A big part of my experience with calorie counting was my ability to keep a food diary. I mean, it wasn’t a big giant book with tabs and colorful creative stuff… it was just a simple non-descript little app on my phone that allowed me to document what I was eating throughout the day.
But what if you’re struggling with the idea of writing down everything you put in your mouth each day? What if you become depressed at the thought of facing what you’re really eating?
What makes food journaling so hard – especially if you’re an emotional eater – is the fact that you have to admit to yourself what you’re putting in your body, and question why you made the choices you made. If you ate a certain-yellow-sponge-cake-that-we-all-know-never-molds-or-disintegrates-because-theres-no-actual-food-in-it-for-it-to-ever-mold (read: twinkie) because you were stressed out, you’ll remember that and have to face it straight up. It’s hard. It’s tough. It’ll also cause you to consider not food journaling at all… in which case you wind up getting in your own way.
And getting in our own way is one of the biggest problems with weight loss, right? I mean, realistically speaking, we think “will power” and “self-control” are all soooooo easy that all we have to do is channel some mystical thing-we-never-had-before, and all will be well.
Well, let me tell you. “self-control” isn’t something you simply “haven’t tapped into yet.” If you’ve never been able to display it before, it’ll take some self-development and self-care to learn how to build it and use it… and the struggle with the food journal is how you can do it.
Your food diary can serve more than one purpose, if you learn to multi-task it properly. It can teach you what to expect from certain kinds of foods – vegetables are always low-calorie with lots of nutrients, pastries are always nutrient-free with little fiber, meat has no fiber… so pair it with lots of veggies, etc – and it can help you feel like you’re actually making progress as you convert into clean eating. Trust me, there’s no better feeling than flipping backwards in your clean eating diary and seeing the point where you stopped seeing “Doritos” as a snack and started seeing “apples.”
It may feel like an adventure in masochism to put yourself through the pain of food journaling, but there’s always a little growing pain that comes with mentally realizing that you need to change habits you’ve lived with for a while. It doesn’t have to be all struggle, though.
So, how can you take your food diary and turn it into a much more empowering experience? Below, I’ve got four tips to help you turn your food diary into less of a chore and more of what it is – a tool to embrace as a means of changing one’s life.
Plan your day’s intake in advance. A food diary usually helps one account for what they’ve already eaten during the day… but if you feel some lack of control in admitting that you’ve overindulged throughout the day, consider mapping out the day’s intake in advance and just following the script. Before you eat, pull out your “little pink book” and check your schedule for what you’ve got coming up. Order what’s “on the menu,” and feel a sense of satisfaction in sticking to your own personally-created plan. Instead of writing down what you’ve eaten, check off the things you’ve eaten that were written down and write anything extra underneath. Compare what you “thought” you’d want to eat with what you actually ate. Did you eat more than expected because you actually needed more, or because you had an “emotional eating” moment? Did you eat less than expected because “you forgot?” Use this as an opportunity to get to know yourself, your expectations and your preconceived notions about you and food.
…and let’s not forget: if you’re planning your meals a week in advance like I’ve recommended before with “The Clean Eating Chart,” this should feel much easier for you.
Do your journaling in the evening. That’s right – don’t fret about writing down what you’ve eaten as you’re eating it (I don’t know that I’d ever recommend that, to be honest.) Enjoy your day, then do your tally at home after dinner. Is this ideal? No, but remember – even a little count-keeping helps more than no count-keeping at all. Use this as a jumping-off point to help you commit to it. Approaching food journaling in a low-stress fashion may help you commit to it further.
Document not only the foods you’ve eaten, but the foods you’ve turned down. I caught this one on YumYucky a while back.
Reverse Food Journaling is logging the uneaten.
Take my greedy azz for example. I recently desired the tastiness of some Shrimp Alfredo at the restaurant. But at the last minute I traded in the Alfredo for a lighter sauce I asked the waiter to recommend.
So there you have it: Alfredo Sauce goes on the Reverse Food Journal for the sh!tty food I had the power to say “no” to.
When you purpose to reverse journal with foods that you turned down, like I did right here awhile back, you’ll be motivated to get things on the list. And when you gaze at this journal of crappy foods, you’ll actually pat yourself on the back real proud.
Be fancy! That’s right. Get yourself a nice account with SparkPeople, grab the LoseIt! iPhone app (or whatever you Blackberry/Droid/[insert fancy pants phone] users use), or get an attractive little moleskine to help you jot down your daily intake. Make your journaling experience an enjoyable one, and that starts with not having a drab and dull food diary. Seems like a small deal, but I’ve got to admit – I felt kind of like a big deal always jotting down notes in my black moleskine… all mysterious and important-looking.
Honestly, if you’re calorie counting, you’re probably very familiar with these feelings of frustration. Using one of these methods above to try to put a new spin on food journaling and calorie counting is the best way to shake up your logging routine. Give it a try and see how it works out for you today!
What do you do to keep your food journaling experience pleasant?
More on calorie counting:
- Understanding Calorie Counting: The Basics
- Understanding Calorie Counting: What is it? Calorie Counting Defined
- Understanding Calorie Counting: Creating Your Calorie Goal and Being Honest About It
- Understanding Calorie Counting: The Payoff – Why Am I Doing This To Myself?
- Understanding Calorie Counting: Preparing Yourself For Success
- Understanding Calorie Counting: A Final Word