I had a whirlwind July flying to Las Vegas, then home, then New York, then Connecticut then back home, to turn around and drive to Palm Springs. It was wonderful. Vegas was work, the rest was enjoying visiting with friends and family. This vacation included lots of evenings of cocktails with dinner (1, or rarely 2), tastes of homemade deliciousness from the kitchens of my friends who are both gourmet cooks, and the worst offender was the Italian cookies while I was in New York. My nephew took us to a great, local Italian bakery to pick up dessert to bring over to his brother’s house and his sister from another mother’s house. Three nights, too many sweets, and the sugar addiction was kicked back into full gear. While chicken is sometimes difficult to get past my lap band, it is NEVER a problem to eat all the sweets that I choose. And I ate them – for breakfast, with lunch, and after dinner, and of course for a bedtime snack.
The result – well it’s predictable; weight gain as well as a head fog and a body slowdown. Ugh, I hate that feeling. What was missing from this sweets orgy that might have helped me keep it at least a little bit under control? Yup, you’ve got it, food journaling.
Over the 15 years since I have had Weight Loss Surgery, I have journaled the majority of the time. Why? Well let’s start at the beginning:
- Right after surgery I wrote down everything that went into my mouth so at the end of each day, I knew how I was doing with calories and protein and hydration. It took me a while to get up to the 64 ounces of water per day that my doc recommends, but I did it, slowly adding a little bit more each day. My food/water journal let me know if I was meeting my goals or if I had to work harder and rethink and reorganize my days to get there.
- When I transitioned to solid food it became even more important to track calories and protein to meet my minimums and not exceed my maximum calories by less than the best food choices. This was a learning process, so I found a few foods that fit easily into my work day and lifestyle and ate them over and over again. I soon memorized the calories and protein in these foods and could finish logging them at the end of the day. IF I ate anything unplanned or off plan, I still needed to record it and would log it later.
- As time went on and I began planning more variety in my meals I had my phone, my pencil and my paper right by my side along with my food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons in the kitchen so that I record everything that went into a meal like chile, pasta sauce, stew, stir fry, soup or any other dish that had multiple ingredients that weren’t just salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc. Well, you get my drift.
- The years past and I often just “eyeballed” weights and measures, after all I had lost 250 pounds so I knew how to do this, right? Not so much. Each and every time I stopped food journaling I would put on a few pounds and use journaling to take it right off again. Those 1 or 2 tortilla chips turned into too many, as did that giant sweet potato that I took forever to finish, but finish it I did. My point is that you can gain weight on healthy or unhealthy foods. It’s about portions as well as food choices and that’s where my trusty food journal proves my point every time.
So, what’s the bad news? A food journal lets you know exactly what and how much you are consuming on a daily basis. We often forget those bites, and that handful of chips or M&M’s unless we journal them.
And here’s the good news. A food journal lets you know exactly what, when and how much you are consuming on a daily basis.
There are more benefits than just the awareness, that actually stem from the awareness of what, when and how much you are eating such as:
- Identifying what happened or how you felt just before those M&M’s or chips so you can develop alternative behaviors to eating your feelings;
- Many studies have shown that those who keep food journals lose more weight than those who do not;
- By entering your food into an app, or just looking it up and writing it down and totaling your macros at the end of the day you can see just how much protein/fats/carbs you are getting and make any adjustments that are appropriate;
- You can set a daily calorie and protein goal, work within it and then see, at the end of a week if it is the appropriate amount for you…..did you lose, did you gain, did you stay the same?
- You can see your progress as you change things up and you’ll learn what foods work for you and what foods don’t.
- Just the act of keeping a journal helps you be more accountable for your choices
So, I am back from vacation, living my best life, back on my regular fitness schedule and journaling everything that goes in my mouth – calories/protein/carbs and water and the first week I put my mind and my pencil to the test and cleared sugar out of my system and chose foods that had my desired ratio of calories to protein I have shed 8 pounds and the fog is gone and my energy has returned, and my pants fit looser. So what do I mean by ratio of calories to protein? I discovered very early in my journey that if I choose foods that have at least one gram of protein for every 10 calories, or make sure my meal balanced that way I could consistently lose weight or maintain it, wherever I was at that moment.
How do I journal? With pen and paper and pics on my phone. At home my measuring tools sit on the kitchen counter and it’s really fun to watch my husband support me by bringing the salad dressing (I like all the Bolthouse flavors) to the table with my measuring spoon. Now that’s love.
I use CalorieKing or FatSecret to look up the nutritional values if they are not on the label of the food I am choosing, and since I eat fresh veggies – a lot – I need access to them.
There are some phone apps that you can use to record everything, but I prefer old school for my journal.
Do you food journal? What app do you like? Share with us, everyone can benefit.