I’ve talked before about how important keeping a food journal has been in keeping me on track and successful, but I’d like to delve a little deeper into the reasons why I find it not only helpful, but necessary.
My site of choice is www.myfitnesspal.com and I try to log in religiously and not just because it keeps a tally and celebrates numerical milestones. (though, I love aiming for a year! I’m at 125 days, currently!)
I’ve done Weight Watchers before (okay, a few times) and I’ve painstakingly kept a written journal of what I ate and how many points it equalled. Any method that works for you, well, will work for you. I like MFP because it makes it so easy with so many foods and brands in its database. It takes the pesky “thinking” part right out of tracking! WIN!
I’m an organization junkie, and I also like control. When I can see, in print, what I’m doing, it motivates me to keep going. But, there’s so much more to it than that.
When I have an “off” day, (because I’m an emotional/stress eater) in the past, I would throw the entire day down the drain. For example, when I’m trying to eat clean and sugar-free, and then eat two cookies? Ya, it sends me reeling. I would tend at that point to figure the whole day is a bust and just keep right on eating, and eating, and eating.
When I track with MFP, I can see that one little blip doesn’t ruin a day. In fact, many times I’ve been surprised that even though I ate something I shouldn’t have, I’m still on track calories wise. No, it wasn’t my best choice in terms of spending those calories, but you know what? It happens. I’m vigilant in logging because there have been many times my emotional side is telling me the day is awash, but once I track, I see I still have lots of room to salvage the remainder and all is not lost.
The other reason I’m a big proponent of food journalling is to recognize patterns in behaviours that either lead to success or lead to frustration. I’ve noticed from my journals that on days where I’ve had some sugar, but kept it to a minimum, I do better than on days where I’ve tried to have none, and end up bingeing on it in the evening. I’d rather have two cookies than 4 cookies and a handful of chocolate chips and some candy and….well, you get the idea. It’s all about moderation.
I’ve also noticed that when I keep my meals evenly spaced, I don’t go nuts as the day progresses. There are days where I skipped breakfast and had a “lunch/breakfast” meal around noon instead. That doesn’t seem to work for me because by 3pm I’m starving and then tend to snack from then til I go to bed.
My food journalling allows me to see these patterns emerging, and creates a stronger journey long-term, because I can set myself up for success rather than failure. It also allows me to view the “big picture” of a week at a time in its reports, rather than looking at each day on its own as being a “good day” or a “bad day.” I can rationalize with myself that I had a mostly good week full of workouts and great eating days, even with the odd blip in the sugar-coated road.
One large takeaway from this journalling is in creating a different mindset. Health isn’t about being perfect all of the time, it’s about that whole 80/20 thing. I don’t need to try to even strive for the unattainable “totally clean,” I just need to do what works for me and my body and my lifestyle. Will I be logging for the rest of my days? I can’t answer that, today.
But for now, keeping a record allows me some control, it helps me recognize patterns, it teaches me what works for me, and it keeps me motivated. There is so much more to it than just keeping track of how many calories I put in my mouth or how many I burned off.
If you haven’t given it a real go with the food journal, I strongly suggest trying it out for at least a consistent month. It may not be for you and your personality, and that’s fine. But for others, look at more than just the calorie input, and see the wider picture of your journey at present, and thus far.
Like me, you just might be surprised.