People are always looking for new ways to lose weight and companies are constantly promoting new products such as pills, powders, creams, exercise equipment, and diets to promote fat loss. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these products are marketing gimmicks that are rarely as effective as previously established methods for losing weight. One such proven weight loss method that often goes overlooked is nutritional journaling.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of nutritional journaling, it is basically just writing down what you eat and drink throughout the day, although there are many different ways to go about keeping a nutrition journal. It can be very thorough or much more simplistic, but keeping virtually any type of nutrition journal should increase the amount of weight and fat you lose.
It may not seem as though keeping track of what you eat and drink would significantly affect fat loss, but you can see how powerful nutritional journals are by taking a closer look at the most popular and enduring weight loss businesses. Most popular programs do not necessarily use a journal, but they generally use something to help you keep track of what you eat. This typically involves things like following a point system or eating pre-made meals that have specific calorie contents.
Regardless of what system is used, the real benefits come from making you keep track of what you eat and drink and not from some special characteristic of one particular system. Some people prefer one system over another, but the specific system is not really all that important. By tracking your eating and drinking habits, you become more aware of everything that you put into your body. As a result, your unconscious eating habits start becoming more conscious eating choices.
In other words, by keeping track of foods, calories, points, etc., you are actually increasing your awareness about how and what you eat. Many people have poor eating habits and they often don’t realize how much or how frequently they eat. By following this type of system, you can stop being a slave to poor eating habits and start taking control over what you put into your body.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sign up for one of those programs, because you can get most of the same benefits from keeping a nutritional journal on your own. A nutrition journal doesn’t have to contain every little detail about what you eat and drink, although a journal with more useful information generally results in greater fat loss over time. However, even a simple journal with very basic information may significantly improve your fat loss.
Just the act of writing down the items you eat and drink, along with the time you had them, will make you think more seriously about your nutritional choices. For instance, if you are supposed to be eating healthy and you find yourself writing down a lot of junk food or other empty calories, you will see how much you are straying from the way you are supposed to eat.
Then the next time you start to have chips or cookies, you will probably think about having to write it down, which by itself may make you stop and choose something healthier or have a smaller portion instead.
Keeping this type of basic journal is very quick and easy and you do not need any special equipment. You can use a pen and paper, computer, iPhone, or whatever else works for you. The only thing is that you should write down what you eat/drink fairly soon afterwards, because if you wait too long, you may forget some things or the information will otherwise not be as accurate. The more accurate your information, the more it will help.
If you are willing to put forth a little more effort with your nutritional journal, you can also use it to fine tune your nutrition program and further improve your overall health and fat loss over time. In addition to keeping track of what and when you eat and drink, you can also look at more specific components of your food. At the minimum, you should keep track of total calories, calories from fat, calories from protein, calories from carbohydrates, and grams of fiber.
You can go further and break things down even more to include variables such as calories from sugar, calories from trans-fats, calories from saturated fat, etc. In these cases, the important thing is to have the information be in numerical form and have almost every category use the same type of measurement. For example, in the above categories, everything is broken down into number of calories per item/ingredient. You don’t have to use calories, but it is probably the easiest.
The problem is that much of this information will not originally be listed in terms of calories, but rather grams. The problem with grams is that all grams are not equal in terms of calories. For instance, one gram of carbohydrate or protein is about 4 calories, alcohol is 7 calories, and fat is 9 calories, so simply writing down everything in terms of grams does not really provide a clear picture of your overall nutritional intake.
By converting everything into calories, you can easily compare your intake of each type of ingredient to find out what you need to add or what you should consume less. The one exception is fiber, which does not have calories, so you should still record it in grams and try to eat at least 25 grams per day.
Your fiber should ideally come from both soluble and insoluble sources, but most of it will probably be insoluble. In any case, if you see that you are not getting close to the minimum 25 grams of fiber, you should make it a priority to eat more foods that are high in fiber. However, without keeping track of your fiber intake, you may not even realize that you need more fiber.
Some people choose to track their nutrition in even greater detail and additionally record their intake of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. However, for most people, I do not recommend anything this involved, because it may not be worth the extra time and effort. If you want stats on everything, there are computer programs available to help you keep track of all this information. For most people, a more basic nutritional journal will work just as well.
If you have never tried keeping a nutritional journal, it may sound like more effort than it is worth, but this is certainly not the case. The most basic journals are easy to keep and take very little time and keeping a nutritional journal really does increase your awareness and makes you more accountable for your eating habits. This can be very empowering, but it also makes you take responsibility for how and what you eat, which is probably one of the big reasons why many people are unwilling to try nutritional journaling.
It is certainly easier to follow your regular eating habits without giving them much thought and if you have good nutritional habits, this approach may be fine. Unfortunately, many people do not have the best eating habits and this is problematic, because so much of long-term health and fat loss success is dependent developing good habits. Keeping a nutritional journal will let you identify the problems in your current eating program and help motivate you to replace bad eating habits with good ones over time.
There really are many different ways that keeping a nutritional journal can help improve your nutritional habits and ultimately your fat loss, so I hope you at least give a simple journal a try. Keeping a nutrition journal often results in more significant improvement than people first expect, but it works best when you are honest, accurate, and consistent with your journal.
In any case, a nutritional journal will certainly give you better results than the next new miracle pill or similarly gimmicky health and fitness product that promises great results with minimal effort.
14 years of experience and education in health and fitness