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Food Journals: Why They Might Just Be the Ticket to Your Success

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Should You Keep a Food Journal?

Food Journals are a fantastic way to help with your weight loss, and also as a teaching tool. It can be a REAL eye opener if done correctly. Diet is key, if you’re not really sure how much food you’re taking in, it can blow your chances.

How a Food Journal Works

Grab anything you can write on: a spiral notebook, a marble notebook, a small notepad, and jot down everything you eat and drink during the day. And I mean EVERYTHING. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’ve done over the course of your busy, crazy, forgetful kind of a day. There is scientific evidence that people that keep food journals lose more weight than those that don’t. Some times TWICE as much. Mainly because it increases your awareness and your accountability for your actions. It also raises your consciousness and therefore, decreases mindless eating and makes you realize that if you eat something, you’ll have to record it, and then you might think twice about eating it at all.

Are You Telling the Whole Truth?

It’s only helpful if it’s accurate though. I’ve had clients bring me in food journals with all the glowing foods that they think a dietitian wants to see. Lovely whole grain cereals with berries, a healthy salad for lunch, a splendid piece of fish with asparagus with dinner. They say this is what they eat ‘everyday’. That they don’t know why they can’t lose weight and why they are 75 lbs overweight.

When I see a food diary like that, I know they’re lying, but what’s even sadder is that with a food diary like that, I CAN’T help you. I will just say: “This is great, keep it up,” and they leave with no suggestions.

Yes, it’s hard to bare your soul to a stranger (or a friend) and show them all your naughty little secrets. But, these bad habits we can fix!  Yup. That’s what we do, people. We don’t judge. We don’t laugh. We don’t talk behind your back. When we find problems, guess what? We can fix them!  We can make great suggestions!

I’ve had clients that write down fake meals, omit snacks, don’t write down beverages, skip writing down the cheat-meals, fake portion sizes and think they only have to write down their breakfast, lunch and dinner and that everything in between doesn’t need to be recorded. The in-betweens are sometimes the cause of the weight gain.

I’ve had clients fail to mention all the binge alcoholic beverages on the weekends. Omit the weekly large bucket of popcorn and soda at the movies. Fail to mention all the sweetened beverages they drink all day long. Skip writing down any dinners at restaurants because they were ‘entitled’ to eat it. Record what they ate for lunch or dinner, but fail to mention it was at a restaurant where the portions are bigger and came with a few beers, an appetizer, and dessert. (you don’t have to record that, right?)

Guess, what? Write it down and we can help you. We can make suggestions and give you great substitutes. We can talk to you about WHY you’re eating this way and fix it. Maybe you’re skipping meals and over eating later on. Maybe you’re bored, or stressed out. Maybe it’s mindless eating and you don’t realize you’re doing it. Or that you didn’t realize the food was really that bad. Maybe it’s just that your portions are a little too big. Maybe you’re eating low fiber, low protein foods, and all those crappy carbs aren’t filling you up, causing you to nibble every 2 hours on more junk.


Ready to Lose Weight?

First and foremost. Everything that goes in your mouth, gets recorded. EVERYTHING. (Even that one M&M you found on your son’s rug.)

  1. Date: Not just the date but the DAY of the week. Monday will be very different from Saturday. Also include meal (“breakfast”) and the TIME. This is all helpful to see how your day pans out, when you have the most difficulty keeping on track, any obstacles, and if too much time passes between eating.
  2. Food Item: Don’t just write down ‘pasta’. Write the type, and how much. One scoop of ice cream is a lot different than a hot fudge sundae with a ton of toppings. Measure your food if you can. THAT in itself is a real eye opener especially if you read the serving side of an item on the Food Label.
  3. Quantities: Especially for those of you that like to pile it on. Writing down you ate a bowl of cereal can mean many different things. Is it the usual 1 cup serving? Or did you grab your giant mixing bowl and fill it to the top? Compare your portion size with that of the amount on the side of the container, and then record how much YOU had.
  4. Comments: This part will be helpful not only to the dietitian, but more importantly, to you. Ate that entire sleeve of Oreos? Why? Write down your reason. Were you starving because you didn’t eat all day? Did you bring the package with you on the couch and mindlessly ate it while watching an exciting movie? Did you have a bad day at work? Write it down. Now’s a great chance to get your feelings out, too. This will teach you WHY you have certain habits.

