Your #1 Tool For Weight Loss

weightlossnotebook

I have used this notebook off and on for over 15 years to track food intake at one time or the other.

Weight Watchers, Atkins, Paleo, Body For Life… I’ve done all of these diets and each has one thing in common in order to succeed in losing weight.

This is an important follow up to yesterday’s article, Not Losing Weight? Two Reasons. In that article a very important question was asked that may be easily overlooked, “Do you even track your calories consumed each day?”

That is the clue to the most powerful tool or weapon that you can utilize in an effort to lose weight. The food log or tracker as it is sometimes referred to, is the cornerstone to success in every diet that I have ever done. Even on diets when my intention was to gain weight. Yes, even when trying to gain weight.

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A food journal can even be used to gain weight. Here I was going for maximum calories and maximum protein intake each day. This was during my weight lifting and body building phase many years ago.

I cannot tell you how many Weight Watcher meetings that I have sat through but it was important because I was able to see the differences between those who succeeded in losing weight as opposed to those who didn’t. In every case, the make-it or break-it component always comes down to the food tracker. If someone uses their food tracker and stays on task daily, you can be guaranteed they will be getting a sticker and recognized for their efforts on a weekly basis. Most of them will tell you that tracking is what worked for them. Then there is the other side of the coin, where others come in and you can see their sheepish looks, frustration, and borderline shame when they know they did not make any progress that week. In nearly every case, it wasn’t that they went on a food binge that week, it was they did not want to track their eating or maybe they just failed to do it outright.

Those who succeed tracked their eating, and those who did not track failed to lose weight, and more often than not that trend goes for a few weeks before they drop out all together.

Weight Watchers is just one example but if you look at any other diet plan, each one has a food journaling or log keeping component to it, and this is what makes them work.

Keeping a food journal is powerful in many ways because tracking what you eat and drink can keep you focused on your diet, provide motivation, improve results, and help you focus on your goals. To successfully use a food journal, write down the food items you eat for every meal and snack, and the beverages you drank that day. It does not have to be complicated but it takes some work in the beginning. It is helpful to have a column for the food ate, how many servings, the number of calories, grams of protein, and grams of carbohydrates (carbs).

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An entry in the same journal many years later. I was on a strict low carb diet keeping it below 25g of carbs per day. The numbers 1445, 112, and 9, represent the totals for the day read as calories, grams of protein, and grams of carbs.

The work in the beginning comes down to looking up the nutritional content of each food but once you write it down in journal, that data is there. For most people, we eat the same things week in and week out so after two weeks, 90% of what you have researched or looked up will just be duplicated in your tracker again. The hard work is done.

More than just counting calories, the true power in a food journal comes from the accountability. Recording everything you eat provides both insight and accountability for what you put in your mouth. When you are making progress, you can always look at your food log and see why. When you are not making progress, you can always look at your food log and see why. If you are accountable and honestly record your intake, your journal will never lie to you. You can always see at the tip of your fingers what works and what does not.

I have always been a fan of notebooks and using pen and paper when I keep a food diary. It works, you can always carry it around with you, and I believe that being able to hold it in your hand just makes it more real. But you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. A few years ago I discovered an on-line tool that is FREE that works amazingly as a food journal. Myfitnesspal at http://www.myfitnesspal.com is a free tool that you can use on a daily basis, and you can use it via a laptop or though an app on your smart-phone so you really don’t have an excuse for ever missing an entry.

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A screen shot from myfitnesspal and yes… I went over my calories that day.

Myfitnesspal also has a very large database of foods and you will be amazed at what you might find in there to use as entries from restaurants, both local and national chains. At the end of the day if you have made entries using both your phone and your laptop, it will also sync the entries for you to keep an accurate account of the day. It also allows you to input exercise for the day and adjusts the daily calorie requirements to account for the exercise. The signing up process is simple, you put in your age, current weight, goal weight, how many pounds a week you want to lose, how many hours a week or day you will exercise, and myfitnesspal will do all of the other calculations for you. You can also record your weight daily using that app and it will keep a graph that you can always go back and reference to monitor your progress. There are other tracking applications to choose from and this is not a pitch for myfitnesspal. It is just one that I have used with great success.

Regardless if you go old school and use a pen and a paper notebook, or if you use one of the many online applications (there are many free ones) the number one thing that you can do if your goal is to lose weight is to monitor, track, and record what you eat on a daily basis. Even if your immediate goal is not to lose weight, keeping a food journal can give valuable insight into what you are eating on a daily basis and might prove to be motivational if there are foods that you just want to cut out of your diet just because.

Exercise is important to lose weight and so is eating a sensible diet but there is not a more powerful tool or weapon in the battle for weight loss and weight management than keeping an honest and accurate daily accounting of the foods you consume. It doesn’t matter if you are going high-protein/low-carb, eliminating fats, or any other mode of dieting, unless you record what you eat, you will never have a grasp of what is going on and pushing that needle on the scale in one direction of the other.

If you have never used I food diary and losing weight is a goal of yours, I highly recommend starting one today. Give it a try and I believe the results and knowledge gained will truly astound you. What do you have to lose?

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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