The Surprising, Life Changing Reason you Need to Keep a Food Journal

8 Jun

I’m a convert. I just did a 180 in my attitude toward food journaling. I did NOT want to do it, but now I’ll sing praises of its merits from the roof-tops.

PLEASE KEEP READING! I WAS JUST LIKE YOU!

Nearly every doctor, dietician, and trainer I talked with about weight loss told me to start a food journal. My reaction was the same each time they’d talk about it. I would nod my head the whole time, not in the “I agree” vigorous motion, but the slower, glassy-eyed, “I’m only pretending to listen so you’ll leave me alone even though I know you’re right,” kind of way.

Stop Nodding!!

I tell you, I’m on your side. I get it. Here are the three reasons I didn’t want to keep a food journal:

1)It’s a lot of work.

2)I knew what it would say and that it’d be ugly.

3)It’s a lot of work.

These are fantastic reasons when you don’t really want to make a change. If you’re in this boat, I urge you to read my last post found here: http://www.realmenshowleg.com/tough-love/.

Good Technology

I know there are many arguments about how technology has not benefitted society. I know a lot of folks these days say they long for the simple times of old. I’m not one of them. Simplicity is a high virtue in my mind, but I say it’s still out there and available for those with the courage to buck cultural norms.

In my case technology has saved the day. I was in the throes of despair again about the prospect of food journaling one day when I thought, “There’s got to be an app for that.” Turns out there is… are. Lots of them. I got the one that looked the most user-friendly and polished. I got the myplate app by www.livestrong.com.

My iPad goes everywhere with me. I’ve ceased to be ashamed by how much time I spend on it. I’m thinking about having it surgically attached somehow. Leave a comment below if you have ideas for me about how to do that. Duct tape might be a good secondary option.

Your smart phone probably goes everywhere with you, no? Put that data plan or wifi to good use and log your food. All you do is search from a HUGE list of foods and adjust your portion sizes. Starbucks lattes? Yep. Your neighbor’s chihuahua/husky cross-breed? Probably. It’s got EVERYTHING in the database. As I write this I’m challenging myself to find some obscure food brand that isn’t included. So far I haven’t.

The app does the rest. It tells you how many calories you should consume to meet your weight loss, gain, or sustain goals. On the top of the app it shows a bar with how many calories you have left for the day. As you log the food you’ve eaten, that number goes down. You can track weight and there is a detailed break-down of the nutrients you’ve eaten when you’re synched to www.livestrong.com. There is a category for water and you get an appropriate amount of calories added when you perform a particular exercise.

Burnout

The technology and interface will dazzle you. The weight loss will thrill you. Then you’ll get sick of doing it. This took me 2.5 weeks. I stopped. I gained a couple of pounds back. I started again and I’m going strong because I see a deeper impact than I expected to food journaling.

The Surprising, Life-Changing Reason you NEED to Count Calories

I’m like a really terrible anorexic. Before I started food journaling and counting calories I was a slave to guilt. I never knew how much food I needed and I always assumed I was eating too much. I was never really free to enjoy the gift that is food, but I was never free to abstain from over-indulgence either. I was a mess.

The Truth Hurts

Sure I learned where I over-indulged with food. I found I that I didn’t drink enough water. I discovered that I didn’t eat enough protein and ate WAY too many carbs.

SPOILER ALERT: You’ll find the same is true of you. Us Americans love our carbs. Carbs are good by the way. Carbs are your main energy source, but you don’t need that many unless you’re training. This is another good reason to exercise. If you want more carbs, you’ve got to earn ‘em.

In Control

Suddenly an amazing thing happened as I started to face the sordid reality of my eating hobbits: I stopped eating hobbits. Okay, had too much fun with that typo, I mean: I started feeling free. Free from guilt and shame over my eating. I enjoy my food so much more now. I have less stress because I’m in control of my caloric intake level. I still make bad decisions, but I log them anyway.

I Ate This

The MyPlate app has a brilliantly labelled button that says “I Ate This” to finalize the food you’ve just entered into your journal. It works both ways. When you’re ashamed of eating that HUGE pack of dots it is a confession that unburdens your soul. It is also a celebration of a healthy food choice. “I ate this and I’m proud of it!”

Twenty-something males may get out of hand with this button in their all-you-can-eat pizza eating contests. Maybe if they had this app they’d stick to Halo all-nighters.

For me, I’ll keep hitting that button roughly thirty times a day on my ever-present iPad friend. It’s still work, but it feels vaguely like a game to me and guess what? I’m winning.

**For the record, since logging calories I’ve lost three pounds and I have about twenty-five to go to reach my optimal racing weight. Just wanted you to know that I’m still there fighting it out in the trenches with you. Even after I lose the weight (and I will) I commit to leaving no man (or woman) behind in this fight.

2 Responses to “The Surprising, Life Changing Reason you Need to Keep a Food Journal”

  1. Todd July 9, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    All-night Halo sessions are fueled by chips and delivery pizza. And soda…

    I’ve been meaning to log food again but always feel burdened by doing it. Does MyPlate handle homemade food alright?

    • Brandon July 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      Todd, it’s got a lot of common dishes (like spaghetti, lasagna, stir fry etc..) that get pretty close (close enough for me) to an accurate calorie count. You can enter all the ingredients separately of course.

      A really useful feature in this regard is that you can add your own dishes to the data-base so you only have to add it up once and then you’ll have it always to refer to. It also has a recently consumed feature that you can use for foods you eat semi daily to save the time of searching (though it’s fast and easy to do anyway).

      Overall as a lazy guy that doesn’t want to keep track of food, but needs to, I highly recommend it. I don’t think it can get any easier than this app, short of some kind of scanner or camera in my throat that auto records what I eat.

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