What You Can Look For in Your Food Diary

  • Did you eat a variety of foods today?
  • Did you eat 5-9 fruits and veggies today?
  • Are there a minimal amount of processed/junk foods? (One or two a day?)
  • Are your carbs whole grain and high in fiber? (5gms of fiber per serving)
  • Are your protein sources healthy, lean, fresh, and low in fat?
  • Are there many snacks, sugary sweets and beverages?
  • Are your fat choices healthy like olive oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, and real butter?
  • Are there a lot of alcoholic beverages?
  • Are there many meals of take-out, restaurants, and fast food?
  • Did you consume 2-3 servings of dairy (milk & yogurt) a day?
  • Are you listing your portion sizes accurately?
  • Are you including ALL your snacks and nibbles throughout the day?
  • Did you include the top 10 Healthiest foods today?
  • Have you listed all the “Whys” of why you ate what you did & what you were feeling?

All of the blue high-lighted words above will link you to great posts I wrote about those specific topics.


I hope you start a food journal tomorrow. Please be honest and follow these rules. Let me know how it goes, if it helped you realize your obstacles, and if you lose any weight!

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to Survive & Every Five Years

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Weight Loss: Will Beverages and Alcohol be Your Downfall?

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How Much Weight Will You Gain From Beverages This Year?

Ahh. Cool and refreshing. A nice way to kick back on a Friday night. Happy hours, get-togethers, parties. What better way to celebrate with your friends and family, right?

Well, if you’re trying to lose weight, it can be the worst thing for you. Something that quenches your thirst can pack on pounds quickly. Quicker than you think. After one drink, all good judgement goes out the door, and if there’s food around, forget it. Stick with a single-drink policy, or non at all. Here’s a list of drinks and their calories, and also a list of better alternatives.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages


Water: 0 calories

Coffee/Tea, with 3 sugar packets, 2 TBSP half & half: 85 calories

1% Milk, 8 oz: 105 calories

Orange juice, 8 oz: 120 calories

Cranberry juice, 8 oz: 140 calories

Cola, 1 can: 140 calories

Starbucks Cafe Mocha, 16oz: 260 calories

Dunkin Donuts, Frozen Caramel Cafe Coolata, Medium, Skim Milk: 450 calories

(Don’t forget my ‘sip-of-milk’ trick)



Alcoholic Beverages

Beer, 12 oz: 155 calories

Lite Beer, 12 oz: 102 calories

Champagne flute: 100 calories 

Wine Cooler, 12 oz: 230 calories

Wine, 5 oz: 125 calories

Wine Spritzer: (3 oz wine & 3 0z club soda) 50 calories

1 oz of liquor: 65 calories

Add in 6 oz soda or juice: 135 calories

LI Iced Tea, 12 0z: 500 calories

Strawberry Daiquiri, 12 oz: 900 calories

Pina Colada, 12 oz: 600 calories

Mimosa, 1/2 o.j. & half champagne, 12 oz: 130 calories

Classic Margarita, 12 0z: 660 calories

MudSlide, 12 0z: 1,100 calories!

Cosmopolitan, 12 0z: 540 calories

Martinis, 6 oz of liquor: 600 calories

EggNog with alcohol, 8 oz: 400 calories & 14 gms of fat!

Kahlua, Amaretto, Schnapps, 1 oz: 120 calories

Baileys, 1 oz: 150 calories and 7 gms of fat! 

chrisspag Photo Courtesy of Chris Spagnuolo

I Could Go On Forever!

Look, the bottom line is: do you want to eat or drink your calories? Drink less of these and you can eat more, OR you can lose weight without really trying. I had a woman once that drank a gallon of cranberry juice a week! That equals an extra 880 calories and week, which can equate to a 1 pound weight gain every month, and an extra 12 pounds on that butt of yours at the end of the year.

