Why Use a Weight Loss Journal?
Keeping a weight loss journal can help you learn a lot about yourself in terms of what you eat, how much you exercise, and why you engage in certain activities.
Journaling the meals that you eat helps you to avoid unconscious eating. That is, eating that leads to consuming excess calories, beyond what you may have ever intended to consume. In fact, research actually shows that keeping a weight loss journal will help you not only lose weight but keep the weight off once it's gone! As you journal your meals, pay attention to the nutritional breakdown of the foods you've eaten each day - including calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
In addition to keeping track of your foods, journaling your moods (such as stress, boredom, or anger) can help you pinpoint problem areas during your day, which in some cases may serve as triggers to overeating. Once you understand the problem, you can find a solution that does not involve opening the cookie jar or the box of chocolates.
Triggers are specific situations, feelings, or foods that lead us to overeat. Different people have different triggers. For some people, being alone or bored is a trigger, for others it's stress. For some people, a trigger might be attending a party or other social event. No matter what your individual triggers are, they can be powerful and they can get in the way of your successful weight loss. If you have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight before, one of the things that most likely prevented your success was that you never learned to identify or control the trigger foods, situations and feelings that cause unconscious overeating.
Everyone's triggers are different. However, there are some common ones:
- Trigger foods typically include candy, chocolate, ice cream, potato chips, fries, etc.
- Trigger feelings are often anger, stress, loneliness, guilt, anxiety, rejection, boredom, and helplessness.
- Trigger situations commonly include watching TV, going to the movies (and eating buttered popcorn!), talking on the phone, doing homework, sitting at the computer, reading, visiting a relative, being home alone, or having unannounced visitors!
In your weight loss journal, write down everything you eat throughout the day, how you feel when you eat it, and what the circumstances are when you eat. All of this information will really help you identify any triggers that cause you to either overeat, or to eat unhealthy foods that you want to avoid. The realities are that certain foods, especially eaten at certain places or while experiencing certain feelings, have the power to control you. Don't let them!
Use your weight loss journal as a way to identify the triggers, decide that you are not going to be controlled by them, and then stop responding to them. For example, if you have a problem with eating popcorn at the movies, you don't have to stop eating popcorn. What you want to do is to recognize the association of eating popcorn with going to the movies and plan ahead. Before going to the movies, decide either that you are not going to eat popcorn, opting instead for a healthier snack before arriving, or that you are going to get the smallest size popcorn offered, with NO butter!
And last, but certainly not least, remember to log your exercise in your weight loss journal. Journaling your physical activity can be extremely helpful in identifying what works, what you enjoy, and what may be making it difficult to reach your goals. Keep track of your schedule, the time that you have to exercise, how you feel before and after you finish, and what keeps you motivated. You're certain to learn a lot about your fitness needs, and if you find yourself in a weight loss plateau, you'll be able to identify what needs changing to get out of it.
Your weight loss program does not just consist of what and how much you eat. It also requires that you make a conscious choice to change life-long habits. Keeping a weight loss journal tracking your food intake, your moods, and your exercise activity is a great way to identify what is working and what you might need to change to ensure your weight loss success!