When Food Logs Fail

I started a food log back before it was cool. Once I hit my maximum weight in my early college years, I took matters into my own hands and started a food log and exercise program. I had a spiral notebook my Junior Year (that was probably intended to be used for Chemistry class) where I wrote down everything I ate – from fat free ranch dressing (yuck) to tuna sandwiches with fat free cheese (double yuck). I remember it like it was yesterday. Today I’m a little more sophisticated and use MyFitnessPal to keep my diet in check.

I’ve tried to cheat on my log more times than I can count… until I finally realized I wasn’t cheating my log, I was cheating myself. Just because you have access to a food log does not mean it will serve you. Here are the three common missteps of logging, and why your practice might be failing you:

  1. YOU ONLY LOG ON GOOD DAYS: If you are eating very nutritious food that is right in line with your fitness goals, it is easy to put a pen to paper or your fingers to your keyboard. Who doesn’t want to see that they’ve had a GREAT food day. What about the other days of the week? The days when you indulged on a night out, at a happy hour, brunch, birthday party, festival…. or simply got stressed out and self-medicated with food? These are the days when you MUST log. Is it harder documenting serving sizes during a day long binge or a night out? Yes! Is it harder than stepping on a scale and seeing that your weight went up? NO!!!!!! Log it all- every bite, nibble, and sip. Do your best – that is all you can do.
  2. YOU ONLY LOG CERTAIN MEALS: NEWS FLASH:  Calories count regardless of what time of the day you eat them. So if you log your breakfast and lunch and don’t log your dinner and snacks, what’s the point? (Stop me if you’ve heard this…) Log it all – every bite, nibble, and sip.
  3. YOU DON’T MEASURE YOUR FOOD: Correctly eyeballing serving sizes is a skill few of us have mastered. I’m not saying that you need to carry around measuring cups with you wherever you go, but I would recommend that when you have the tools available you use them to educate yourself on what portions you are taking. I guarantee you that a “cup of chili” is far smaller than you think it is. And I also guarantee you that one serving of almonds may require you to pull your magnifying glass out. Knowledge is power – educate yourself!

Need a reminder of why a Food Log can be an integral part of a weight loss program? Several studies have shown that people who keep food journals are more likely to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off than those who don’t. One study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who kept a food diary six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records for one day a week or less.