You don’t even need to be trying to lose weight to do this, even if you are maintaining or trying to put on weight, I think this is a good tool to use. I am not suggesting that you obsess over every single thing that you are eating, but if you are just starting out, then actually seeing what you are eating written down can really help you to make the changes that you want to make.
When I first started trying to lose weight, I thought I was doing everything right, eating the right things and the right portions. It was only when I started writing down everything I ate that I realised all those little snacks of nuts, or hummus or porridge, that although they are healthy, they still add up and I wasn’t really working out enough at the time to warrant eating that amount.
I was writing down the measurements of things as well and soon realised that when I was making pasta dishes, I was eating too much.
In the beginning, I used My Fitness Pal. If you haven’t used it before, then take a look at it – you just have to enter in what you have eaten that day and it workouts the calories, although the calorie amounts can be way off, so don’t rely on it 100%. The one thing I don’t agree with though, is that it sets your calorie intake a very low, at 1200 a day, so make sure you go in to the settings and change it to the amount that is right for you. Why is 1200 calories too low? If you are working out (even if you are not), that is not enough calories for your body to be healthy. You might lose weight on that amount in the beginning, but you will hit a plateau.
What I now use instead of My Fittnes Pal is Fitbook, which is like a 12 week whole fitness journal. You can set your goals for the 12 weeks (which are not just all about weight) and then you can set individual weekly goals and at the beginning of the week you plan your workouts and each day you can track your meals, how they made you feel, your workouts and how good or bad they were. I really love it and I can’t wait to look back at it in 12 weeks time to see where I started and where I am now. I am really focusing on toning up and lowering my body fat % a little, and this is helping me to stay on track. It also gives your guidelines for portions as well, if that is something you struggle with.
Writing down all of your main meals is helpful enough, but when you look at it and see all those snacks, or those alcoholic drinks you had, it really makes you reassess your diet. When I don’t log my foods for a few days, I can guarantee you that I will not have been eating as well as I should have. So no matter what food choices I make or workouts I skip, I am writing it down so I can look back at it to see what changes I can make.
You should also write down any exercise you do. Seeing it written down is a great motivator and it will give you a sense of achievement. As if your aching muscles are not enough to remind you that you have been in the gym today!
Another thing that is good to do, is keep a separate food mood journal. If I get a craving to eat something, even though I know I am not physically hungry, I write down what was happening at the time I had the craving. Was I angry, upset, bored? This way, I can track my emotional eating. With this, you can write down how you felt after you ate (physically and mentally), it is a good tool for figuring out if you have a food intolerance. Say you ate some dairy and you feel bloated – you may be lactose intolerant.
If this is your first time keeping a food diary, review it every couple of weeks. Look back at everything you have eaten and you can assess your problem areas. Maybe you are having all your daily sugar allowance at breakfast on sugary cereal, or you are having a 3pm chocolate snack a little too often.
I wouldn’t suggest tracking your food for the rest of your life, as that doesn’t work for a lot of people (if it does, then great). But if you are just starting out, or you are trying to get yourself back on track or if like me you are starting a new training plan, then tracking can really help.
Whether you use Fitbook, My Fitness Pal, or just a scrap of paper, try keeping track of what you are eating and chances are you will be much healthier for it.
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