If you knew with 100% certainty there was a diet or exercise technique that would for sure, guaranteed result in weight loss success, would you use it?

Such a thing does exist.

Research from as far back as the 1970s proves this is true.

The number one most effective way to be successful with weight loss is to keep a food log.

Calendar

You don’t need fancy diets, powders, fizzes, and packets of vitamins. You don’t even need exercise, although it’s important for many other health reasons.

If keeping a food log is so powerful, why do we have such a hard time actually DOING IT?

For many years I kept a food log. This strategy was hugely important during my 100 pound weight loss. Today, I still keep a food log off and on to help with maintaining my weight loss.

Yet I still find myself resisting this practice sometimes, as much as I know it’s helpful.

People often ask me which type of food log is best, and how important is it to track calories, fat grams, and protein?

Read on for answers.

Weight Loss Q and A: Keep a Food Log

Why does keeping a food log help so much with weight loss?

For the 3 years I was losing 100 pounds, I faithfully kept an online food log almost every single day. I kept one almost every day for 4 more years of maintaining.

Although I don’t keep a log regularly today, when I see my weight creeping back up, it’s the first strategy I go back to.

When I was losing weight, I was highly faithful to my food log. I loved entering my food and calculating my points. Often I would start the night before. I would put in dinner (my biggest points suck) first. Then I added breakfast and lunch. The left over points were for my favorite — SNACKS! Oh how I do love my snacks.

Then I would start to fiddle. I would trim from this and take from that so I had plenty of points for what I wanted. I could eat my meals in my mind 100 times over.

The next day, I would actually eat and make the necessary adjustments. If you are thinking this is all borderline obsessive, yes, it was, but this is where I was along my food addiction journey. This was part of my recovery process.

Remember that wellness is a process, and allow yourself to be wherever you are.

What the best way to keep a food log?

The best method is the one that works for you. I like apps on my smart phone, such as My Fitness Pal, My Net Diary, and Lose It!. I also am a huge fan of the Fit Bit and other similar trackers. Just using the tracker is eye opening, and if you use the food tracking program they have, or sync up one to it, that’s even more beneficial.

Fitbit Surge

If you prefer old fashioned paper and pencil, or writing in your daily calendar, use that. I also love the printable Smart Weight Loss trackers that Fitness Fashionista produces. Find her products here.

SMART Weight Loss planner by Fitness Fashionista

SMART Weight Loss planner by Fitness Fashionista

If keeping a food log is such a powerful tool, why do we resist it SO much?

The number one excuse people make for not tracking their food is TIME. We are too busy. I don’t buy into this excuse. (Even though I use it myself!) We make time for things we value. It is true that keeping track does take time, but not that much. Perhaps 20-30 minutes out of your entire day?

I believe there is a bigger reason why we resist keeping a food log.

When I was losing weight, I was quite faithful to all of this tracking, with one exception.

When I would overeat and binge, I tracked NOTHING. Zip, zadda, zero. If you could see a picture of my food logs, you would see a pattern of days like this:

Monday: Perfect eating day! Go, me! You are a rock star!!

Tuesday: Very lovely eating day

Wednesday: Good eating day

Thursday: Okay eating day (written down until lunch)

Friday: Survived the eating day (wrote down breakfast)

Saturday: <crickets chirp>

Sunday: What’s a food log?

Food logs are highly effective for weight loss EVEN IF NO ONE ELSE SEES THEM. No one else was looking at my online food journal. Why did I stop tracking?

Simple. I didn’t want to know.

Food logs work because they create awareness.

We resist keeping a food log when we want to keep going in denial about some of our eating habits.

For example, here is a question a reader sent to me:

Reader question: Sara, one question, every time I try to keep a food journal, well, I lie. I’m too ashamed to write down what I eat. How do I get confident and get real with myself?

This reader is super-brave to own up to what she is doing, so she is already well on her way to the road of recovery. The more we create awareness, the stronger we become.

I suggested this: give yourself 3 days (include 1 days that is typically an “off” day, for me that would be a weekend day) where you say to yourself, I am going to track everything I eat, but that is all I have to do. I absolutely do not have to in any way shape or form change the way I eat. I just have to write it down. See what happens.

Reader question: (from a Faithful Finish Lines member) Do I have to keep track of calories and nutrition, or can I just write down what I eat? All the calculations drive me crazy.

Just the act of recording definitely helps because it makes you more aware of mindless habits. To strictly answer your question, it is “both” in that the only ultimate way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn, but this is a process. Keeping track of what you eat is eye-opening, even if you don’t do all the calculations.

How can I get over the hurdle and use a food log?

If you are resisting this much, it’s always possible keeping a food log isn’t for you. While it’s a highly effective strategy, it’s not the ONLY strategy. There are other ways to be mindful.

But if you are pretty sure you need to do something to keep track, yet you are stuck, here are 3 ideas that have helped me ease the resistance:

  1. Something is better than nothing. Give up perfection with keeping a food log. If you only track on weekdays, okay. You’ll learn a lot about your eating habits.
  2. Reward yourself for progress. Set a goal for yourself and pick a reward for keeping a food log for one week or one month.
  3. Play mental games. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter the points, the calories, the amount. Just track. Make it a game of how much you can get for how many points or calories. Instead of a chore, see it as a challenge!

What strategies have worked for you for keeping a food log? How do you keep track of your healthy eating?


Is NOW your time to make healthy life changes?

Have you said to yourself, “Enough already. I have to do something about my weight and fitness. I need to take better care of myself.”

Please consider joining us for the next Faithful Finish Lines online program. The program begins February 28, and registration closes on February 23.

Faithful Finish Lines is a 7-week online faith, fitness, and healthy eating program for women. We offer community support, a training plan (you choose your fitness goal), a healthy eating focus each week, weekly Bible memory verses, and so much more. This is a personal, spiritual, and wellness journey.

Do this for YOU.

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 Weight Loss Q and A: Keep a Food Log|The Holy Mess