“Where’s your food journal?”
If you’re one of my clients, and you’ve ever complained to me about lower-than-expected results, you’ve heard the above phrase.
The food journal is THE most important physical tool for a person trying to adopt healthier eating habits.
It offers so many benefits:
- accountability to anyone you show it to (even if it’s just to yourself)
- a track-record of what does or does not work for you
- a sure-fire way to think twice about that second piece of cake
…and many more. These are just the obvious benefits.
If you’re taking on The 90% Challenge, I would highly recommend you start one of these bad boys up right now. It’s so helpful when you’re making new habits to record your progress. If for nothing else, do it so that you can look back on this day (literally) and see how far you’ve come!
The first thing I do when I want to get clients back on track after say, holidays, gastro-vacations, or an awesomely unhealthy weekend, is to pull out their Google Docs food journal and start seeing how they do with getting back on track.
Now, just an fyi here: This is not for everyone. If you tend to over-obsess about every morsel you put into your mouth, have a history of disordered eating, or are already insanely busy and just don’t know if you can add something else onto your plate, drop this idea right now. You can still be healthy without being obsessive or stretched to your thinnest point. This just may not be the tool for your particular tool box. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of others that will fit your personality better. :)
If you’re game, however, here’s the updated rundown of how to keep an effective food journal:
Depending on your personality, schedule and access to gadgetry, you may want to keep your food journal online, in a word doc on your desktop, or in a physical *gasp* paper notebook.
I’ve kept all versions, but I now prefer to use google docs because I can open it up on any computer and Lord knows I’m on the computer a lot.
If you’d rather keep one online or in word, I have a little surprise for you: I’ve drafted up a month-long food journal for you to start off with! It even has some tips at the top so that you can remember the things we’ll be talking about in today’s post.
Here are directions to get the google doc and make it your own:
- Click here to go to the google doc (they may have you sign in to see it)
- Go to File
- If you want to keep your own to edit on google docs, select “Make a copy”
- If you want to download your own to have the word doc, select “download as” > “word document”
And voila! There’s a lot of the work done for you!
Write Everything Down, Every Day
Designate one or two times daily when you can fill in everything you’ve eaten that day. I would recommend one time midday and one time at night. The more often you can write, the less you’ll forget to write down… and that’s a very good thing for a successful food journal.
It’s really easy to forget those few bites of danish you had at the morning meeting, or that candy bar you ate just because it was there on your coworker’s desk.
Don’t let anything go unwritten! As tempting as it is, the point of keeping a food journal is keeping yourself accountable for everything you ingest.
Those little things could be what’s keeping you from getting the results you want. Keep track and plan accordingly!
Just as important as what you’re eating, make sure to write down how much you’re eating and when. This is important to track mindless eating and cravings that pop up at certain times of the day.
Here is a guide for measuring serving sizes without having to bring kitchenware around with you:
- women: the size of your palm is 1 serving
- men: the size of both your palms is 1 serving
- women: the size of 1 fist is 1 serving
- men: the size of both fists is 1 serving
Carbohydrates (fruit, grains, starches)
- women: the size of 1 cupped hand is 1 serving
- men: the size of both cupped hands is 1 serving
Fats (nuts, oils, nut butters)
- women: the size of 1 thumb is 1 serving
- men: the size of both thumbs is 1 serving
Want pictures of those serving sizes? There’s a great article with pictures at Precision Nutrition; click here to see them!
Those serving sizes will be different for everyone… which is kinda the point. If you’re smaller, you need less food and if you’re bigger, you’ll need more. See where I’m going with this?
Write down the amount of servings you eat honestly. Don’t try to fudge it; you’re only fooling yourself if you do!
You’ll want to keep track of fluids as well as food to make sure that you’re getting enough water, and not getting empty calories throughout the day.
As we saw with Ryan, sodas could very well be the culprit of a plateau or stubborn fat deposits. What some people don’t know is that juices, flavored waters and even diet sodas could be causing you to retain flab just like sodas would!
Try to make sure to get at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (more if you’re active, working out, or living in a hot climate) to keep everything moving… if you know what I mean… TMI!
We talked a bit about opportunities last time, but here’s a sum-up of what this means:
An “opportunity meal” is part of that 10% of the time that you can eat unhealthy and still get the results you want. For most people, this comes out to 3-4 meals a week.
When keeping your food journal, highlight these meals so you don’t end up with more than 3-4. In the download, I have listed under each day, “OPPORTUNITIES TODAY,” and “OPPORTUNITES THIS WEEK.” This is so that you never lose sight of how many you’ve had this week and will stay on track more easily! You’re welcome. ;)
After 2 weeks of consistent journaling…
Now that you have some good, solid data to work with, let’s look at patterns of hunger, cravings, or inconsistent eating.
When do you crave sugar, processed carbohydrates, or fast food?
When do you get ravenously hungry?
When don’t you eat for longer than 5 hours at a time?
These questions will lead us to an action plan. We’re going to nip those cravings in the bud!
Here are a few common examples:
Are you hitting the afternoon lull, running out of energy and/or craving something sugary to pep you up? Look at your breakfast and lunch. Are you making sure to get enough protein and healthy fat in there? If you’re not, your body could simply be running out of fuel at that time of day. Make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats and lean protein at every meal, and steer clear of the processed carbs in the morning (i.e. waffles, most cereals, instant oatmeal, muffins, etc.).
Are you skipping meals for more than 5 hours at a time? Look a little further in your food journal; are these skips causing you to get ravenous later on in the day? If so, throw in a healthy snack like an apple and almond butter or a couple hard boiled eggs and carrots. These will help kill that I-could-eat-anything-and-probably-will feeling that strikes after long bouts of not eating.
Are you heading for the pantry at night and coming back with wayyyy too many goodies that make you feel baddy? Trace your footsteps in your food journal; are you eating enough of the healthy stuff at dinner? How about the rest of the day? If you’re not getting enough to eat, your cravings can surge at night as your body’s way of saying, “Last chance before sleep!”
A few other culprits of late snacking: boredom and habit. You guys know that was my downfall before I took up the 30-day challenge. Face the reason you’re eating at night. Are you really hungry, or is this a coping mechanism? Create an action plan based on your personal answer.
Now that you have the lowdown on how to keep an effective food journal, let’s give you things to write in there that you’ll be proud of!
Today’s the last day to sign up for The 90% Challenge in order to get the free 5 Habits Cheat Sheet! Comment below with “I’m in,” to join 26 other 90-percenters in the 2-week challenge to eat clean 90% of the time, and I’ll email you the cheat sheet by the end of today.
It’s totally do-able, and there’s nothing like group support to get you started with healthy habits! And trust me, you’re gonna want to be part of this group.
If you have any questions about food journaling or the 90% Challenge, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments! Otherwise, I’ll see you next week, guys!