How food journaling can help you lose twice as much weight
When it comes to weight loss, you can’t necessarily count on your memory to be an ally.
Exactly how many Thin Mints were in that cookie sleeve? That steak with béarnaise was probably just four ounces, right? And those fries don’t actually count because you only snuck a few (read: at least a dozen) from your spouse’s plate when you were out for dinner.
Enter the food journal, the weight loss equivalent of that trusty friend who will always tell you the truth … even when you don’t want to hear it.
The simple act of recording what you eat is one of the best weight loss strategies you can adopt, according to scientific studies, and journaling can double your weight loss efforts.
Lindsay Lawes, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer with Boulder Nutrition and Exercise, recommends all of her clients keep a journal of some type to help meet their goals. It’s especially helpful for her clients with diabetes who can then use their journals to pinpoint what led to changes in their blood sugar levels.
In fact, according to Lawes, writing down what you eat actually can change your eating habits.
“You might grab a handful of cashews every time you walk through the kitchen and not even realize it until you start writing down everything you eat,” she says. “Journaling helps eliminate mindless snacking.”
Lawes’ pro tip for keeping an accurate journal and seeing results: Journal throughout the day, rather than at the end of the day when it’s difficult to recount everything you ate.
A Kaiser Permanente study found that participants in a six-month weight loss program lost twice as much weight when they kept a food journal compared to those who didn’t track their calories. The average weight loss for all of the participants was 13 pounds during the course of six months.
Another study funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources concluded that faithful food journaling was the best way to lose weight. Women in a weight loss study who kept food journals consistently lost six more pounds than those who did not.
Angela Mader, a University of Colorado graduate and Denver resident, is the founder of fitlosophy, a line of fitness products and journals, including the flagship “fitbook.” She acknowledges the weight loss benefits of journaling, as 75 percent of customers who use “fitbook” report losing weight in the first 12 weeks.
But, Mader says, journaling goes beyond weight loss. Her company’s mission is to incorporate health into people’s lifestyles, with a focus on goal-setting, mindfulness and gratitude.
“We lead with goal-setting,” she says.
“Fitbook” journals help clients master the mental side of weight loss—adding in components of gratitude, setting up reward systems and breaking down lofty goals into achievable action items.
Mader, for example, likes to spend Sunday evenings setting a healthy tone for her week—planning meals and arranging her workout schedule. Throughout the week, she incorporates fitness into her lifestyle. Rather than holding meetings in a conference room, she does “walking meetings.” And, she notes, knowing she’ll be logging what she eats keeps her accountable. (For example, during the Super Bowl, she prepped hummus and crunchy bell peppers because she’d rather see those foods in her journal than traditional football fare like nachos.)
Mader started her business out of her garage back in 2008, after her first customer noticed her custom-made journal at the gym and asked to buy a couple from her. Since then, her company has continued to expand and her journals are now sold at Amazon, Walgreens, Target and other major retailers.
The fitlosophy line includes other fitness-friendly products, including a digital food scale, a packable plate to help master “portion distortion,” and an infuser water bottle that lets you add fruit and herbs—such as strawberry and basil—to sweeten up your sips. There’s also a fitlosophy apparel line.
Our favorite? A muscle tank with the motto “Fit Happens.”
5 JOURNALING TIPS FROM FITLOSOPHY
1 TAKE FIVE. Set aside five minutes every day to journal. Don’t just write your to-do and grocery lists. Write down your bigger-picture dreams and goals, too. Spend extra time with your journal on Sundays to book workouts like you would any other important appointment, meal plan for the week and set achievable goals.
2 BREAK IT DOWN. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, break down big goals into smaller action items that you can achieve on a weekly basis. The “fitbook fitness + nutrition journal” offers a template for 12-week goal-setting and inspiration to keep you motivated.
3 DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS! Be as specific as possible. When you’re journaling your food, include portion sizes. When you’re jotting down workouts, log time, sets, reps or steps.
4 GET SOCIAL. Share your goals and progress with a friend. A Dominican University of California study found that those who wrote down their goals and shared them with a friend, giving their buddies weekly updates, were 33 percent more likely to achieve their goals. Find a fitness family online and connect with other “fitbook” users with the hashtag #livelifefit.
5 SAY THANKS. Practice gratitude by writing down what you’re grateful for and what you appreciate about your body. A whole host of benefits come from practicing gratitude. Studies show you’re more likely to accomplish your goals and sleep better, as well as better your immunity, cardiovascular health and mood.
FOOD JOURNALS WE LOVE
Whether you like to track what you eat on your phone or by putting pen to paper, here are a few of our faves when it comes to counting calories.
“FITBOOK” FROM FITLOSOPHY
Cool features: Taking a holistic approach to health, this journal allows you to log your sleep, food and exercise. Instead of just tracking calories, you’ll keep track of your nutrients—like how many servings of veggies you noshed; how much dairy you consumed; how many grains you incorporated into your diet, etc. Don’t have the food pyramid memorized? No prob. There’s a handy guide to help you eat in moderation. We’re also suckers for the motivational quotes along the way, including “An idea is just a dream until you write it down. Then it’s a goal.”
Where to find it: getfitbook.com
WEIGHT WATCHERS MOBILE
Cool features: The mobile app tracks fat, carbs, protein and fiber to assign your food a “PointsPlus” number. You can use it to scan barcodes at the grocery store and the “Snap & Track” feature lets you take a pic, and track it later for when you’re in a hurry.
Where to find it: iTunes App Store, Google Play
Cost: While the app is free, to get all of its benefits you have to be a Weight Watchers member. Plans range from $3.84 to $10.77 a week, depending on whether you’ll attend meetings in person or get an online coach.
MY FITNESS PAL
Cool features: There are more than 5 million foods in this fitness and nutrition database, making it easy to track your eats. We also love the Recipe Nutrition Calculator that quickly analyzes nutritional content.
Where to find it: iTunes App Store, Google Play
Cost: Free; in-app purchases available