You know what I think I’m good at? Remembering stuff.
You know what I’m really bad at? Remembering stuff.
If my head wasn’t attached to my body I’d probably lose it. Seriously, my days are so congested and busy now I’m surprised that I can remember my name.
Like you, it’s one reason I keep track of appointments, most important tasks (M.I.T’s), ideas, and other notes in a daily agenda notebook I picked up at CVS.
Writing these things down creates awareness.
Why do we do this? Why do we keep make checklists, to do lists, and keep track of things we feel are important each day?
It’s because we want to make sure we get shit done, are productive, and it’s comforting to write these things down so we won’t forget. It helps us to measure progress.
If you’re already keeping a daily log then you’re going to have a leg up on today’s article.
I want to talk about the ins and outs of creating a food log.
Want to make unbelievable progress in creating LimitlessFITNESS? Then keep a food log. This isn’t necessarily something you need to do for the rest of your life but for a month, a week, or at least a couple of days here an there. It will really open up your eyes to how you’re treating you body on a daily basis.
Side note: Rumor has it that there’s a Limitless365 drinking game. Every time I write “daily basis” you’re suppose to take a sip… hopefully of a protein shake 🙂
Saddle up. It’s showtime
Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones, Dr. Forgetful Jones
I sit down with someone to talk nutrition a few times a week. The first thing that just about EVERYONE tells me is that they eat “pretty good.”
I always ask them to prove it to me.
At this moment I always get a cock-eyed expression of confusion.
“How? What do you mean?” They usually say.
Show me what you ate yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. Let me see your food log or the pictures of the meals that you took.
“I don’t have a log or any pictures but I can tell you.”
Unless you write these things down as they are happening there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to forget about the 10 minutes you were picking at a donut in the break room, the quick handful of M&M’s you snagged walking by your desk, the glass of OJ you downed as you rushed off to work, or the nuts and seeds you sprinkled on your salad last night for dinner.
With so many distractions in today’s society it’s easy to forget stuff.
There have been countless times where I have the absolute best idea for an article to write for Limitless365 or Ultimate Paleo Guide. It’s so awesome that I think there is no way in the world I’ll forget about it – it’s just too good.
I get home that night and scratch my noodle wondering what the heck that article idea was earlier int he day.
Jeremy Dean over at Psyblog gives a great example of this (Foresight bias).
Everyone must have experienced this. You have an idea that is so great you think it’s impossible you’ll ever forget it. So you don’t bother writing it down. Within ten minutes you’ve forgotten it and it never comes back.
Why Log Your Food?
The biggest reason is it provides you with insight and information as to what the heck you’re actually doing everyday – it creates awareness.
As my friends over at PN say, it’s about collecting facts about how you eat every single day.
It gives you CSI style evidence of what you’re putting or not putting in to your body. This evidence can help you figure out things such as:
- Why you’re not losing body fat
- Why you’re putting on weight even though you feel you’re eating less
- Why you’re not adding any muscle even though you feel you’re eating more
- Why you feel exhausted
- Why when you eat something in particular you feel bloated, tired, or anxious.
- If you choose better foods on certain days than others
- If you tend to eat poorly with certain people and better with others.
And this is just the…. wait for it (big cliché)… tip of the iceberg as to what you might discover when recording what you eat.
When you know the whats, whens, hows, and whys of your eating habits it becomes easier to make adjustments that will help you achieve the results you’re after. #boom
Simply put, it makes improving your nutrition easy-peezy.
Does A Food Log Even Work?
You bet your sweet ass it does. I’ve had clients, friends, and family members do a food log for me for just 2-weeks. Many of them end up losing weight and body fat just from this.
When you commit to creating awareness about what you’re putting into your body each day you’re less likely to put in the junk.
“I had a piece of pizza in my hand but I didn’t want to write it down in my log so I passed on it.”
A food log is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Even better if you have to turn it into someone who you really respect. As humans we hate being judged and being judged on the foods that we eat is no exception.
There are also many studies that show how tracking your food intake can lead to better health, weight loss, and compliance to a healthier eating plan.
In one study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine over 1,600 overweight or obese adults 25 years of age or older were encouraged to eat healthier and log their food intake for 6 months.
After 6 months an average of 13 pounds was lost among those participating. The study revealed that the biggest indicator of weight loss was how many days per week they logged their food.
Those that recorded what they ate 6 days per week nearly doubled the weight loss of those that did not.
One of the researchers had this to say about the study:
“I think the most powerful part is accountability and the next most powerful part is increasing awareness of where those extra calories are coming from.”
Showing your food diary to someone else is even better, in terms of accountability; that’s what participants in Stevens’ study did. “You’re accountable to yourself when you’re writing it down and you’re accountable to other people who are looking at your food record.” (1)
Combine this with an exercise log and you might just be on the path to LimitlessFITNESS.
How Do I Create A Kick Ass Food Log?
Ok, so how the heck can you create a LimitlessFOOD Log?
A couple of things to keep in mind before committing to doing this.
1. Your food log should be simple, useful, quick, and easy to get to. If it isn’t you’ll be far less likely to write everything that you’re eating every day.
