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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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5 Thoughts on “Food Journals: Why They Might Just Be the Ticket to Your Success

  1. Marcia on January 22, 2015 at 9:10 pm said:

    I love this idea! I go back and forth from eating healthy foods and eating too many sweets. I’m looking forward to trying this. I’m not overweight, but I had gestational diabetes so I’m always worried about getting diabetes. But I love sweet! A diary will help me cut back. Thanks.

  2. Great info. Lucky me I came across your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

  3. Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great content on our site.
    Keep up the great writing.

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