Thursday, July 9, 2009

Keeping a food diary

When I first started the programme my nutritionist set out for me, she asked me to keep a food diary. I had to write down exactly what I ate for each meal and snack. This was a useful tool for her to compare what I was eating to the weight-loss results I was experiencing (or in some weeks, not experiencing!), and how I was feeling in terms of hunger. She was then able to tweak my programme so that I was eating to my body's requirements and continuing to lose weight.

I thought keeping a food diary would just be a temporary task ... once I'd lost the weight, I wouldn't bother writing everything down since she wouldn't be looking at it any more.

However, she told me something that really struck a chord: the most successful weight-loss maintainers are people who keep food diaries.

The reasons for this are:

1. Physical: if you write down everything you eat every day, and if the scale starts showing the pounds going up or if the jeans start to become a bit tight ... you can take a look back through the diary and find out where you're going wrong. I was on a great losing streak when I first started my food programme; I was consistently losing about 1 pound each week. However, when I next checked in I had not lost any weight after a 3 week period. Ginny was able to look back through my food diary and see that I had introduced a new salad dressing at lunch-time, and unbeknownst to be it was loaded with fat! This small addition was enough to stall my progress.

2. Psychological: it makes you accountable for everything you put in your mouth. It's so easy (for me!) to think, you know I'll just have that cookie and it won't matter. But it kills me if I have to write down that cookie on my food diary! Why? Because that cookie is not part of my food programme for the day, and it's like a black mark for the week.

I have my food diary set up in an excel template as a grid with the days of the week across the top and all meals and snacks down the left hand side. I also have a space to note exercise for each day. I print out one page for each week, and I keep my diary in a handy place where I can write down what I eat after I've had a meal. If I wait until the end of the day, I forget to do it. And then it is really hard for me to remember if I'm trying to write it down the next day.

Personally, I find it really satisfying to get to Friday and see what 'clean' eating I've done all week ... then I can thoroughly enjoy my 'free' eating on the weekend.

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