by Natalie Mitts
So when I first decided to start one, it was because of a simple
suggestion from my mother. She's the queen of watching what you eat -
limiting visits to fast food restaurants, only eating desserts on
weekends, etc. I decided to see where my self-control could take me
since I've gained a few pounds since I got married last year. I wanted
to lose a little weight (don't we all?), but mostly, I just wanted to
eat healthier. Plus, I had an empty moleskin notebook that was begging
to be used.
I began writing down every thing I ate - even the five M and M's
(actually, I mean 15) I snagged from a bowl on the table at work. I
started off pretty good. I packed healthy snacks to eat during the day. I
counted how many Wheat Thins I ate so I wouldn't just blindly devour
them. I thought twice about eating ice cream because I knew I had to
write about it later. I even measured out my cereal and milk one
It wasn't until later that I read an article about writing how you feel
next to the food. If I had kept track of that, it probably would have
prevented me from overdoing it on sweets (my downfall). You could even
write why you indulged in certain foods (celebrations, a good test
score, a bad test score, etc.) Then you could learn to recognize
triggers and adapt as needed. Write down not just the date, but also the
time. Notice patterns in your eating habits. Are you more likely to eat
healthy in the afternoon? Do you enjoy late-night snacks?
Keeping track of culinary experiences could also be very helpful in
eating out. If you really like what you ordered at a new restaurant, and
wrote about it in your food journal, it would be easy to recall the
next time. Likewise, if you really didn't like something and wrote down
the name of the dish, you wouldn't be tempted to order that again.
Remember to not just include emotions, but also physical feelings. It's
important to note foods that satisfy you, or ones that make you feel
sick. Notice glycemic reactions - that sugar high followed by a sugar
low. Try new foods to test out your reactions. Fish is natural
anti-depressant. You may be surprised that those unfamiliar foods make
you feel pretty good. A salad for lunch may actually fill you up more
than your usual sandwich.
I think keeping this food journal has just made me more conscious of my
eating habits. Whatever weight I may have lost was probably offset by
the week of vacation I spent indulging in fast food and avoiding my
journal. I only tried it for about a month, but I learned a lot about my
habits. There were good days and bad that I could probably line up
pretty well with my planner. I tend to eat more when I am busy and
exhausted. But when I'm alert and organized, I am careful about what I
eat and usually feel better.
Keeping a food journal is only a starting point. You've got to plan
snacks and meals ahead of time and buy food with a purpose. Be honest
with yourself. If you're not going to start eating carrots daily, don't
buy them. But if you really need that candy bar to get through the rest
of the week, it's OK. Everything you eat doesn't have to grow on a tree.
Working out is another vital step to losing weight and improving your
health. It's not a substitute for eating well. Somehow we all get the
idea that running two miles gives us the right to eat pizza for dinner,
while we should be trying to maintain that healthy balance with lean
chicken, grains and vegetables.
There's no magic answer to losing weight and living healthier lives. It
takes dedication and planning to do it right. I'm still working on
trimming off a few pounds and improving my health. Maybe I'll just start
over again with a new journal and actually start planning out those
weekly dinner menus and exercise routines.