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Taking the Pain Out of Food Journaling

Food Journaling (or “tracking”) is an important piece to managing your food intake- after all, that which gets measured gets managed! But some parts of it are a pain, or difficult, or even stressful if you are an all-or-nothing perfectionist like me. Here’s how to take the pain to of tracking.

1. Measure, measure, measure. Get a couple sets of measuring cups and measuring spoons. Get a food scale. Measure everything. This is the most accurate way to estimate your calorie intake.

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2. Ate something and have no idea how many calories? Google it. Pick the answer that sounds like a slightly higher estimate, just to be safe. But don’t get hung up on finding something that matches exactly. The really important thing, in fact the key to success is that you a. control portion size. B. Continue tracking your next meal.

3. Make your food journal fun. Splurge on nice writing instruments- I bought some fun gel pens so I could track in colors.

4. Make process goals. Instead setting goals like “I’m going to lose 2 pounds this week” set goals around journaling- ie. “I’m going to journal everything this week.”

5. Don’t give up- the more you do it, the easier it gets. Write foods you use all the time on a cheat sheet in the back for quick reference.

It seems counter-intuitive: I say “get obsessive about what you are eating but don’t get TOO obsessive”, but there’s a balance. If you are too militant about it you will make yourself crazy and quit, too lax and you won’t get results and quit. But this how I find balance. What works for you?

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Secret Fitness Weapons: The Food Journal

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I am absolutely, unequivocally and dramatically more successful when I keep a food journal. This is a technique I learned at Weight Watchers, where you commonly hear the phrase, “If you bite it, write it!”

At Weight Watchers, food is given a point value. It used to be more closely tied to calories but now it is a much better indicator of the food’s value for you- ie, simple carbs have a very high point value. So Weight Watchers does a great job of teaching you to be smart with your dietary “budget”- filling, good-for-you foods are relatively “inexpensive” (most fruits and veggies are free).

Weight Watchers Centers always stock a nice food journal and you don’t have to be a member to go in and purchase one. I bought mine for $6.95.

Currently, I am just tracking calories, but the Weight Watchers journal works great for that, too. You could use any sort of pocket notebook, but I like the pages dedicated to meal and exercise planning.

The last time I was really consistent about exercise, I lost 17 pounds in 14 weeks. I was not as careful about my diet as I could have been- I know I didn’t journal very well (if at all). However, by journaling my food AND consistently exercising I am down 20 pounds in slightly over 7 weeks. That is what accountability for ya.

In the picture above you can see a few of my food journals from the past. I always like to recover them with scrapbook paper. Here is my current one: I covered it with Avengers Duck Tape.

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