Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Week of Food Journaling: Helpful Hints

UGH. Just the word "food journaling" makes me shudder. (Okay, so it's two words). If you're like me, you need some motivation to make you write down what you eat. I've always slacked in this department, only doing it when mandated by one of my nutrition classes in college. I can think of a myriad of reasons why food journaling is not for me: I'm too busy. I'm in my car all day (I really am!).  I"ll forget. I just plain don't wanna.

But experts agree that people who have had the most success at losing and keeping off weight were consistent with their food journals. It's a little something we like to call accountability.

I don't know if I can commit to doing this regularly but I figured I would give it the ol' college try for a good 7 days. That's one week out of my life, whatev. Like I've mentioned before, these last 10 pounds of baby weight are all the motivation I need.

SHOCKER ALERT! I eat A LOT. Here's an excerpt from a day in my food journal, er, BlackBerry: 

AM: Coffee with splenda, granola bar (driving, no time, starving
AM: water 32 oz,  grande sbux latte with s-free hazelnut (coffee with partner)
Lunch: Chinese food (spring roll, veggies, Kung Pao chicken, chicken salad), diet pepsi (lunch w/ customer, starving, working)
PM: 4 small cookies from bakery :( (driving home, hungry, tired, bored)
PM: small apple :) (hungry)
Dinner: left-over turkey loin, small quesadilla on corn tortilla w/ 3 small slices monterey jack, diet sierra mist (hungry, dinner by myself)
PM: greek yogurt w/ blueberries (slightly hungry, craving sweets, working on computer)

Wowza. I can use some improvement. Most of the other days weren't much better.

What I learned from my little experiment was that being accountable to that dreaded notebook (or Blackberry, in my case) did help me make better decisions as time went on because I had to face my food at the end of each day. Instead of opting for a handful of tortilla chips and my mother-in-law's homemade salsa (delish!) I would apple. The mere thought of having to document every.single.morsel was enough to make me steer clear of random bites of food here and there. Apparently not the cookies on this day, however.

Whenever I've read articles about food journaling, I've turned up my nose. Yeah, yeah. Write down what you eat...blah blah. Even Carrie Underwood has been showing off the results of her commitment to food journaling (have you SEEN her lately?!) But here are some tips I discovered during my week of food journaling that I hope will make it easier for you to try (and stick with!) if you haven't already.

Food Journal Helpful Hints

1. Make it easy! I recorded my meals on my Blackberry because it's attached to me 24/7. Even lying in bed at 2 am when I can't sleep. Choose a place you will remember to write it down. Your work computer? A notebook in your purse? A website like SparkPeople? Or for you very brave souls, you could even make a Facebook note and post it for all your friends to read. (Um, no thanks!) I read somewhere recently that with all the newfangled smartphones out there, some people have had success with taking a photo on their phone of everything they eat and drink, then review it at the end of the week. I just may have to try that, would make for an interesting post! ;)

2. Make it fun! Every day I would make 8 checks as I drank my glasses of water, and a check-mark if I took my vitamin. It became a game to get all those check-marks, and I got satisfaction from completing them. You can get creative and give yourself stars or stickers for each day completed, and maybe a small, non-food reward after a week of journaling torture? :) 

3. Write down your emotional state and hunger level. Do this every time you put something in your mouth. This will help you pinpoint emotional triggers that cause you to eat when you're not really hungry. For me, it's the drive home or the afternoon lull before dinner. I'm home from a long work day and find myself mindlessly snacking because I'm starving and distracted with the little guy. Am the only one who does that? I found that I nibble here and there which can add up to a few hundred calories every day. Definitely sabotaging my last 10 pound efforts.

4. Read it. Go back after a few days and review your eat/drinking habits. Where can you make small changes? Are you consuming a lot of empty calories from soft drinks and juices? That's an easy fix that can save you hundreds of calories a day! Do you have a midmorning Starbucks habit? Save the money and have a cup of joe from the office coffee pot. Put the money you would have spent into something you really want. A new bag? A pair of skinnys? Ooooh, those wedge booties that are so cute for Fall?! 

5. Plan for success. As my hub likes to point out to me all the time, remember the "Seven P's." Ever heard that? "Seven P's" = Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Find one or two areas that you can improve and create a strategy for preventing fall-backs. For instance, if your trouble area is the mid-afternoon munchies, plan on bringing healthy snacks with you that you can munch while driving home. Or have veggies and fruit slices pre-sliced so they are easier to reach for after a long day. Spending an hour over the weekend to pre-wash and pre-chop all of your veggies for the week will help ensure that you actually cook and eat them on a busy weeknight.

Hopefully with these strategies you will have success with your own food journaling and it will bring  closer to your goals. If you have never tried, I guarantee you will be surprised by the results! 

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