There is a statistic that says people who use food journals lose 30% more weight than people who don’t. And they keep it off. 30%!
At How To Chow, we ask our clients to use food journals, too. At least, at first. It makes a lot of you guys groan. And I understand why. I remember using a food journal for years – writing down every bite of food and the corresponding calories. Adding it all up at the end of the day and praying that I had an extra 200 calories for that brownie dessert. Agonizing over why I couldn’t lose weight even though I was below my recommended daily caloric intake.
So what do you do? You want the weight loss (or improved health) but you don’t want the suffering.
I want to suggest a different way to approach food journaling. Write down what you eat, yes. But also make note of what time, your hunger levels, how you felt before and how you felt after. Once you write it down, it’s over. Don’t beat yourself up over an indulgence or pat yourself on the back for a restricted day. Record everything for a period of time – a week or two – before you look at it. Then lay out all the journals and compare them. What patterns do you see? Is there a particular time of day that you’re always really hungry? Is there a food/location/circumstance that always leads to overindulgence? Think of yourself like a scientist observing behavior and use the journal to get to know yourself and your food habits better. You might even keep track of your calories for a few days and see the average of where you generally land.
Then use the information you gather to set yourself up for success. Have healthy options and a filling meal prepared for the times of day when you are the hungriest. Address the emotion that causes the overeating with a new healthy lifestyle habit like a phone call to a friend or some extra relaxation time. Find places that you can easily replace unhealthy food with healthy food.
Try the new habits for a while and then keep a food journal again. You’ll be surprised how much has changed!