Weight loss during the holidays. Is there really such a miracle? Yes, and whether you want to lose weight or you’re content to maintain your weight during the holidays-or any other time-one possible way to do it is to keep a food journal. According to the health insurer, Regence, “Recent research shows that keeping a food diary can help you lose weight.” The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states, “Record keeping is one of the most successful behavioral techniques for weight loss and maintenance.”
Losing weight with a food journal doesn’t require complicated recipes, counting calories, or measuring the amounts of food you’re about to consume. It simply requires a notebook, pen, the willingness to be honest with yourself, and to write in your food journal on a daily basis. (Don’t freak out over the words, “on a daily basis.” You’re not going to be writing a thousand page novel, just keeping track of what you’ve eaten and why.)
Most people find that if they use a colored notebook that’s attractive to them, they’re more willing to write in it, but you can go as simple or as ornate as you like. You can even type it in the computer, although some individuals find that method more time consuming (lock-ups, slow-downs and hard drive crashes are not conducive to getting things done quickly) and so they’re less likely to stick with writing in their food journal consistently.
Whatever you use for your food journal, make sure it’s easily accessible and quick to write in. It should make you feel good about writing your entries, not frustrated and looking for a bag of chili-cheese corn chips to munch on!
The process is simple. With your favorite pen, write down your starting weight and your weight loss goal (or maintenance goal) in your spiffy journal. Be specific, give the amounts you’d like to lose and the dates by which you’d like to lose it. If you’re trying to maintain weight, set a date for that. Also, take a minute to think about your life and decide on the time that works best for you to record what you’ve eaten each day. Weight loss and/or maintenance by writing in a food journal will be more consistent if you’re consistent about when you write.
Now … on your mark … get set … go!
Write down everything you eat or drink in your food journal. Do this every day. Include everything, even gum or diet drinks. And that does mean everything … healthy food, junk food, Christmas goodies, and even the piece of candy you snitched from your toddler when he wasn’t looking.
Write about how you felt in your food journal: When you served yourself up that big bowl of ice cream, how did you feel? Happy or sad? Anxious or depressed? Or maybe … just plain hungry. Don’t think you have to censor how much you ate, or why, just write it down.
Write the four W’s in your food journal: With whom were you eating, what were you doing while eating, when and where were you eating? Keep the explanations short, so you don’t tire of keeping the journal, but do record the four W’s because they’ll help you see a pattern.
After a week or so, look at your eating habits. Perhaps you’re skipping lunch and eating a big, calorie-laden snack in the middle of the afternoon. Or you find yourself pacing in front of the pantry (or candy machine at work) when nervous, and then devouring unhealthy foods. Pinpoint one or two things you’d like to change and work on those. After you’ve conquered those, pick another. Replace poor choices with good ones. If you’re eating popcorn and chips for their crunchiness, try substituting raw mini-carrots. When the urge to snack hits, go for a walk or call a friend. Or simply remind yourself you can give in to temptation if you want, but you can’t fudge (no pun intended), and skip writing it in your journal. Sometimes, just the fact that you know you’ll have to write down an item is a deterrent.
This holiday season-or whenever-give yourself the gift of weight loss (or maintenance) by keeping a food journal. It’s possible that before you know it, you’ll see your eating habits change and the pounds coming off.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov