8 tips to make a food diary work for weight loss rather than just plain more work.

I was looking around the internet today at people’s reactions to the recent food diary newsUmm asked a great question about food logs:

Do you have any tips for making the journal work instead of having it just create more work?

I responded on her blog, but I thought it might be helpful for everyone to hear.

8 tips for a more effective food journal

  1. Decide on what tool to use for your diary.  My suggestion is to use an online tool to make it simple for you to journal your food.
    (shameless plug, I recommend our Simple Weight Loss Tools )
    Using an online tool takes some of the hassle out of calorie counting and nutrient searching.  As Umm asks, it makes a food diary work for you rather than just more work.
  2. After you decide on your tool, Build the habit of journaling.  I definitely agree with you.  Have a piece of paper and pen, and write down before you eat, what you are going to eat.  If you can, enter it into an online system to get a feel the quantity of calories.
  3. After you build the habit of logging your daily intake of food, start to move into more advanced habits.  For example, I like to use a scale to measure my food. Why? I realized that my two tablespoons of peanut butter on my PB&J is actually more like four tablespoons.  So, by being more precise with my journal, I was able to learn that I’m actually eating more than I thought which of course was the cause of my stagnant weight loss.
  4. Try to write emotions or thoughts down when you eat.  It will help you assess your emotional eating habits.
  5. After you have a month or two of historical data, start to look at reports. Identify if you have been losing or gaining weight.  See if you can correlate your trends with your eating habits.  Then, start to make conscious small changes regarding your eating habits.  For example, if you normally have 1 glass of OJ every day, maybe you cut it to 1/2 a glass of OJ every day.  If you normally eat out for lunch 2 or 3 times a week, maybe you create a rule for yourself that says no fries.
  6. Again after you have the first habits started: Concentrate on Calories.  it doesn’t matter if you want to follow the atkins diet, the low-fat diet, the Mediterranean diet, the PBJ diet, whatever.  Calories is the first thing one should start to worry about.  Although, some people say you’ll be more satiated with Protein or Fat rather than simple sugars, it really does not matter physically.  Food In – Food Out = Weight Loss or Weight Gain.
  7. After you have been concentrating on calories and feel you have a good handle on it, then start to watch and manipulate your macro-nutrient combination.  In other words, your Fat to Protein to Carb Ratio.  Every person is different, you need to experiment with your diet to find your best weight loss ratio of Fat to Protein to Carbs.
  8. Finally, after you have all of the above under control, then you can delve into specific nutrients, vitamins, and mineral combinations.  Are you getting too much sodium, not enough Vitamin D.  etc.

You might ask Why do I go through this slow pattern of process?

here’s an example:  if you were to go to a financial planner and ask that person to help you get out of debt and become rich.  The First thing a good financial planner wants to know is how are you spending your money now.  So, they ask you to track every penny spent.  They don’t ask you to pick an investment strategy of derivatives, stocks, bonds, shorts, options, reits, commodities, etc.  You have to walk before you can run.    So, with food journaling, most people give up after they start step one instead taking it slow and working their way up the food log ladder.

It is a long slow process to lose fat.  Think about it,  It probably took you 5, 10 , 15, 30 years to build up all that excess fat and weight.  Do you really think you can lose it all in 3 months?

So, what do you do to achieve long-term life-sustaining healthy weight loss?

Follow the best practices: There have been numerous studies that state:
Weigh yourself every day, Track what you eat, Get some Exercise, and Make your weight management goals public and social.  By following these axioms, you’ll see positive long-term results.

I encourage you to try out simpleweight to help make your food journal easier and simple.

What about you?  Do you have any suggestions for making your food diary work for your weight loss rather than just plain more work?