Home Conscious Consumerism Considered Keeping a Food Diary?

Considered Keeping a Food Diary?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

food diaryOne thing that I realized about myself in this journey to lose the weight, was that I needed to address my eating habits. I couldn’t understand what was happening that was making this process so unbelievably difficult for me. I mean, I was working out 7 days a week for at least an hour at a time. I did a full 30 minutes full blast on the elliptical, another 20 minutes in weight training, and 10 minutes on my core. What was happening?

I bought myself an iTouch. Just… because. I figured if I was going to throw myself into disappointment again, I’d at least do it with a new toy. Sure enough, I got hooked. Music? AND videos? AND apps? Wait… what are apps? After a little snooping around, I find out that I can keep up with news, play games, and do actual important stuff with these things. Neato.

So, I go lookin’, and lookin’, and lookin’… and I find an app called Lose It! that basically operates as a food journal. I once purchased a little black notebook where I’d write down everything I ate, but it quickly lost steam for me. LoseIt!, for some reason, was easier for me.

Using LoseIt!, I was able to input what I weighed at the start, what my goal weight was, and when I wanted to reach it. I added the foods I ate during the day – as honest as I could – and I added the amount of water and other drinks I drank.

When I tell you this was the most powerful thing I could’ve done for myself… believe it!

Now, mind you. I’m not necessarily advocating you go out and get the LoseIt! app (although, as of this writing, it is free and anyone who has an iTouch or iPhone really should look into it) because not everyone has or uses the iPhone/iTouch. The downside to the app, for me, is that it doesn’t allow you to input the time at which you ate. The LoseIt! app also, supposedly, mines data from our inputs as well, and some people might not be thrilled with that. (Yes, I AM usually the conspiracy theorist here, but the benefit outweighed the data collecting, to me.)

What I AM advocating, is the use of a food diary. My food diary showed me exactly where my problems were. I was eating too much of… well, everything. I had no portion control. I was partaking in a giant amount of fat and sugar. My carb meters were off the charts. I simply wasn’t doing what I knew in my heart I needed to do. Taking in over 2100 calories a day wasn’t going to help me lose weight. In fact, the only reason I didn’t gain astronomical amounts of weight was because of the 7-10 hours a week I was spending in the gym. After 6 months and only losing 20 lbs, something needed to really change.

The first two weeks of using my food diary were painful. I was able to track my carb, fat, sodium, fiber, protein, cholesterol and caloric intake. I spent lots of time researching what I was putting in my body in terms of fast food and restaurants, and the nutritional values for those meals. Seeing the numbers in front of me was painful. Painful! I used to LOVE tearing into a Checkers/Rally’s Fried Chicken Sandwich with large fries and a banana shake… until I started looking for their nutritional information.

That’s when it started hitting me like a ton of bricks:

An order of large fries from Checkers? 590 Calories, 38g of fat (20g of saturated fat, 2g of trans fat), 40mg of cholesterol, 1410mg of sodium, 7g of protein, 57g of carbohydrates.

The chicken sandwich? 740 calories, 41g of fat (13g saturated), 70mg of cholesterol, 2190mg sodium, 60g of carbohydrates (13g sugars), and 34g of protein.

And lastly, but certainly not least? The banana shake: 650 calories, 18g of fat (14g saturated), 75mg of cholesterol, 300mg sodium, 105g of carbohydrates (81g sugars), and 16g of protein.

What was I doing to myself? Don’t you know, I had to break out a calculator to tabulate how much I was putting into my body in ONE MEAL? 1,980 calories – almost the value of what’s recommended to take in over the course of one day. 3900mg of sodium. 222g of carbohydrates, about 40% of it being sugar. Seriously… what was I doing to myself? And why did it take me actually writing it down and committing myself to researching it for me to truly see it? Why didn’t I KNOW what I was doing to myself? (That’s another post entirely, but we won’t talk about that today.)

Slowly, I began to wean myself off of things that were doing me in. I no longer ate fast food. Sure enough, I lost almost 8 lbs immediately. Strange, huh?

A food diary highlights the weaknesses in your diet. It shows you patterns in your eating habits that you might not’ve noticed. Do you eat a lot of fried foods? How about a lot of bread? Do you have one heck-uv-a-sweet tooth? Maybe you eat a lot of foods that require TONS of seasoning? Variety, literally, is the spice of life.. and a food diary is the best way to show you where you could inject a little bit of just that – variety.

