September 26, 2010

To journal or not to journal (part 1)

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You want to lose weight? Sure keeping a food journal may help but only, and only, if you follow a strict set of procedures.  You want to make better food choices? Yes keeping a food journal may help but only, and only, if you follow a strict set of procedures.

Do you see — err read — what I’m getting at? Whether your goal is to lose weight or to expand your nutritional education keeping a food journal requires three things: discipline, honesty, and time.

Discipline is required once you embark on the journey of keeping a food journal.  You write down and record every little thing you eat. Did you add a spoonful of cranberries with your instant oatmeal? Yes, that counts! How about that bit of brown sugar? Yes, that counts!  Did you request your Thai chicken wrap without the peanut sauce and on a whole wheat tortilla? Did you add whole milk or fat-free milk to your coffee this morning? Yes, all of these little things count and must be recorded.

Honesty in accounting for every teaspoon and little mini cheesecake, chocolate, and sliver of this or that is also required.  It is easy to dismiss that “bite” of chocolate cake your friend offered you when you tell yourself, “it is just a bite” or “I worked-out really hard today.”  Do not fall for it!  Once you start to dismiss these teaspoons and slivers of calories the integrity and value of your food journal is diminished.

Last, time is required for journaling.  Time is needed to record food eaten. Time is needed to build the habit of writing everything down. Time is needed to adjust your meal choices in response to your findings. Time is needed to achieve your goals.

So where do you begin?  For beginners, I advocate the old-school composition book and pen method because it helps you acknowledge the foods eaten as well as become familiar with serving sizes.  When you visually see and acknowledge in written form, the foods you chose to eat, well sometimes it is like a slap in the face and at others it is a feeling of satisfaction.  Plus, the book and pen method is portable – you can take it everywhere you go!  The information in your food journal may be basic with just the food items written in list format, or include more details such as a comprehensive list of serving size in grams, calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, and sodium.  Whether you begin with a basic or detailed list is up to you.  Confronting what you have eaten depends on the commitment you make to journal.

But what if you aren’t a book and pen type of person?  There are many online journals that are free and available for purchase.  However, unless you have immediate access to enter everything you eat and drink be prepared to record your diet on pieces of paper and enter it at the end of the day.  Waiting until the very end of the day to recall what you ate and the amounts may be difficult, inaccurate and jeopardize the integrity of your online food journal.

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