Using a food diary as part of your armoury can be the missing link of any exercise and nutrition program and can be a very powerful tool when utilised properly and honestly.
Believe it or not, one of the most common causes of failure in exercise and weight loss programs is simply the fact that the person is just eating too much food or eating the wrong types of food or even “crashing out” at regular times each day.
For the majority of us, the overall stance on losing weight is very simple when you really strip it down and that is just the equation of calories in versus calories out.
Put more specifically, the body burns calories 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and the only thing that changes is the rate of calorie burn. This rate is determined by the activity the person is currently undertaking but rest assured that even while watching TV or sleeping, the natural functions of your body are causing calorie burn!
Therefore in theory, as long as we do not consume more calories from our daily food and drink than we burn off, weight loss is virtually guaranteed. By adding exercise to the mix you can obviously increase the differential between calories in and calories out.
So now we know a little bit more about calories let’s get to this food diary!
You would probably be surprised to learn that just about all of us underestimate exactly how much food and drink we consume each day. Sometimes by as much as 50%! Normally, we just think about our main meals and tend to forget the little bits and pieces here and there like a cookie, a can of soda or beer with dinner or perhaps a slice of cake from the office party at work!
When you keep a food dairy and providing you are totally honest with yourself, it will easily and clearly identify problem foods you are eating or drinking, problems days, problem parts of the day or specific meals that are going against you. You may see a general over eating pattern or you may just find that your afternoon snack is the main cause of your weight woes! For some reason, alcohol seems to be the most common item left out of food diaries!
The best way to get a real feel for how you are going is to keep your food diary religiously and 100% strictly, leaving nothing out that passes your lips for a period of two weeks. It is also very important to eat and drink as you would normally and not just be good while you are recording your food – kind of defeats the purpose don’t you think?!
You can write it all down in a notebook, keep it in a file on your lap top or PC or actually use a small diary. Whatever method is easiest for you to fully note down everything you consume in a day.
What I feel is the absolute best way however and the method I use, is to take a photo using my mobile phone camera of everything I consume. The great part of this is that I just about always have my phone with me and therefore it is quick and easy to simply pull it out and snap! No writing, no note books etc. Just before I go to bed, I cycle through my photos for the day and see what was good, what was bad and what can I learn from it all.
This method is also fantastic if you are co-ordinating your efforts with a personal trainer, nutritionist or dietician where it is sometimes hard to fully answer their questions on what exactly you eat and in what portions.
The crucial point is to ensure you take note of ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. More often than not, it is the little things like one cupcake or a few lollies, an alcoholic nightcap or that donut at morning tea that we don’t include yet these are our calorie rich enemies!
So overall, a food diary can be a really powerful tool in keeping your nutritional choices in check and making sure you stay on the right path. The critical factor is being totally honest with yourself and recording everything during that two week analysis stage.
Upon the completion of your two weeks, have a thorough review of all the information you have accumulated and then make the necessary changes. This will go a long way in ensuring you have the best chance of achieving your fitness and weight loss goals!