Start a Food Journal to Track Diet and Weight Loss

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • As we begin to enter the feeding frenzy season, with Thanksgiving followed by office parties, followed by Christmas celebrations, followed by office parties followed by New Year's Eve and New Year's Day festivities, we are all going to be doing a lot of cooking, taste testing and full blown gorging.  So why start a food journal now? Well, now is the perfect time to become honest and mindful as far as your eating and weight is concerned.


    Typically when someone decides to work with a dietician or nutritionist, they will be asked to write down everything they eat over a 5-7 day period, without changing any behaviors or eating patterns.  The experts want to get some kind of factual information so they can assess the person's eating habits and make recommendations.  It's especially helpful to start a food journal when you are questioning weight gain based on your eating perceptions.  It's basically your "reality check."

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    When I ask someone to create a food journal, I typically ask them to set it up a certain way.  I'll ask them to create columns with the following headings:


    The date: ______Day of the week______

    Exercise effort:      ____min of aerobic exercise ___min weight training

    Highest pulse: _____   Min sustained_____


                    Fruit    Veggie   Protein     Fat   Dairy    Carbs/grains 












    After dinner:


    The idea is to figure out when you eat your meals and snacks, what you are eating in terms of the meals components (which food groups you are eating).  It's also a way to begin to understand portion sizes.  You basically would break down the following breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with onions, broccoli and tomatoes cooked with cooking spray, an English muffin with one teaspoon of peanut butter and 8 ounces of orange juice into - 2 servings under protein, 1 serving under veggies, 2 servings under fruit (juice has twice as many calories as a serving of fruit), 2 servings under carbs/grains, 2 servings under fat (1 serving of fat is 45 calories so a teaspoon of peanut butter would qualify as 2 servings).  When you bring in the journal, the dietician can navigate your food entries and convert them into food groups and serving sizes, you would have a really good idea of calorie consumption, which food groups are being addressed in your typical daily diet (which you overeat or under-eat) and how your exercise effort relates to that food consumption.  There is no "right or wrong" here, just solid, irrefutable evidence of what you are eating and whether or not you are physically active.  Most important is for you, to really see on paper, every bite you take, every sneaked treat you forget about, your portion sizes and how much you eat after dinner.  It's also important to see if you have large "fasting gaps" in your day, and then surges of huge portions.  You may think you're not eating a whole lot because of those gaps and discover you are actually compensating quite a bit, from a calorie perspective.


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    Why do this during the holiday season?  Because we are not mindful when we eat; we tend to think we eat much less than we really do; we tend to think we eat far fewer treats then we do; we tend to think we move a lot more than we do.  And during the holiday season we need to have some way to reconcile our current weight, our eating patterns and even our health risks.  Experts like me, have no problem if you pick and choose a special dish at a meal, or a few small servings of different seasonal treats.  The problem is that most people eat as if it's the last time they will ever see this special food, only to go to the next gathering with the same attitude.  By year's end, you will have an extra 3-10 pounds to deal with - just from Halloween through New Year's Day.  So consider starting a food journal now.  It will empower you to get real and to make choices.


Published On: November 22, 2009