Make it a healthy day!

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saga September 22, 2009 - 8:52 PM

Try fitday.com (and no, I’m not a fitday bot…lol). But if you’re like me and are ever away from your paper diary, you can keep an online one handy as well 😉

btw, love your site! do you tweet? if so, what’s your uname?

Erika September 22, 2009 - 9:27 PM

Hey, Saga! Thanks for stopping by. I can be found on twitter at @inetespionage. Hope to see you there! 🙂

Ashley February 5, 2010 - 2:51 PM

I used a food diary to help me lose weight too. The experience was eye opening because 1) I had no idea how many calories were in the food I was eating and 2) I had no idea how many calories I actually consumed in one meal or one day. The diary made me more aware of every piece of food that I consumed, and I once i started counting calories the weight fell off.

copelli21 July 9, 2010 - 12:48 PM

I am a new visitor to this blog, but I love it. You have great articles.

Anyway, keeping a food diary has ALWAYS been a struggle for me. I’ve made it through maybe a week of writing and it’s pretty much downhill from there. I’ve even falsified one food journal that my doctor requested I write….I know that is sooo bad!

I have been executing a lifestyle change for the past couple of months….healthy eating, cooking at home, no fast food, no soda, lots of water and more movement and exercise. I know that a food journal would probably be beneficial, so I know I have to try it again.
Since I am online more than ever, perhaps an online one will work better for me, like the one recommended by Saga.

Fingers crossed!

Thank you for sharing your story and informative discussions.

The struggle continues, but I know I am not alone.


L.P. May 25, 2011 - 10:33 AM

I used to quickly lose steam when keeping a food diary as well. I would write things down, be conscious, lose what I needed to lose and start slacking on writing things down.

I got a suggestion to download the fatsecret app from a commenter on this site! And it has been a great, great help! It almost becomes like my routine. There are countless of foods available and it lets you sync your info from your phone to your profile online. It is truly helpful. It’s also free on Blackberry world.

Lisa July 24, 2010 - 7:20 AM

I keep a food diet with sparkpeople and it has been very helpful to me. I am encouraged to log on daily because I’ve made friends, and logging in my food has helped me to see my success and failure.

nettid October 27, 2010 - 5:27 PM

Ive used sparkpeople as well. I has helped me come face to face with what Im putting in my mouth. “If you bite it, you have to write it.”

Crystal December 22, 2010 - 3:02 PM

Erika, like you, I too am a conspiracy theorist (well, of sorts,hmmm) anyhoo, I believe this is how (BIG BROTHER) combines all of the information for those statistical polls, come on now Nielson isn’t keeping up with everybody that much SMH. I’ve been tracking the pricing of that darn IPod, I sooooo want one and now that you’ve told me about this app I REALLY WANT ONE NOW!!!

Stephanie S. May 25, 2011 - 11:05 PM

Myfitnesspal.com or the app on Android is also pretty useful as well….you can actually scan the barcode of whatever you’re eating (if it has one of course) and it will automatically give you all of the info (calories, fat and sugar content, etc). You can adjust the serving size as needed.

Kiana October 1, 2011 - 8:11 PM

I swear up and down by MyFitnessPal! I also have the Android app and it’s so amazing. I love being able to scan the foods I’m eating as I’m eating them. But I completely agree with this article. When I first began my weight loss journey in Jan. of this year, I had no idea how many calories I was actually eating. I was working out 3-4x a week and was only losing ~1 lb every other week. I finally started using MFP in July and my mind was BLOWN. I couldn’t believe how much I was eating. It’s really disgusting to think about the calories in the fast food meals offered in this country when compared to how many are recommended per day. When I graduated this summer, I went to Red Lobster to celebrate. The dessert alone (Triple-Chocolate Brownie a la Mode) was 890 calories. 890 calories in a dessert. I wanted to die when I found out how much I had just eaten, but it is what it is. We just have to learn to always be aware. Love your site, Erika!

milaxx June 9, 2011 - 9:52 PM

Keeping a diary finally got me to commit to eating breakfast. I seriously have no idea why but it worked and I finally “got” what the doctors had been telling me about the importance of eating breakfast.

Gloria August 15, 2011 - 7:36 AM

Thanks for discovering loseit to me!

