I found the key to weight loss and healthy eating.
Write down everything you eat. You’ve heard that advice many times. You’ve started a food diary how many times now?
I had the same problem. My food diaries lasted only a day or two at best. Later, I would come across these sad, short-lived attempts and shake my head at my lack of discipline. Why can’t I do this one thing that sounds so EASY?
Two years ago, I tried again and to my amazement, it worked and I haven’t stopped. This food journal didn’t start any differently than earlier ones. I made a rule: I can eat anything I want as long as I write it down. No self-judgment; just honesty. No one sees this but me.
May 2010 had skipped days and half-hearted entries. By June 1, I realized I had something going. I started writing neater and developed a consistent entry style:
Food, comma, description, comma, quantity. Estimated calories to the left. For example:
110 Yogurt, plain, non-fat, 1 cup
Organic food gets an asterisk.
My OCD started playing the game with me. I challenged myself by adding the calories in my head and subtotaling by meal.
Once I filled the first spiral bound purse-size book, I bought a long, slim hard-bound book with a placeholder ribbon. Each page was the perfect length for a daily food list. After filling two of those, now I am working through my third Rhinestone Heart Journal.
Instead of just eyeballing food quantities, I began measuring food in earnest. I bought a food scale, an EatSmart Digital Kitchen Scale. The scale measures food in ounces, grams, kilograms and pounds. The scale comes with a booklet that gives you the calories per gram of common foods.
The food scale was a turning point.
My entries became more precise once I started using grams. Not sure who I was trying to impress. Me, I guess.
Restaurants meals are tricky and are often the reason dieters abandon their diaries. After measuring and calculating food at home, your eye learns to measure with reasonable accuracy. When you go out to eat, remember what you ate and how much. Remember the rule: you can eat anything you want as long as you write it down AND estimate the calories.
Restaurant calorie estimates are ballpark at best, but I try to estimate high and not worry about it.
I have been food journaling for exactly two years now. I have lost fifteen pounds. I keep at it because each day that I feel too lazy to log the meals, I ask myself, do I really want TODAY to be the reason I end your streak?
As in life, every day is a new page.