Kati’s Fit Kit
What’s Holding You Back?
When it comes to nutrition, do you know what’s holding you back the most from reaching your goals? Most of our members initially come to us with a goal to lose fat, and they know that some nutritional changes will need to be made. So they ask us things like: “Should I eat fewer carbs?” “Should I go Paleo?” “Do I need to take supplements?” Or sometimes people have some idea about what might be holding them back, and they tell us: “I know I snack too late at night.” “I know I eat out too often.” “I just need to start drinking smoothies for breakfast.”
The truth is, until we get a full picture of your regular food intake, I can’t honestly answer whether you need to eat fewer carbs, or whether your late night snacking is the biggest problem with your nutrition. Enter the dreaded food journal…
Everyone who has ever tried to shed a few pounds has at least heard of keeping a food log, even if they haven’t done it. Now, I personally like making lists and keeping logs so I can track my progress, but I am fully aware that I am not normal! I do have a few members who actually enjoy meal planning and tracking, but most people range from putting up with the process, to outright refusing to track their food.
A 2008 study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that those who kept a consistent food log at least 6 days per week lost twice as much weight as those who only journaled once or twice a week. Twice as much is a pretty big difference, don’t you think?!
So, why does keeping a food log work? One of the biggest reasons is accountability. Keeping track of your nutrition allows you to take responsibility for something that is completely within your control. If you are accountable not only to yourself, but also to a coach and others in your life who support you, you have an even greater chance at success compared to those who go it alone. This is one of the reasons why our members who have joined our challenges have had such great results in short periods of time – personal, professional and social accountability.
Another reason food journals help you succeed is they allow you a chance to truly be mindful about your food. I hear the phrase “I try to be mindful about what I eat” a lot. But often the same person who says that can’t remember what they had for breakfast or how long it’s been since they last ate. I’m not buying that as mindful eating. When you keep a journal, you can look back at what you ate and see how it really made you feel. You can accurately analyze (most likely with the help of a coach) what your true hold ups are with your nutrition. For example, you might think late night snacking is your downfall, but your food journal might reveal that the true reason for this problem is that you often skip lunch because you get too busy at the office. Food journaling will allow you and your coach to find the thing that will make the biggest change, so that you can tackle one thing at a time.
Journaling also helps keep you organized. The old saying goes that failing to plan means planning to fail, and this is definitely true where nutrition is concerned. Typically people who start journaling also start to get better at meal planning as well.
By now you must be convinced that keeping a food log is a great idea, so here are my top tips for journaling:
Tip #1 Be Kind – Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you end up having a busy week where you have take out every night, or if you over-indulged on the weekend, or whatever the case may be. Feeling guilty is likely to make you stop journaling altogether. At least once a week I have a member tell me, “I know I haven’t been eating the way I should, so I stopped writing it down.” First of all, if you are thinking “Is she talking about me?” the answer is yes, I probably am, but don’t worry you are not the only one!! 🙂 Let your journal be a judgement free zone so that you get in the habit of keeping track no matter what.
Tip #2 Be Honest – Since you already established that your journal is free of judgement and that you get a clean slate to start over everyday, there is no need to fudge the facts. Only by being 100% honest will you get the most out of your food log.
Tip #3 Be Consistent – Getting in the habit of tracking everyday is essential to see the real picture. Sometimes people forget to track on the weekends when their routine is more fluid than during the work week. Or they miss a day, and that turns into two days, and then they figure they may as well quit. If you miss a day, just get back on track as soon as you can. It would be ideal to write your food intake down as soon as you are done eating, but it rarely works that way. Instead, plan two or three times a day that you will set aside 5 minutes to journal. If you have trouble remembering to do this, you could set a reminder on your phone or calendar. Some people also work well by pencilling in in advance the meals that they plan to eat, and then just making any changes as they need to.
Tip #4 Be Detailed – The more detail you can provide, the better. That goes for serving sizes, how the food was prepared, whether it was a home cooked or restaurant meal etc. Don’t forget about beverages, and those absent minded handfuls of trail mix you grabbed. You should also track the time of your meals and snacks, and if possible you can track how a meal made you feel after eating it.
Tip #5 Be Inspired – It doesn’t matter if you like to use a fancy app on your phone, a spreadsheet, a or hand written journal. Whatever keeps you motivated and inspired is the right choice!
Here are a couple of other things to keep in mind when you are ready to start journaling – First, don’t feel like keeping a food log is a life sentence. Try to be consistent for at least 8 weeks, and then maybe you might feel like you are ready to take a break for a couple of weeks. Track how you are progressing towards your goals, and if you find you aren’t making the progress you were before, it’s time to go back to journaling.
Also, take note of your personal relationship to food. If you find emotional issues coming up, don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor. People who have suffered from eating disorders in the past need to be careful when food tracking to make sure they don’t become obsessive and revert into unhealthy patterns. Again, reach out for help immediately when you need to.
We have a saying in the fitness world – “If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing.” Keeping a food log will take the guesswork out of the equation so that you can assess accurately what’s holding your back the most and make progress toward your goals. I hope you feel more inspired, equipped and informed about food tracking and ready to give it a try if you haven’t already!
Strength and love,
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