Just recently my friend Matt was kind enough to share his food journal with me (he’s been chronicling his intake off and on for years, as he has severe digestive problems). It struck me that in the time I’ve known him it was the third food journal I’ve known him to keep. Matt needs to keep a food journal almost out of medical necessity, yet even he finds it a difficult practice to maintain.
Perhaps no request is more reviled than when I ask that clients keep a food journal.
Perhaps no discipline is more useful for a client interested in fat loss.
Why is keeping a food journal so difficult? For the same reasons it’s so valuable:
1) A food journal shows you what your real intake is.
Quick, who can remember what they had for dinner last Wednesday, or their 2nd snack on Friday? The best reason to keep a food journal is to serve as a resource of what you’ve eaten. By keeping a food journal you can easily monitor how alterations to your diet affect your mood, and more importantly, your waistline.
2) A food journal highlights your bad habits.
Maybe you don’t realize that you tend to snack on 600 calories worth of popcorn between 5-7pm each day when you get home and plop down in front of the TV. Maybe you tend to eat a less than worthwhile breakfast of 2 raspberries and a chocolate mint, but don’t realize that this doesn’t qualify it as a bonafide “meal.”
3) A food journal puts the ball in your court.
As much as I hate to say it, some people don’t want to get better, faster, stronger, leaner, etc. They only think they do for whatever reason drives them (usually the attention or sanction of other people), which is any reason except the most important one: because it is something they want for themselves. Someone who is driven to bring themselves to the next level in anything in life will be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Let’s face it – if it’s too much trouble to do an extra 15 minutes of paperwork in a day, then you really don’t want a better body all that badly. Which is totally ok, by the way – but you should keep lifting weights anyway.
Best of all, it’s easy. For computer buffs, it takes all of 10 minutes to set up an Excel spreadsheet for easy food entry. But it doesn’t even require that; all that’s really needed is a scrap of paper and something to write with. What goes into a food journal? Anything that goes into your mouth – food, water, bits of your finger skin, etc. The final requirement? The approximate time you ingested said food. Keep it for at least a week (yes, including the weekend).
You don’t have go as in depth as John Stone did. Even if you don’t write down amounts, count calories, or calculate daily micro and macronutrient breakdowns, just a quick glance of the daily menu will shed a lot of light on whether or not you’re making good food choices, eating too infrequently, stacking your diet in favor of unhealthy or fat-storing foods, etc. It is a really useful tool to help one get on or stay on the right track.
Which reminds me…time to fuel up.