they are more accountable.”
Get a professional opinion
Once you’ve been journaling for awhile, consider having a registered dietitian review your records to see if you are over-consuming calories or under-consuming protein, for example. This is especially helpful if you aren’t seeing the weight loss results you are looking for.
“You want to make sure you are getting enough of each food group and enough hydration,” Komar explains.
Celebrate your progress with non-food rewards. Komar suggests a manicure, book, magazine, or new workout shirt.
“If you are feeling like you are not reaching your nutrition and exercise goals, food journaling is a good new habit to form,” says Komar. “You might be shocked at what you are consuming.”
For additional healthy lifestyle ideas, visit HealthWatch Tips & Tools.