I had another client that had 16 (SIXTEEN) cups of tea a day. Tea is harmless, right? Not when you put in 3 packets of sugar in each cup. 3 packets is equivalent to one slice of bread, so she was basically eating 16 slices of bread a day!

2 glasses of wine at night with dinner? An extra 1,750 calories a week and a 2 pound weight gain a month. (or loss if you stop drinking it!)

What about those bingeing weekends? 12 beers over the weekend? 1,860 calories. Finish off a bottle of wine yourself? 600 calories.

How about 4 beers and 2 shots of tequila? 750 calories. Throw in an order of wings and some potato skins? That brings your total to 1,550 calories for the evening, not including what you ate the rest of the day.


Love this from


High Calorie Cocktails vs. Fast Food

  • 10 oz Margarita – 550 Calories (4 oz. tequila, 4 oz. margarita/sour mix, 2 oz. triple sec, lime juice, 1 tsp. sugar)
  • 9 oz. Mai Tai – 620 Calories (3 oz. Light Rum, 2 oz. Dark Rum, 1 oz. Crème de Almond, 1 oz. Triple Sec, 1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix, 1 oz. Pineapple Juice)
  • 12 oz. Piña Colada – 586 Calories (3 oz. Rum, 3 oz. Coconut Cream, 6 oz. Pineapple Juice)
  • 6 oz. Mud Slide – 556 Calories (1.5 oz. Vodka, 1.5 oz. Kahlua, 1.5 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream, 1.5 oz. Half-and-Half)
  • 10 oz. Long Island Ice Tea – 543 Calories (1.5 oz Vodka, 1.5 oz Rum, 1.5 oz Tequila, 1.5 oz Gin, 1.5 oz Triple Sec, 2 oz Sweet and Sour, 0.5 oz Cola)


  • McDonald’s Big Mac®- 540 Calories
  • McDonald’s Large French Fries- 500 Calories
  • Pizza Hut 12 Inch Medium Pan Pepperoni Pizza (2 Slices)- 560 Calories
  • Wendy’s Double Cheeseburger- 620 Calories
  • Burger King’s Whopper® Sandwich- 670 Calories
  • Burger King’s King Sized Onion Rings- 500 Calories
  • Taco Bell Chicken Quesadilla- 520 Calories

Puts things in perspective, eh? Not much different.

chrisspagnuoloPhoto courtesy of Chris Spagnuolo

For those of you that don’t know me, I don’t drink alcohol. When I got heavily into weight training and changed my diet drastically, I didn’t want to waste my calories. I showed up to my cousin’s house one Easter, where Pina Coladas and strawberry daiquiris were making there way around the kitchen, as well as beers and straight liquor, and I just said no. It wasn’t hard to say no, I knew what my goals were, but the looks and comments everyone gave me: you’d think I told them I started eating flamingos for breakfast every morning. It took a good couple of rounds of questioning, but then it was over. I made it through the night and never turned back. Once a year I’ll have 1 beer or 1 wine cooler type-beverage, but then I always feel tired and sluggish later on, not to mention like crap the next morning. My next day is usually ruined, It’s not worth it for me anymore.

So, what do you think? What’s your drink of choice? What was the biggest shocker here? What changes will you be making?

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to Survive & Every Five Years

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Why You Won’t Lose Weight From Exercise Alone

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That Damn Growling Stomach

When you begin an exercise program, whether it be cardio, weights, or a class with a combo of both, your metabolism speeds up and your stomach never seems to stop growling. Sound familiar? Ever run a mile, come home, and your brain’s telling you to hit the fridge? Suddenly you’re starving and can’t seem to shut the voices up. Then you tell yourself: “Well, I just exercised so I should eat.” You pop a David’s Cookie in your mouth or one of your kid’s chocolate puddings and suddenly the 150 calories you burned off from your run was negated by an innocent pudding cup.

You run for a half hour, three days a week, with the same run/snack cycle and wonder why you haven’t lost any weight.

You sign your kids up for sports to help them become more active and stop the steady weight they’ve been putting on over the years, with the fear of obesity looming in their future, but instead of giving them a banana and water after their hour-workout, you feed them a 16oz Gatorade, Brownie Bites and a bag of chips. “But they exercised!” you say.

