I have mentioned before that food journaling was a big part of my weight-loss journey. I think food journaling is a wonderful tool for people new to healthy eating and weight-loss as well as those who need to refocus (me!). Heck, even Carrie Underwood uses a food journal on tour to keep track of her eating!! It can be an invaluable tool to really see how much you are eating and why. I have read many articles that tout food journaling as the number one way to achieve weight loss success. I also recently read an article that says it can be bad for your health and have anxiety inducing effects. Let me just say that if you are having anxiety about writing down what you are eating, then you probably already know you aren’t eating healthy foods!
When we start becoming really conscious of our food intake, often we are surprised at how much we are actually eating. Those little snacks and bites throughout the day can really add up. I am all for incorporating healthy snacking into your diet, but when your snacks are close to meal size and happen a few times during the day, extra weight is not far behind. I understand that writing down every morsel of food that goes into your mouth can be annoying and certainly isn’t sustainable forever, but it is a great tool for a while. Food journaling allows you to be aware of your food habits and what does and does not work for your body. If you take it a step further and include calorie counting (also not sustainable long-term but a great tool nonetheless) you can teach yourself portion control and after a while you start to automatically know about how many calories are in the foods you eat…let’s face it, on a week to week basis I’m pretty boring with most of my meals, especially breakfast and lunch and I’m willing to bet you are too!
My main problem lately is that I’m a snacker, big time. The past few months, this didn’t really matter because I was running enough during training to offset any real damage. Except I’m not training for a race right now!! And I have still been snacking…I knew needed to cut this off before it led to disaster. Since starting the Winter Wellness Challenge two weeks ago, I have been keeping an accurate food and exercise journal. Lo and behold, here I am two weeks later and I have actually got my snacking under control!! Before I was snacking on whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. I loved vegan baked goods (made at home so they weren’t full of processed junk), potato chips, crackers, etc…The first few days were tough, I kept having “cravings” for sugary and carb-y foods, but I began replacing my free-for-all habits with scheduled and nutritious snacking. In the morning between breakfast and lunch I usually have a piece of fruit and 1/2 to 1 ounce of nuts (like almonds or pistachios) and in the afternoon between lunch and dinner I like to have a green smoothie or some raw veggies and hummus. I have also tried to avoid after dinner snacking (which was usually in the form of cookies). Two weeks later, I’m not craving the junk. In fact, sometimes I don’t even eat snacks. But for those days when I do a long cardio workout in the morning, I know that I have healthy foods at my desk to tide my stomach over until lunch. If I have eaten plenty of veggies, I don’t mind indulging in some dark chocolate as well.
The point of the food journal is that being aware of your habits is step number one. Once you realize where there is room for improvement, you can plan how to make healthy and positive changes. So much of a healthy lifestyle is just planning. You plan healthy meals, plan your workouts to fit in your schedule, and plan to take care of yourself. Once you take the time and the care to plan positive routines, it’s easier to stick with them. Going in unprepared can lead to confusion and failure (if I didn’t have healthy snacks at my desk, then I would probably just head to the vending machine for empty calories).
My food/wellness journal looks like this:
You could certainly tweak a journal to include anything you feel pertinent. I include my food intake, exercise routine, self-care, and how I felt for the day because I believe wellness is about more than just what I eat. The days where I eat cleanly and have a challenging workout are the days when I feel the best and this is motivation enough to continue on a healthy path.
Have you tried food journaling before? What were your thoughts about it and did it help you live a healthier lifestyle?