This is the second of a 5-part series that is designed to help you get your nutrition plan under control so that you can begin to see results (or see better results) from the hard work that you’ve been putting in at the gym or in your living room!
I call this the progressive nutrition plan because it’s designed to be taken in steps. Making a lot of changes all at once is difficult for people, and I don’t want to set you up for failure. I want you to succeed in making the changes you want so badly! I suggest spending 2-3 weeks on each step before implementing the next one. This gives your body, and your mind, time to adjust to these small changes.
Step 2: Keep A Food Journal
There’s an old saying that we have all heard:
“Knowledge is power”
Certainly, I can’t think of anyone who disputes that one’s potential and abilities in life increase as their knowledge is increased.
It should come as no surprise then that I advocate keeping a food journal (food diary) in order to be absolutely aware of what is being placed into the body.
As I tell all of my clients when we first start working together, you absolutely have no idea of what you’re putting into your body, until you start tracking it.
Now, I’m a big believer in keeping things simple, particularly, when complicating things unnecessarily does not serve any real purpose. While I encourage everyone to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between the foods that they eat and how it affects their energy levels and metabolism, I also don’t want to overwhelm people with information that might be confusing to them while they are still putting together the bigger picture.
Therefore, before I start advising anyone to cut anything out of their diet (with the exception of sweetened drinks, see Step 1), I simply want them to keep a food journal and just develop an awareness of what they are eating.
4 Reasons to Keep a Food Journal
1. You’ll know exactly what you are eating.
Often times when I suggest to someone to start keeping a food journal, they state that they are already eating healthy. Sometimes it might be true, other times it might be a defensive statement. No one really likes to be told that they’re doing anything wrong. It’s not my intent to reprimand or put anyone on the spot, but I do believe that taking an active role in the process (keeping a food journal), as opposed to just following direction, is important to understanding one’s own health.
I’m often curious to know what “I’m eating healthy” means to people. Does it mean that they eat diet foods and drink diet soda instead of regular soda? Does it mean that they eat the low fat Twinkies and organic granola? Many food labels are misleading. Diet, and low fat don’t always equate to healthy. In fact, it often means that they are full of chemicals and preservatives.
When someone keeps a food journal, they can see for themselves what they’re eating, and I think that’s a lot more powerful than having someone else point that out.
I like to use a website called Myfitnesspal. It’s an online food journal and calorie counter that makes it incredibly easy to keep track of your food intake. There’s a huge database that makes it really easy to enter in your foods, and it takes the guesswork out of breaking down everything into further categories as you learn how they affect your body.
I even have a complete walk through, written by me, that walks you through the process of setting up your account and entering your foods. You can start the walk through by reading my article Keep a Food Journal With Myfitnesspal (Part 1).
2. You’ll see for yourself, where your nutrition needs adjustment.
Actively following someone else’s nutrition plan is one thing, but actively researching what it is that you’re eating is something else. You’re gaining knowledge into a very important component of how your body functions. I think that there’s more power in that self discovery than in simply following someone’s instructions. Once you’re aware of exactly what you’re eating, and can see how many calories per day you are eating, the next step is to break that down into a few more categories. Look at what percentage of your nutrition in food is carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Caloric (kcal) Values per Gram (g)
|Fat = 9 kcal/g||Alcohol = 7 kcal/g|
|Carbohydrates = 4 kcal/g||Protein = 4 kcal/g|
For a better understanding of what percentages of these categories to consume, read The Mayo Clinic’s article Healthy diet: End the guesswork with these nutrition guidelines. It provides guidelines based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
3. You’ll be able to make a healthy eating plan.
Once you know exactly what you’re eating and start to understand how carbohydrates, fats, and proteins affect your daily caloric intake, it becomes easier to plan your means for the day, even for the entire week.
It becomes a lot easier to make better choices when you know exactly what you are eating throughout the day. You won’t be tempted by the crap your coworkers bring in when you’ve already got your snacks and lunch at hand. Additionally, the next time you tell someone that you already eat healthy, you’ll be able to say that with absolute certainty.
Random success in anything is rare, despite what you might see in the movies or on TV. Knowing exactly what you want to eat is important in putting together a successful weight loss plan.
4. Your food journal will keep you on track.
Keeping a food journal will help you see the bigger picture in your eating patterns. You’ll be more conscious of binge eating, and you’ll be actively thinking about making healthy choices. You’ll be empowered to take the reigns yourself, take the initiative, and take control of one of the most important aspects of living a healthy and fit lifestyle.
If you’ve never kept a food journal before, I encourage you to give it a try. Just try it out for 2 weeks. I’m not even suggesting that you cut out all kinds of things from your diet, I’m simply asking you to take a closer look and get an idea of exactly what you are eating.
Do you already keep a food journal? Other readers, myself included, would love to hear about your experience with that and what you discovered. Please share the experience in the comments below.