One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

JOURNAL

Ask Roni: The Best Way to Food Journal for Weight Loss

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Hi Roni!
I just started on my weight loss journey. I’ve been exercising every day for a month, doing the Blogilates beginners calendar and a bit of cardio, around 2-3 times a week.
I haven’t been counting calories during the whole month, though now I’ve decided to after I completely  snacked and binged away one night. I was worried I compromised all I’ve worked hard for, and I’ve been slipping a lot recently on snacking. My friend recommended this fitness app that records the calories I eat every day.
But I get so stressed every time I go over my calorie intake for the day and it just gets me really down and unmotivated.
I know its only been a month. But I haven’t seen any results at all! And I have no idea if this fluctuating diet from healthy meals in the morning to absolute junk at night is destroying my body more and making me gain weight instead.
Any tips?

— Justine

First, Justine, I can ASSURE you one night will not comprise all you worked for, and this is the exact mentality that prevents us from moving forward. I feel confident saying that because it’s EXACTLY what prevented me from losing weight for years. Instead of (wait for it… ) doing What I Can When I Can I’d use that one binge as an excuse to keep binging because I already blew it.

I know it’s not easy but let’s work on that mentality first. I wrote an article a few years ago called 5 Ways Ditching ‘Perfect’ has Made Me Happier, Healthier and More Successful. If you have a minute give it a read. There’s something really powerful when you start to shift away from the perfection mindset. But it takes time. You have to work on it and one of the ways you do that is by continually reminding your logical self that one meal can NOT undue a month of healthy, balanced eating.

As for stressing over the calorie intake, don’t kill me but I have another post that may give you some insight. Check out The Pesky Perfection Gene and Habits as it Related to Weight Maintenance. In it I share a story about my husband and how he stopped food journaling because he just assumed it was inaccurate.

His experience is a little different than yours but it’s also similar. You are both missing the point of the food journal. The power of food journaling doesn’t come from its accuracy or calorie limits. Its value is in its ability to make us aware. It’s that awareness that will help us make changes and move forward.

Now, you say you get down and unmotivated when you go over your calorie intake. Are you going over by a little or a lot?  I only ask because I’m like that too, which is why I no longer food journal on MyFitnessPal. I’m not even trying to lose weight yet those little red numbers at the end of the day saying I was over by 60 calories (or whatever) really bothered me.

So I stopped.

Your situation is a little different though, as you do have weight loss in mind. I’d say if you are going over by hundreds of calories a day than you may want to reconsider your choices. If it’s only a few than I wouldn’t worry about it too much but it is hard to ignore those red numbers.

This leads to another question I recently received from Rachael:

Would you consider doing a post on the best way to keep a food and exercise journal? Perhaps your recommendations for apps and pen-and-paper journals. I normally just write it down in a small blank notebook. But, I’m wondering if there isn’t a better way.

Also just got your book and LOVE it. You and Carla did an amazing job and it is laid out beautifully too! Congrats.

— Rachael

First Rachael, thank so much! I’m so glad you like the book!

Second, your email made me smile only because I’m STILL looking for the BEST way to keep my food journal but I do have an answer for you.

Ready?

The best way to keep a food and exercise journal is the way that works for you! 

Sounds like a cop-out answer, right? But it’s TRUE! If you are finding that good old paper and pencil work for you then go with it! I used to do that. I also tried emailing myself, using apps, spreadsheets, even social media, like IG. I’ve tried every thing I can think of!

And when the current way starts to feel overwhelming or cumbersome or boring or annoying, I change it up and try something else.

And that’s what I wanted to share with you, too, Justine.

There is no right way. There’s only your way because if it doesn’t make sense for you or doesn’t easily slip into your routine than you won’t stick with it.

So I say… try ALL THE THINGS.

try all the things

What’s the harm in it? You waste a few pieces of paper? You download a useless app? You post a few too many food photos on IG?

Really… this is what I mean when I say I lost weight on my terms. This is why the subtitle of #wycwyc is “Healthy Living on YOUR Terms.

You make the rules.

You know what you need to do. The hard part is actually doing it, right? So carve your own path. Figure out the best way to food journal FOR YOU. Because really, there is no best way. My best way may be your no-way.

For me, right now, the best way to journal is by starting a draft post in WordPress. throughout the day I add the time and what I’m eating. Then, at the end of the day I format it all pretty, add a few thoughts and share it online.

That works for me and my goals but it sounds pretty lame for someone who doesn’t blog.

Food journaling is a powerful way to help you become more conscious about your choices, calories or no calories, macros or no macros. If the way you are currently doing it is causing you stress then it’s time to change things up.

And remember… just like your diet, and your body, your journal will NEVER BE PERFECT. Face the binges, the snacks, the bites, the licks and the tastes. Challenge yourself to journal them BEFORE you eat.

It helps.

A lot.

Food Journal

  • 5:45 a.m. Apple on the way to the gym
  • 8:45 a.m. 1 egg + egg white scrambled with sausage, potato, spinach, and red pepper. Topped with a drizzle of sriracha of course!
  • 12:30 p.m. Chipotle Salad with brown rice, chicken, veggies, salsa, and guac. I skipped the beans and cheese because, well, #wycwyc — – I don’t need all the things all the time.
    Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 3.00.12 PM
  • 6:30 p.m. Dinner was shrimp with roasted broccoli. I skipped the corn becuase I knew I was going to have some wine later with The Husband.
  • 8:30 p.m. White wine and some cheese with salami and a few of the Husband’s chips.

Activity Journal

I’m trying to stay as active as possible when I’m not chained to my computer and I swear it’s helping me stay sane!

