When I worked one-on-one with clients, I had one rule: Write everything down or you’re fired. Harsh though it sounds, tracking everything from food intake to body measurements ensured fat loss success, created accountability, and eliminated potential weight loss resistance barriers.
Researchers validate my rule. One study, from Kaiser Permanente's The Center for Health Research (CHR), involving nearly 1,700 participants and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found people who wrote everything down lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.
You read that correctly. “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” says Jack Hollis, PhD, lead author of the study.
If a supplement or superfood made that claim, you would line up around the block to buy it, right?
Journaling works because you can only change what you measure. You won’t have any idea where you’ve ended up if you don’t know where you started, and you won't know why either. This is the same concept that applies to implementing a successful budget - you have to first track every penny you spend in order to identify where you can save.
Maybe you’re doing everything correctly but your weekly measurements don’t reveal progress. You can go back and say, “Hey, am I eating sneaky sugars? Are gluten or other food intolerances slipping into my meals? Am I eating too much?”
Journaling can provide a harsh reality check. “I can’t believe I ate that much,” clients confessed. Others would only want to show me the good days. “You don’t want to see Wednesday,” one said, “It started off well, and then…” Nope, I want to see the good and bad days.
A few said, “Oh, I just keep my intake in my head. I don’t have time to write everything down.”
Again, no. If you tried to play a speed round of what you had for meals over the last week and a half, how do you think you’d do? Not a chance of remembering, right? That’s how we get ourselves into trouble. We don’t see the big picture, and how meal after meal, day after day, sneaky sugar, food intolerances, and other problem foods creep in.
But glance at that little journal, and there’s no missing that you haven’t eaten enough today (that’s why you don’t have any energy!), you went too long between meals (that’s why you have a headache!), or you didn’t drink enough water and you were hungrier than ever. You zero in and eliminate the culprit.
Food is information. Your fork is the most powerful way to impact your weight, your mood, your energy, your joint pain, and the rate you age. A journal simplifies connecting the dots between what you eat and how you feel.
How you track this is up to you. Some people like smartphone or laptop apps, but a pen and paper will work just fine.
Dive deep here beyond food intake and write down your sleep, stress levels, supplement intake, meal timing, and whatever factors tracking can help you improve. The more effort you invest, the more rewarding your journey will become.
If you’ve kept a journal, did you find tracking food intake and other measures initially difficult? Ultimately, did you find journaling helped you better reach your goals? Please share your experiences by commenting below.