I truly believe food journaling is one of the biggest puzzle pieces to weight loss and maintenance. I have continued to keep some sort of journal on and off for the last 10 years and there is no doubt it’s a key factor in my success.
Ten years ago I started with the paper journals you would get from Weight Watchers.
That is actually my first week’s food journal from when I first started WW in 2005. I saved every single one documenting my 70-pound weight loss.
I haven’t looked at them in years! I know I’ve come a long way but I don’t think I realize how far. I’m not sure if you can read it but my “Day 1” consisted of things like Lucky Charms, a raspberry yogurt cup, a hot dog, baked beans, a fudgcicle and something else interesting but I can’t read my own writing — Mom always told me not to write with such chicken scratch but I didn’t listen.
Even back then I’d have “Bad Days” where I would just scrap the journal for the day and start fresh the next.
That was Day 7 of my very first week! I honestly have no recollection of it but it apparently didn’t hold me back. I just keep trucking doing the best I could with the food journal and posting my weekly weigh-ins — I have not looked at this page in a LONG time.
Over the years I changed up the journal. I remember I started emailing myself while I was at work so I would have notes to post here on the blog at the end of the day. I used FitDay for a little while. I posted all sorts of food journal styles here on the blog. I even went back to good old paper and pencil for a while.
Lately I’ve been using MyFitnessPal and for the most part I like it, although I think it could use a few tweaks to be better. For example, last night I had an out of the ordinary dinner of homemade nachos using leftovers I found in the fridge. I made them with the family using some steak, an avocado, cheese and salsa. We sat around the table eating nachos and playing Monopoly. It was a great time and a fun dinner!
However, how in the HECK do I enter that in the food journal? I don’t know how many I ate and even if I did I don’t how much cheese or steak was on each one. Sure, I could have sat there meticulously weighing everything, and I have done things like that in the past but in the moment, with the kids and The Husband all helping and us having a good time it would have been a buzz kill.
It just wasn’t worth it.
Of course I could just enter estimates in MyFitnessPal and be done with it, and honestly, that’s usually what I do. But really, I had NO idea how many ounces of steak or what percentage of the avocado I personally consumed.
So I just let it go. Abandoning my food journal for the day exactly as I did on Day 7 back in 2005.
I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, I’m just saying it’s what I did.
There are two things I want to point out about this.
1. It’s NOT a BIG DEAL!
I don’t feel like I cheated or binged or pigged out. I made a conscious decision to have nachos for dinner and I MOVED ON. Today I went right back to journaling without giving it a second thought. Way back when, “Old Roni” would have totally used it as an excuse and walked away for weeks or months until another burst of motivation (or a Sunday or a New Year’s Day or someone other PERFECT TIME TO START) inspired me to begin journaling again. In the meantime, during the walk-away period I would pretty much eat anything and everything in sight because it didn’t count. I wasn’t keeping a food journal. I was off plan.
2. I wish there was an Ultimate Food App!
Of course one can argue paper is the “ultimate food app” but hear me out. I LOVE MyFitnessPal. I really do. It does a lot of things right:
User-entered items build a pretty diverse database of foods and recipes. I mean, even GreenLiteBites stuff is up there!
Customized goals, settings, and meal names — I love that I can make it fit my life because I don’t alway eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Integration with external apps like Fitbit and such. Very cool!
They also let you save meals, enter recipes and remember your most frequent/recent stuff — all really great features! Which is why I use it.
However, what if it also…
- Let you turn OFF calories. I do believe that counting calories is beneficial for weight loss but for some people — myself included — it could become an obsession. I’d love to just track without the details to distract me.
- Leave notes per entry. I used to do the “why” thing here on the blog and I find it very powerful when you are trying to change habits and be more conscious about your eating.
- Upload photos? I don’t know. Could be fun! I’m one of those dorks who likes to take pictures of pretty food.
- Embed on a blog? I know — very personal to me but I’d love to be able to easily share here without taking a screenshot or copy and pasting.
I could keep going. If I had enough resources I would totally embark on a new business venture and make my own food journal app but it’s not going to happen. Instead I will do the best I can with what is available and keep changing it up to match my current needs and goals.
Are you a food journaler? If so, how do you keep it? What features would you love to have in an ultimate food journal app?