  • 6 a.m. I skipped the workout at the gym and worked on my own things/goals.
    Turkish Get Ups – 1 each side at 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50 lbs.
    Lat Pull-down (not sure of the weight it just says “7”) 3 sets of 10.
    Ab work on the roman chair – 3 sets of leg lifts
  • 9 a.m. 2 mile walk to and from Evan’s School
  • 4:30 p.m. went back to the gym and did the class workout modified for my level:
    1 mile run
    100 double unders
    75 goblet squats with 30lbs
    50 box jumps
    25 Ring Rows

 

 

 



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Discussion

There are 4 comments so far.

    Martha G

    June 5, 2015

    I can’t say enough good about tracking my food. When I started I used livestrong.com and like Justine I tracked my food but really didn’t pay attention to staying at or under my calorie range. No surprise I didn’t lose weight. But then one day it clicked and I started to pay attention. I set my calorie goal at 2,000/day which would give me slow weight loss AND I wouldn’t be starving. Sure I went over some days, but more often than I was at or under. And as I looked at the month I could see the red days (over) and when there were a lot fewer of them my weight went down.
    I did switch to myfitnesspal.com and even though I’ve lost 80 pounds AND kept it off for over 2 years I still track every day. I know it’s not accurate because calorie counting is inaccurate – even the packaged food with calorie counts can be off by about 10% and I wear a Nike fuel band that counts calories burned but that may not be 100% accurate either.
    Like Roni writes it gives me an idea of what I’m eating and when my weight stays the same I figure I’m on track with calories in v. calories out. If I lose or gain then I know something is off. And I track my weight at least once/week. All that helps keep me accountable.
    When I go over I may just write down 2,000 calories and I’ll see the red and that’s OK. Reminds me that I overdid it one day. Fine. Move on.
    Tracking is now second nature to me. It works and I’m sticking to it.

    I’m a HUGE fan of pen & paper tracking. I’m on Weight Watchers, so I use their 12-week journal to track. In the past I’ve used MFP and the WW app, but I found that it was way too easy for me to skip tracking. Using a dedicated paper tracker keeps me more accountable; if I skip a day, the blank page is staring me in the face! I started using the paper journal in January, and I haven’t skipped any days yet. My weight loss has also been more consistent since using the paper journal; I’m more aware and accountable because my journal goes everywhere with me, but I don’t always have my phone (I know, I’m an anomaly).

    On days that I go over my points, or weeks when I blow all of my weekly and activity points, the negative numbers are hard to write–but I write them because if don’t, the only person I’m cheating is myself, and what good would that do? And then I move forward to a new day.

    It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you figure out what works for you and stick to it!

    Nicki Kelly

    June 5, 2015

    Ok, let’s try this again (By mistake I did not save my long comment from before…I think I keep it shorter this time)

    Justine, I recommend NOT keeping a calorie count food journal unless you feel it helps you to better understand where you might be going wrong.

    Counting calories and weighing yourself every day is not helpful for people who are stressing out about their weight loss journey. It should be a nurturing, painless experience.

    And you see, not all calories are made equal anyway: I always like to point out that a big apple and a handful of almonds [say 150 calories] have a totally different effect on your fat loss than a half a deep fried Mars Bar!

    So for now, forget the calories and focus on natural foods that nourish your body and help it to get rid of excess body fat.

    It is more beneficial to reach a state of ZEN meaning, relax. To start off, just eat healthy food, don’t eat processed or sugary stuff. That is more important than working out if you had 300 calories more than you wanted.

    Write down the TYPE of meals you had during the day and see if you can improve on the variety on the following day.

    Focus on high fibre real foods that you know are good for you. I loved the way that Jon Gabriel [a weight loss coach and author] said he lost 220 lbs of weight in the end: he stopped obsessing about calories.

    He simply ate large amounts of healthy things like salads, veg, fresh fruit, lean meats etc. BEFORE he ate his junk.

    And because he was already full and satisfied from eating healthy, the junk became less and less. Until in the end he really did not want it anymore.

    He was nourishing his body so well that his stomach and his brain simply left him alone and did not pester him to eat rubbish anymore.

    Therefore keep the journal for another reason: to see if you have eaten enough good stuff, not the other way around to see if you have eaten too much bad stuff….

    Rejoice when you have done the right thing by your body and simply acknowledge when the day did not turn out as well as intended. You are only ever one meal away from eating better….

    The journal can also be a conversation with yourself: write down your feelings and thoughts before making food choices… and maybe you will see a pattern of what drives you to eat badly.

    And try the ‘over emphasis’ on healthy large servings of vegetable soups with brown rice, or a large colourful salad with chickpeas and chunks of fresh juicy oranges and toasted almond flakes, or a healthy delicious green smoothie before you sit down and even contemplate eating the wrong foods.

    Maybe this is something that might work for you as well.

    And now that I look at my post, it’s even longer than the one I did not save. Oh dear. Sorry.

    Matt

    June 15, 2015

    So I am a fan of the classic points more than any other plan. I still have challenges with it and wish there was a app or system that provides what I am looking for.

    Calorie counting- I am not a fan of the complexity of calorie counting. Calories become such big numbers and I like the simplicity of the numbers in points. I also believe that broccoli should be considered 0 because of the fiber and such.

    Classic points- I like this system the most and this is what I use. I don’t like that it discourages fat, because I believe that lots of fats are really good for you. Nuts, fish and such

    Points plus- the complexity of the counting,(can’t be done easily in your head). 0 point fruite(bad idea) and the low carb aspect make me stay on classic points.

    I wish there was a system that did classic points but in incouaged healthy fats.

    Like you Roni, I believe healthy exercise is also a key.