It’s a great tool that makes calorie counting much more easier, and has helped a lot to to visualize my pitfalls in food matters: seeing that a bag of nachos had more calories than a good, varied salad (with a chicken serving) was quite an epiphany (all the more as the nachos didn’t leave me satisfied, and the salad did!)

Ali September 4, 2011 - 11:42 PM

I am a Weight Watcher, so I have to do a food journal. I have been successful so far because I would rather see fruits and veggies than fast food and junk with high points values.

Aja April 24, 2012 - 12:15 PM

I use MyFitnesPal and its so much easier to use than a written log. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m really good about tracking every day, but what it has done in the days that I am good about it is make me aware of the meals that I was typically overdoing it with calories and choose healthier, lower calorie options.

Lisa Hickman April 24, 2012 - 1:01 PM

Hey girl. Thanks so much for this website.You are truly an inspiration for me. I think myfitness pal operates the same way. You can even put your exercise in that you did for the day and it will calorie count for you and tell you if you had too much or not enough for the day. I know you don’t like counting calories…. I will try to see if I can find the app you mentioned…Be blessed and stay encouraged and most of all keep telling your story…its helping fat black girls like me!!!! LOL 🙂

Sherry July 5, 2012 - 9:10 AM

I have to agree, using a food journal has been my saving grace, and being able to do it from my phone makes it easy to stick with. I’m also a huge advocate of myfitnesspal. It’s free! AND, it not only logs your food, but your exercise and progress. At the end of the day, you can complete the entry and get an estimate of how much you’d weigh in a week if you continued eating that way. Of course, it’s only an estimate and if you want to be really successful, it’s best to measure your portions for accurate logging, and use a heart rate monitor for calories burned. BUT, the best thing about the app and site, by far, is that you can add friends and your homepage is like a Facebook wall. Everytime one of your friends logs a workout, it shows. Everytime they log in 5 days consistently, it shows. Everytime they complete a diary entry, it shows. Then, you have the opportunity to congratulate them as well as receive congratulations. For the super ambitious, you can make your food diary public, so that others can see what you’ve consumed (something that really helps keep me on track). Oh yea, and when you loose weight, it pops up on your friends feeds too so everyone can be ecstatic with you! (and friends are easy to come by on the site, just log in from a computer and start reading the forums, when you find people who you think would be encouraging for you, request a friendship). I know this was totally an advertisement for the site/app, but Im so excited about how it’s kept me on track, allowed me to gain real life friendships with health driven people, and given me MAJOR support during a time when my real friends have scattered. Plus, I’m down 50 lbs since starting in January!

CurlsCoilsStef July 5, 2012 - 1:19 PM

MyfitnessPal has been great for me!! I love being able to scan the barcode of what I’m eating. I also have a food scale so I can weigh my food.

OfficiallyDes August 5, 2012 - 8:20 PM

I also journal in several ways … MyFitnessPal (I am BonnynBlithe04 there) as well as a paper journal called a Flogg Daily. I find that I do much better on the weeks I track than the weeks I don’t.

Jenni September 30, 2012 - 5:22 PM

This all sounds interesting…..I just realized how slowed down my metabolism has become and its harder to lose weight than before so this is all helpful info for me as I venture out to lose this weight and for a better healthy lifestyle! Thanks ladies

Lynette March 25, 2013 - 7:17 AM

Hi Erika, I so agree with the journal. I have myfitnesspal app on my iPhone and you can connect from your desktop. I’m having many issues because I stopped tracking after retirement. Sometimes it’s a chore but it’s worth it for your health.

Rooo July 7, 2013 - 4:11 PM

I like Sparkpeople, but for community. If you’ve struggled at all with an ED on either side of the spectrum, sometimes the whole food journal is for nobody’s eyes but yours and the therapist (or the RD/nutritionist *if*, and only if, s/he has a clue … b/c let’s not pretend there aren’t a whole bunch of those walking around with active anorexia/bulimia/BED and you’ll never know if you don’t ask and even then, sometimes they will lie to you and you have to dig a little to find out). /personal mini-rant off


Slightly OT, but ol’ boy is just bad. I got my Jin Soon nail color and my fresh w&c and was still up there on that Reformer this weekend working out with a trainer who is roomies with one of the Ailey dancers, and they do not play. I’m talking rivulets of sweat and an hour and fifteen. So there is that.

“Hair and nails”, my foot.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2013 - 10:15 PM

Girl, you don’t even know.

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