You can use apps or take pictures and store them on your phone or in Evernote. But I like to buy a simple Mead notebook that will fit in my pocket. There’s something about writing it down that generates a bit more awareness for me. Plus, I don’t have to log into anything.
2. Get ready to have your mind blown. I’m serious, you’re head may just explode from the amount of awareness that you’re about to create. It’s going to be insane!
Alright, now that you have your method to the madness decided on and you’re ready for your mind to be blown lets cover the steps for creating a food log that dominates.
Step 1: Write down the date and day of the week. Seems obvious right but don’t skip this step. You may end up noticing a pattern of making poor food choices on a particular day of the week.
Step 2: Commit to writing down what you’re eating right away. Remember what we talked about earlier (if you don’t then definitely write what you eat right away 🙂 )? Just because you’re positive you’ll remember to write EXACTLY what you ate for breakfast later tonight doesn’t mean you actually will.
Pull out that notebook and jot down exactly what you’re eating as you’re eating it.
Step 3: List everything that you’re eating and drinking. If you grab a single M&M, take a sip of OJ, or even pick your nose and eat that – write it down!
Big tip: People often forget to write what they drink every day. For some reason we tend to forget about these calories. Also, don’t forget to include anything you add to those drink. Creamer in your coffee? Sugar in your tea? Drizzles of honey?
Step 4: Get specific and as detailed as possible. This doesn’t mean recording exact calories, protein, carbs, fat, or how much sodium is in what you’re eating (more why not in a minute).
I’m talking about portions and ingredients.
I’ve made the mistake of not being clear with clients on this before and I’ll end up getting back a food log that says something like this.
- Breakfast: Omelette
- Lunch: Turkey Sandwich
- Dinner: Lasagana
- Snack: Nuts, cheese, and apple
I have no how much was eaten, how many eggs were used in the omelet or if anything else was in it, etc…
A better example would be something like this:
- Breakfast, 7:21am: 3 eggs, about a fist of mixed veggies (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower), 1 ounce of swiss cheese, and a glass of water
- Lunch, 12:45pm: 2 slices of Ezekiel bread, 1 hand sized serving of smoked turkey, 4 tomato slices, and a large handful of romaine lettuce. One unsweetened iced tea.
- Dinner, 6:49pm: 2 pieces of lasagna about the size of 3 decks of cards stacked up. 1 cup of steamed broccoli with salt and pepper dashed on top.
- Snack, 3:02pm: 1 apple the size of my hand, 2 slices of pepper jack cheese the sizes of my thumb, and a handful of almonds
Should I log anything else?
It’s definitely a good idea to record some other information but only if it doesn’t drive you crazy and keep you from logging the most important stuff – Food quality and quantity.
- How hungry you were before the meal (use a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being so hungry you’d eat your own arm).
- The time of day you started your meal and finished it. Throwing down food in record time can disrupt digestion, affect blood sugar, and not allow your brain and belly connect to let you know you’re not hungry and more.
- Any supplements or medication you took with the meal.
- Where you were and with whom you ate the meal. You may find that when around certain people or when at certain locations you are more likely to make better or worse food choices.
- Your mood, feelings, and energy levels before and after a meal. Here you may discover that certain foods, how fast you ate, or other things may lead to fatigue, digestive issues, or not feeling satisfied. For me, writing my feelings and mood before, during, and after a meal has been extremely eye-opening. Mood can dramatically affect your food choices. Studies have shown that good moods can cue better food choices. While negative moods can lead you to crave short-term rewards and lead to poorer food choices (the I want sugar, salt, fat effect).
- If you plan on keeping a food log for two weeks or longer try taking your weight and body girth measurements to see if any physical changes occur just from logging your food.
- Evaluate your log at the end of the week. What went right, what went wrong, what changes can you make this upcoming week that will make doing the good things easier?
Final Food Log Thoughts
Just a reminder that your food log isn’t suppose to me a pain in the ass – you shouldn’t hate or despise doing it. Tracking anything, whether it be your food, workouts, or spending is about evaluating the current system that you use. It’s a way to see if you actions and behaviors actually match up to what you say are you want to do.
A food log isn’t meant to make you feel bad about yourself or to compare with what someone else is doing. This is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself and your lifestyle and how your food choices affect your life and how your life also affects your food choices.
I’ll leave you with this. John D. Rockefeller was know as one of the most successful and wealthiest business persons of our time. He is well known for his detailed tracking of his spending – down to a single penny he owed someone.
If you want to make changes, improve, and find out what’s working and what’s not – why not find out. Be like John D and record your meals for a while. One month, two weeks, or maybe just 3 days.
The things that we assess get improved.
Have you ever created a food log? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
P.S: Are you interested in burning body fat and building lean muscle? Join the other members of the LimitlessBODY Coaching and track your progress using our unique habit tracking software.
P.P.S: Thank you to James Clear for inspiring todays article. His post about hacking the workout journal was my mojo.
Hollis, J. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2008; vol 35.
Victor J. Stevens, PhD, senior investigator, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Ore.
News release, Kaiser Permanente.