A key component to your weight loss goals is food journaling. It’s a great tool if you’re trying to lose weight and/or gain muscle. It shows a level of accountability, commitment and mindfulness.
Keeping a food diary can also double a person's weight loss, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research. Another study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that women who consistently wrote down the foods they ate lost about six pounds more than those who didn't.
But you'll only see the benefits of food logging if you actually stick with it, which the most recent research points out is tough for many. Studies have found that people who track for just seven days are 88 percent more likely to lose weight—so that is motivation to keep going!
Match Your Method to Your Goals
People bring different goals to food journaling, and simply journaling is never the end goal, so it's important to focus on what you want to get out of your tracking and choose a method that matches that. Depending on your goals, different approaches to journaling are going to be more effective. If you have a very simple goal, like increasing veggies and fruits in your diet, the pen and paper method might be your best bet. But if your goal requires a complete breakdown of the food you're eating—from calories to grams of fiber—web-based apps can take away the burden of tracking nutrients by hand.
Plan Your Meals for the Week
Meal planning might seem like an extra step, but it's actually a short cut to making food journaling easier. Writing down your plan for the week makes your food intake structured and predictable so when you actually do get to that day, there aren't as many changes to log and you can simply match up your plan to your log. Additionally, if you know what you should be eating, you're more likely to stick with it.
Provide Relevant Details to the Day
No matter what method of food journaling you use, just looking at numbers may not keep you motivated to track. Understand how the food you're eating impacts you is another part of the puzzle that can keep you curious. A helpful journal should include details of your day and relevant context, like if you skipped lunch that day because you were stuck in a meeting. The data alone doesn't tell the complete picture. Take notes on everything from how you're feeling that day, what time and where you eat. Doing this gives you a great tool to reflect and analyze why you feel a certain way or why something may not be working in your diet.
Don’t get Discouraged if you Miss a Day
Planning ahead of time when you know tracking will be a challenge is a great way to make sure a party, wedding, or vacation won't totally derail you from your goals. Remind yourself that missing one day of tracking isn't the end of your healthy eating, but letting that one day turn into one month might send you back to square one. “My Fitness Pal” is a great tool to help keep track of your food and calories.