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Keeping a journal is essential to staying on track for weight loss. All of us tend to under or overestimate how much we actually eat. A food journal keeps us honest and develops good habits that will help keep the weight off after your diet is over.

Using Your Journal Effectively

Keept it simple. For most of our patients, we recommend starting starting with a physical journal. Writing things down is proven to develop habits more quickly and effectively. You’re already trying to change your eating habits; don’t add learning an app on top of that. Websites or apps on your phone may still be needed to look up calorie counts for foods without a nutrition label, and that’s okay.

Focus on one thing at a time. Begin with just tracking what you eat without trying to change your habits. Food journaling will gently push you to pay more attention to what you’re eating. It’s been said before and it’s true, as soon as you start to observe something, it will start to change.

Be honest! This food journal is for you and you alone. If you leave things out or fudge the numbers to make yourself look better on paper, you’re only fooling yourself. It’s hard, but you can do it!

Don’t beat yourself up. Just because you had a day or week when you went over your calories doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Focus on doing better the next meal, the next day, or the next week.

Once you’ve been journaling for a while, examine your eating habits and look for patterns. Do you tend to eat more when you’re with a certain friend group, or by yourself? Do you tend to eat more calories when you’re sad, happy, or bored? If you tend to over-eat when going out for lunch with certain co-workers, acknowledge that and look for ways to change it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t go out with them, just that you should pay more attention to where you go and what you order. If you find yourself eating more when you’re sad, try finding other ways of comforting yourself besides food.

Don’t give up! It’s okay to take a day off from tracking every now and then, but once you stop tracking, it’s easy to go back to old habits. Many people take breaks from their diets, but there is a difference between a break and a binge. If you need a break from dieting, it’s much better to spend a week eating maintenance calories – just exactly what your body needs – than to throw caution to the wind and regreat it later. Eventually, you’ll be able to eat healthy without relying on tracking every meal, but make sure you’ve developed good eating habits before you stop using your food journal.

Test Yourself! How well do you know your calories? If you have been food journaling for a while, track your meals and servings without writing down the calories every meal. Then at the end of the day, go back in and total your calories up. Did you go over? Under?