There are few things that strike fear, and cause a client to physically flinch, like the dreaded words, “Do you keep a food log?”. This term doesn’t discriminate and could care less what your age, gender, weight, or goal is – I know of no one who loves to food log. I myself hate food logging. It doesn’t matter if I go to the high quality paper store and treat myself to a brand spanking new journal covered in powerful self affirmations in hopes of motivating myself. Buying myself the special colored pen I see next to the register upon check out doesn’t inspire me. It doesn’t matter if I use a free on-line phone app (Lose It), a computer based weight loss tool, or a white board on the refrigerator. There is truly no way I have learned to improve upon my distaste for and utter dread of food logging.
Don’t get me wrong. If you are my client and have ever mentioned wanting to lose weight, eat healthier, improve upon your energy, or balance your mood – it is a certainty that I have discussed and encouraged (maybe a bit aggressively at times) that you MUST keep a food log of everything single thing you put in your mouth. Every tiny little morsel. The creamer in your coffee? Yep. The cinnamon Altoids that you keep in your car to get rid of the coffee breath? Still yep. How about the almond slivers in your salad? Yep, those too. It’s interesting how the words every single thing you put in your mouth can cause some room for discussion or confusion, but they do. They do because we are generally not fond of feeling like 5 year old little children who have to act like we can’t freely eat what we want to when we want to. We are biased about being watched – it goes against the very freedoms that this country holds dear, right?
So then why do it? I’ll tell you why it is THE necessary evil and is mandatory for any of the above stated goals. I will even go so far as to claim it is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do if you have any of the above mentioned goals….why you ask? It’s the dreaded “A” word that makes it matter so much. ACCOUNTABILITY. There, I said it. It’s out in front of you in black and white. We do not like to be held accountable to what we chose to do all of the time in regards to how we want to feed ourselves; because we eat for a variety of reasons each and everyday and often it has nothing to do with hunger but more to do with being lonely, unhappy, happy, celebratory, empty, or bored.
Why is there so much resistance? We do not want to have to be held accountable and thus conscious of every single thing we put in our mouth because we are afraid of what we will learn. Most of us do not really want to know how much, or how bad, our food choices are everyday; however, I suggest to you that this is critical to begin to understand how to make smarter food choices whatever your goals. If you want to improve your mood as you are suffering from a bout of depression it is incredibly important how well you balance your protein/carb combinations and how often you eat. If you are hoping to lose weight, you must first understand a true picture of what you are actually ingesting on a daily basis that is maintaing or increasing your current weight. Food logging is the background information that can point your trainer, wellness coach, or intuitive self, right to the underlying culprit of what is really going on with you when you can’t reach your goals. It is invaluable information and creates a road map to break you out of your habits and into a healthier lifestyle.
Here’s a challenge. If you have never food logged, or it’s been awhile, start today. Write down everything you put in your mouth for 3 days. Don’t lie. You would think I wouldn’t have to mention such a simple agreement with you, but for those of you who have food logged before, you might have a small smile on your face right now because you know who you are and just what I’m talking about. I bet if you begin to log today, you will notice something really cool. Just the act of food logging often will cause you to pause for a split second before you mindlessly put something in your mouth and ask yourself if it’s worth it because you’re going to have to write it down afterwards. Sometimes, this alone will help you to make smarter choices all on your own.
Once you have your log you can begin to use the data to see if there are opportunities for improvement. You can always talk to a Wellness Coach, Personal Trainer, or medical professional who can help you modify your food for the specific goals you may have, but the crucial first step is to begin the process on your own. I food log everyday…well okay, most days…and sometimes I completely quit doing it. I’ll admit it, I get resistant, I fight it and I decide I don’t need to do it anymore because I already know what I am doing… Um no. Every time I fall off the food logging path, I veer over towards mindless eating. I do this slowly, over time. For the first week, I notice no changes in my eating and weight. Then it never fails that a after a few more weeks I am again grabbing handfuls of yummy (unhealthy) snacks out of my pantry without even considering them. It’s a slow digression, but it happens over and over and get’s me back on the wagon.
I would love to hear your comments on your own challenges of food logging.