I won’t even get into the ones that pig out all day and then casually stroll around the block every evening after dinner.

Some people think if they exercise they can eat whatever they want.


“I worked out twice this week, so I have a free ticket to the all-you-can-eat buffet.” It doesn’t work that way and it doesn’t take that many calories to overcompensate for the gains you made through exercise.

I worked in a gym as a dietitian for two years. It was a one-on-one personal training gym where you could only work out with a trainer and most members came in 2 -3 times a week for their half hour training session, Then, once a week they came in to see me, get weighed and talk about what they ate over the week. After two years they never lost any weight. Most thought that since they worked out for the big 60 – 90 minutes a WEEK, they could continued to eat however they wanted. Other’s complained of being hungry and they were “Starving to DEATH!” Others (most of them) lied about what they were really eating and after weeks, or perhaps months, finally revealed the alcoholic beverages they drank, the undocumented juices, iced teas, and sodas they consumed, the late night snacking, the hot dogs they grabbed on the way to catch the train home from work, the portions-sizes they were really eating, and the ‘rewards’ they gave themselves every week (day) for working out.

These were educated individuals. Doctors, lawyers, professors, accountants, etc.

Working out 1 hour a week (in a 168-hour week) does NOT make up for the sabotage you did the other 165 hours. If you want to lose weight, stop kidding yourself and lying to your friends and family. You cannot drink alcohol. You cannot skip meals and then make up for it later by binging. You cannot eat ‘good’ all week and then pig out non-stop all weekend, you cannot have a banana for breakfast and then a Big Mac for lunch.

You cannot treat yourself to that ‘one’ piece of cheesecake, that ‘one’ Taco Bell meal, that ‘one’ Dunkin Donut Pumpkin Muffin, that ‘one’ Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Creme, that ‘one’ piece of cake for your co-workers birthday, that ‘one’ happy hour with five beers, wings and potato skins, and that ‘one’ dinner out with your loved one complete with drinks, appetizers, and dessert, BECAUSE at the end of the week, those ‘ones’ become “tens.”

girl named dharon on Plinview moms can cook

You need to make the commitment to change everything. Eat healthy all the time and exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be tortuous. You don’t have to give up everything you love. You don’t have to suffer, and cry and whine like a three-year-old. You’ve had many days, months, and I’m sure, YEARS of overindulging, not exercising, partying way too much, and look where it has gotten you.

Stop making excuses.

  1. Join a gym and find something there you enjoy doing. It’s a measly half hour a day. Go early, late, after work, on your lunch hour. FIND the TIME!
  2. Throw out all the junk in your house. Stop buying it. No one needs it. If they don’t like it, tough. It’s your money, your house, tell the kids to get their own apartments and your spouse too.
  3. Drop your portions by a third (at least).
  4. Find foods and recipes you all love. No one said you had to eat powdered food, packaged TV dinner-type lunches, bean sprouts, cardboard-tasteless meals, or boring snacks. Look up recipes and use your imagination. There is a plethora of foods you can now sample at every type of supermarket.
  5. Ditch all those crappy carbs already!  What are we, four-years-old?
  6. Eat more fruits and veggies. Stop saying you hate them. This is not your mom’s canned peas or your grandmothers creamed spinach. There are a million varieties and ways you can eat them. Like Fresh. And raw. And right off the vine/tree.
  7. If you MUST eat take-out, cause you can’t pour yourself a nutritious bowl of cereal with berries when you get home late from work, then use your common sense and choose the healthier options offered. And get “small.” Not large. Not Super-size. Small. You are feeding yourself, not the extra fifty-pounds on you. Stop feeding it. It’s becoming a whole other person. Starve it.
  8. Reward yourself with non-food items. Like how about praise, and compliments, and self-confidence, and power and strength. You want to feel good about yourself? Stop wallowing in self-pity and give people a reason to look up to you, ask you how you did it, come to you for advice, and damn, let them be a little jealous. Maybe you can turn around and help them one day. Be their Inspiration.




So, what do you think? Are we going to do it this year, or what? Let me know.

I love hearing from you!

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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