I Just Ate What!?

Studio 5, Health and Fitness Contributor, Melanie Douglass tells us how keeping a food journal can help you lose weight, be healthier and avoid those “I just ate what” moments in life.

Sometimes it feels like you are doing everything right: you eat well, you exercise, you skip the soda pop… and yet, still, those stubborn pounds won’t go away. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! It’s so easy to forget about little snacks, nibbles, and under recognized, oversized (got that?) portions. A handful here and a handful there add can up to hundreds of extra calories every single day; add up those extras over a period of weeks or months, and there’s the problem… for most of America.

If you want to really find out what your eating and how it’s affecting (helping or impeding) your health, keep a food journal! A study found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has shown that individuals who kept a food journal lost six pounds more than those who didn’t keep a journal. The researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle studied the eating behaviors of 123 overweight, previously inactive women for a year. Women who kept food journals and consistently wrote down the foods they ate lost about six pounds more than women who didn’t. That’s six pounds, from just writing (or logging on your phone/computer).

Keeping a food journal doesn’t need to be time consuming – or even kept every single day. Set a goal to do it for a few days. Just to see where you’re at… you might be surprised.

Here are a couple basic tips to help you keep a journal that is accurate and therefore, helpful:

1. Start with the basics:

· Time of day food was eaten
· What you ate
· How much you ate
· What brand?

2. Do a detail sweep:

· You had a handful of nuts while driving in the car – was it 1, 2, or 5 handfuls?
· Did you have sauces, dressings, spreads, cheese on top of your foods today?
· Did your serving dishes hold more than one serving?
o For example, a tall glass of milk is usually 12 – 16 ounces, or 2 servings.

3. Avoid generalizations on starch and dairy

· Check labels for calorie amounts, or be sure to log “by brand” or “by restaurant” on these foods. A bagel? You better know the brand, because bagels range from 77 calories to 500! Greek yogurt? Sugar content ranges from 5 grams to 30… brand matters.

4. If logging is too time consuming, take picture of every morsel you eat with your phone and – this is the most important part – review each picture (and mentally, try to add it all up) at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, (or during the day if you have an app to log), be sure to try calculating your calories.

A great online food log/calorie calculator: www.nutritiondata.com
A great food/calorie app: My Fitness Pal or Calorie Tracker (Livestrong)
A great book: The Calorie King Calorie Counter

5. Keep a journal for at least a week and see how it impacts your food choices, your awareness, and your overall feelings about food. Periodically, like maybe once per month, keep a food journal to keep your health in tact.

So, yes, you don’t have to do this everyday. Good health and weight loss isn’t just about calories… but it’s an essential part of the equation. How can you make informed, healthy choices if you have no idea what you’re really eating? You can’t. So there. Take positive action for your health and try keeping a food journal today!

Email me anytime with questions: melaniedouglass@gmail.com

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