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Journaling for Weight Loss Success!

Jul 15, 2008
Have you kept a food journal? Journaling is a very important aspect in successful weight loss and is claimed, by many, to be the pivotal point in their success. The benefits are most pronounced when beginning a nutritional eating plan. However, at various times throughout your weight loss journey, one can refocus their efforts by once again implementing the journaling process.

When I started my weight loss journey, I made a simple food journal where I wrote down everything that went into my mouth. And, I do mean everything! I also made note of my general mood, i.e. happy, sad, lonely, etc. and recorded any major events.

Now, the process of journaling doesn't have to be all consuming or take a lot of time; it just needs to be a conscious effort to accurately record your food intake and emotions. The initial commitment to record your journal should be for a minimum of 2-3 weeks as it takes that long to see the patterns emerge and gain a true picture of your relationship with food. Personally, I kept a journal for several months when I began as it afforded me the most control over my behavior.

Here are the benefits of journaling.

1. Journaling promotes conscious eating. This was a big thing for me. I can't tell you how many times I would walk by a candy jar and indulge in a few pieces or grab some food from the kitchen table at work where it had been placed for all to share. No thought process even entered my mind. I didn't stop to assess whether I was hungry or think about whether I was "dieting"; it was in my mouth and gone before any conscious thought entered my mind. Writing everything down, and being consistent about it, allowed me to STOP making poor choices and allowed me to truly engage my thought process, my choices, the consequences of those choices and then proceed.

S = Stop
T = Think
O = ChOose
P = Proceed

2. One of the best benefits of a food journal is the ability to monitor what you are eating, how much you are eating and when you are eating. It provides a clear picture of our interaction with food, which allows us to modify certain behaviors. You may uncover things like eating too little during the day, finding a food that triggers a binge episode or eating too many carbohydrates and not enough protein.

3. Documenting your moods and/or significant events will allow you to see a correlation between your emotions and food. The knowledge of this allows us to implement a plan of action to better prepare for future events.

In my journal, I realized that when I was sad and lonely, I not only ate in excess but my food choices were not nutritional. First, that information supplied me with the knowledge of my behavior. Second, it allowed me to devise a plan to alter the outcome. For instance, when I was sad and lonely, I would leave my home to go participate in a happy social activity with friends or visit family.

4. When you are cognizant of the food you are consuming, you are then more aware and watchful of the choices being made. Mindful eating decisions are then more likely to be based on the quality and nutritional value of the item in correlation with the total daily calorie, point or carb allowance.

5. As you become more conscious of the foods you are eating, better choices can be made. For instance, you may observe that too many carbohydrates are being eaten and not enough protein. You may become keenly aware that vegetables are lacking. In my case, I learned to eat more protein when I was truly hungry and to reserve the carbohydrate-laden snacks for times when I felt relatively full.

6. By journaling your food, you remain in total control. There are no foods off limits, only that you plan accordingly to stay within your allowed calories OR occasionally decide to exceed your calorie limits and accept the consequences of your choice. You remain accountable to you and there is just no benefit in not being truthful.

7. When reaching a plateau or occasionally sliding up the scale, a food journal provides the material needed for review by a friend, mentor or physician. A problem area can usually be identified quite quickly with a journal at hand.

Journaling does not require an arsenal of tools, but there are a few that are essential and those that are helpful.

A notebook or journal (even plain paper can be used) along with a or pencil. This does not have to be anything formal, but represents the basic tools for journaling and is most essential.

Measuring cups are essential in portioning your food as we guesstimate on the high side.

Measuring spoons allow smaller quantities of items to be measured accurately and can drastically affect your daily caloric intake. An example would be salad dressing; at 80 calories for 2 TBSP of low-calorie dressing, pouring 2 or 3 times that amount can make the difference of whether you lose weight, remain the same or gain.

Calorie resources are essential to your weight loss success. Calories can be found on the product packaging or by using an Internet resource such as www.calorieking.com. Points, carbohydrates or diabetic exchanges are other acceptable ways to measure your food when journaling.

Plastic baggies are helpful in portion control. Some food items, especially snack items, state the number of portions in the box or package. It is easier to divide the package into equal portions upon opening the package. The calorie count can be written in permanent marker on the baggies for easy reference.

A calculator is helpful to divide package calories into smaller portions than those listed on the box.

A scale is helpful to weigh ounces.

Journaling provides us with the key to unlock the treasure chest of knowledge that explains our behavior and relationship with food. This, in turn, allows us to devise a map to modify our behavior and chart our path to success!
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