1) Take control of your calories
How do you know if you’re eating too few or too many calories and what about those pesky macronutrients our trainer keeps talking about? Carbs, Proteins and Fats - who knew those were just as important as counting overall calorie count? When I talk about the importance of logging food, I’m not just talking about getting out a pen and paper and writing down breakfast, lunch and dinner. While this may give you insight into what you are eating it isn’t giving you clarity into the amount of calories and macros that you are ingesting on a daily basis. Chances are... you aren’t on track. It will only take a few days of logging to get the hang of how you should be eating so hang in there, I’m not asking you to do this your whole life long! Tip: Log all your food at the start of the day, check your calorie and macros on the summary of your tracking app to see how your day looks overall. This gives you a chance to adjust at the start of the day rather than the end when you all the sudden realize you still need to eat 80 grams of protein and oops, you overate 25 grams of fat. This takes pre-planning your meals for the day but it works.
2) Understand your sources of calories
Calories aren’t just about total calories, but about the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, which are 3 nutrients that provide energy for your body. You’ll also keep track of alcohol you drink, which is the other element that provides calories to your body, but is not a nutrient. You may realize 70% of your calories are coming from carbohydrates, which is far higher than even what the USDA recommends (which is already high), or you might realize you only have 10% of your calories from protein despite being an active individual. Learning more about the calorie breakdowns in the foods I ate and each day as a whole was probably the second most helpful part that I found to keeping a food journal.
3) Get a feel for portion control
In your tracking app you will be forced to judge portion sizes, like TBSP, cups, scoops, etc. If you actually measured out that scoop of peanut butter that went into your smoothie what would it turn out to be? Your eyeballing it days are over if you want to be serious about your goals. Actually get your food scale and measurement devices out for a while until you get the look and feel of portion sizes down.
4) Identify situations where you give into temptation
I know I’m guilty of the snack attacks or left-overs from the kid’s uneaten portions or even the times when I full-on want to eat something I know I’m not supposed to just because it sounds good. Food logging can help with the temptations because you know you have to record it. You know it’s going to throw off your numbers so bad that it leaves you with no wiggle room for food later in the day when you know you’re going to be starving. Journaling will help you psychologically not sabotage your efforts just because you see it in black and white. Many times in our minds we will trick ourselves into believing we didn’t eat something, or we didn’t eat that much unhealthy food. When you have a written log, or journal, you will know exactly how you are eating and that objective feedback can help inspire change.
5) If you see a nutritionist, you would keep a food journal anyway
If you go see a health coach or nutritionist, one of the first tasks you will be assigned is keeping a food journal. This helps the coach analyze your eating habits so he/she can make suggestions as to how you can change them over time. If you are doing this on your own, you’re going to be analyzing your own eating habits on a less detailed level of course, but it’s still a very helpful exercise. Apps like My Fitness Pal allow you to have communities of friends to support your food logging efforts. You can even share your food diary with the world if that’s what it takes to stay accountable to your goals.
A lot of our habits are subconscious, so by making yourself conscious of how you eat by keeping a food journal, it makes changing your eating habits a whole lot easier.
Take some time over the following week to journal every single day for 7 days. It will be enlightening and I bet you will find out some very remarkable things about yourself and your habits. Don’t leave a single morsel undocumented!
Certified Nutritionist & Health Coach