When you are trying to lose weight, mindless snacking can hinder your goals. Most dietitians and nutritionists would agree that food tracking, or journaling, is a foolproof method to keep you on the right track and help you control your eating habits. In fact, recent research has shown that using digital tools and trackers, such as MyFitnessPal™, the FitBit®, the Apple Watch, or similar apps and websites, can help with weight loss success. True You Weight Loss actually sees better outcomes in patients who track their food, activity, and weight on a consistent basis versus those who do not.
“Food tracking not only helps with accountability, but it reveals when you need to eat less or, in some cases, more,” explained Laura Sebring, MS, RD, LDN, lead bariatric and weight loss dietitian and nutritionist at True You Weight Loss. “By actually seeing what you are eating, you can better command your weight loss journey.”
Food journaling is most critical in the first few weeks or months of any weight loss journey. Here are some tips from Laura on journaling success.
- Log Everything as You Go: Track every single thing you eat daily, including your beverages. Alcohol counts, too. Even track the things you don’t want to admit you ate. Additionally, track real-time, as you eat. Don’t predict and don’t wait until later when details can be forgotten.
- Be Honest With Yourself: Food journals must be accurate to work. By not including certain foods or drinks because you feel embarrassed or disappointed, you will only hurt yourself and damage your progress.
- Learn Your Macronutrients: Weight loss is much more about macronutrients than counting calories. Macronutrients (macros) are the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats your body needs to function, and how your body responds to them is important for weight loss. Food tracking apps will also track macros, so observe how your intake of proteins, carbs, and fats is affecting your weight and hunger. Then, work with your dietitian to adjust accordingly.
- Be Aware of Habits: Review your food journal regularly to be more aware of your habits and how they correlate with your weight. Where might you need to add or take away? For example, if your weight loss has stalled and you notice you are eating a lot of cheese, remove some cheese from your diet.
- Learn How to Measure: Use a food scale, measuring cup, and measuring spoons to measure and track the right amount of food. Don’t guess or estimate, and don’t over- or underreport. Using only the true measurement will make your efforts effective.
- Learn Serving Sizes: Learning about and following recommendations for appropriate portions and serving sizes is a benefit of food tracking that can help you eat properly for the rest of your life.
- Try Different Tracking Apps: Try different food tracking apps until you find one that works best for you, such as MyFitnessPal™, LoseIt!, or MyNetDiary. However, don’t use the daily calorie count that your app suggests. Get a personalized count from your dietitian. And if you don’t like to track online, use paper. Any type of food journaling is better than nothing at all.
- Track Your Activity: Log your daily activity and exercise as well. Challenge yourself to see a steady streak of activity or notice when your levels are low. Extra exercise can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
- Track Mood and Hunger Level: Pay attention to your mood while tracking each day. Are you feeling faint, sad, happy, satisfied, “mentally” hungry, or are you hearing your stomach rumble? When you notice patterns, make changes where necessary.
- When You Stall or Gain, Start Tracking Again: After losing some weight and becoming more comfortable with your new eating habits, it’s normal and healthy to track your food more infrequently. However, if weight loss stalls or you start gaining, take that as a cue to get back on track and begin detailed tracking again.