MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – The school year is approaching, and soon many students will be asked to write about their summer vacations or academic goals. Journaling doesn’t have to be reserved just for the classroom. Many TOPS members choose to keep a food journal to help them monitor their eating habits and reach healthy lifestyle goals. Whether you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, journals can help you slow down and take a serious look at the details of your diet. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offers tips to create a well-rounded food journal.
Reasons to Journal
A food journal is an effective tool to keep track of how much you’re consuming and what you’re eating. For instance, you may notice you don’t consume enough calories at lunch or tend to eat junk food primarily at night. Once you draw these conclusions, you can take the information to form a food plan, adjust habits, acknowledge areas that need improvement, and identify activities or emotions that derail healthy habits.
Food journals can also raise awareness and accountability. People may think, “One hot fudge sundae won’t hurt,” but once they review their food choices for the day or week, it soon becomes obvious how it all adds up. It can help individuals make informed, mindful decisions when temptations arise or they’re deciding what to eat.
What to Record
Whether you use a notebook or computer to log your food and beverage choices, it’s important to include as much information as possible throughout the day. This will give you a complete snapshot of your habits and situation.
1. Include your goals. Write down your ultimate goal. Then break it down into manageable pieces, including monthly, weekly, and daily objectives. Read them often to serve as a reminder and help you stay focused. Also, use S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely), such as “I will eat two cups of raw vegetables each day.”
2. Record everything you eat and drink immediately. Be honest. No one is going to see it but you. When logging your food and drinks, make sure to include sauces, gravies, salad dressings, and other condiments. It’s also important to write down the information right away because you may forget what you consumed later, or you may be less likely to continue journaling.
3. Write down the time of day you eat and the activities you’re doing. Keeping track of when you eat helps you understand how much time you typically have between meals, how often you eat, and if you’re consuming late-night snacks. It’s also beneficial to note what you’re doing when you eat or drink – driving, watching television, or sitting at your desk. This will help you identify patterns and types of food associated with activities and create a plan to combat bad habits.
4. Describe your thoughts and feelings. Are you feeling bored, tired, sad, happy, or nervous before or while you’re eating? How do you feel after you eat – full of energy or sluggish? Monitoring how you feel before, during, and after will help you determine moods that trigger emotional eating and how your eating tendencies make you feel after. It’s helpful to understand how food affects you physically and mentally.
5. Reflect on your challenges and successes. Jotting down notes about difficult situations or areas where you’re struggling will help you identify what the problem is and how you have been dealing with it (i.e. eating). Then, if the situation occurs again, you’ll be prepared to react in a healthy way. Along with challenges, write down successes, big or small. You can revisit these successes for inspiration and motivation.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 64 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.SM ” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information. TOPS has about 170,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $28 per year in the U.S. and $32 per year in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call 1-800-932-8677.
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