Are Food Diaries Worth It?

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There seems to be this misconception that the best way to get someone to lose weight is to radically change their exercise patterns. To have them workout more, join a gym, use the stairs instead of a lift, go for a walk in the morning before work, participate in an exercise class etc etc.

All of those things are fantastic for health, fitness and mental wellness, but no so much for weight loss.
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You might have tried it before with some success, only to have the wheels fall off when some unexpected event happened and you slid back into your old routines.

It’s not surprising – piling on so much change in such a short period of time, especially HARD change, could never be a sustainable long term solution.

A BETTER OPTION?
7 years ago, a group working for the National Institutes of Health tried something different. They initiated a study with 1,600 obese people and asked them to do just one thing.

Write down everything they eat at least one day per week.

Just once.

Some did a good job, some did not.

Many went on to record what they were eating on a more frequent basis.

Six months into the study, the people who kept daily food records had lost twice as much weight as everyone else.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Why is that you may ask?

Is it because they recorded their calories and started to adjust them?

Were they tracking their macros?

Nope.

Something much deeper happened.​​​​​​​​​​

They noticed patterns. They brought daily behaviours and habits they missed to life. They took the abstract and made it real.

In a world of distraction, we tend to move from task to task.

Eat when your hungry.

If there’s no food prepped, just grab something.

(hell, I know you don’t have the time to prep something WHEN you’re hungry, plus you’re probably too hangry to anyway)

And it’s in recognizing th​​​​​​​​​​​​ose habits and those patterns that real change can begin.

IT GETS RIGHT UP IN YOUR GRILL
One of the participants said;

“After a while, the journal got inside my head. I started thinking about meals differently. It have me a system fro thinking about food without becoming too depressed”​​​​

Others told stories of how they started looking at patterns and finding entries they never knew existed. And once they knew there was a regular 10am snack, instead of fighting it, they prepared in advance by having some healthy snacks on hand.

None of this was suggested to the participants. They figured it out themselves.

It gave them a structure to flourish.​​​​​​

Food journals are a tool. They’re a way to take the abstract (your thoughts and notions about how you’re eating) and make them real (actual data on a page). That data can then be analysed, and changes made.

BUT even without the analysis, unconsciously you’ll start to make better food choices.

You’ll put your nutrition on auto pilot.

You’ll potentially lose twice as much weight as someone who doesn’t do it.

All without having to count a bloody macro, or post a picture of your dinner on instagram.

Start now. Record your weight. Keep a food diary for the entire month of January.​​​​​​​​​​​​ Reasses on Feb 1st.

Even if you didn’t elicit unconscious change with a food diary, you’d still need it simply as an assessment tool for calorie targets and change 🙂

CLOSING OFF…
Aside from all that, if you’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a period of time to lose weight, you need a ‘baseline’ food diary t0 know how many kcals you’re eating now, because;

– if you’re not eating enough kcals cutting more to diet won’t work, you’ll have to;

– gradually build back up kcals and develop a sense of normal eating behaviours and patterns ahead of ‘dieting’, because;

– if you cut out MORE calories, your body will freak the hell out, rob you of your last bit of energy, and;

– seek to protect itself by giving you unbearable cravings for food in ridiculous amounts while will lead to;

– you regaining all the weight you’ve lost, and adding it back with more interest than a dodgy credit card

PS – the entire period from December 23rd to today has basically been a write off for me with xmas, weddings, a stag and illness – that’s why you haven’t heard form me in a while

More on that in a few days

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.