Years ago I had a client losing weight but hit a plateau. She was frustrated her weight loss had come to a halt. On several occasions, I had asked her to keep a food journal to keep track of her food so I could help identify where she might need to make modifications. She was very resistant to keeping a log—too busy, always forgot, etc. At one appointment she said to me, “You know, I eat different when I write it down.”
I let that statement sink in for a moment and it didn’t take long for her to start laughing. She realized that’s the point right? Indeed. It is. And eating differently in a positive way.
Awareness is the first step to change
Registered dietitian nutritionist Rosanne Rust, wrote her book Calorie Counter Journal for Dummies because “I really wanted to write a tool to help people become more aware of what they are eating so they can set better goals for their personal health. We know keeping track of what you eat really helps. You become aware and it helps get you to the next point to make those changes to your diet.”
Rosanne continued, “When we write down what we eat and not just how much but where we are eating, how we are eating, what our hunger levels might be, and what kind of mood we are in, we get a sense of where changes need to occur. We give very specific directions to help people understand the whole picture of not just how many calories they consume but the environment they are eating in.”
What we eat is influenced by much more than hunger. Environment—the sight, thought, aroma, who you’re eating with, availability and convenience of food has an impact. So important not just what you are eating but also how your mood and everything affects you. Think of aroma marketing. Have you ever been in a mall, just eaten lunch but suddenly been lured to buy a freshly baked gooey treat? Gotcha! That was no accident.
Do you keep treats in your home for others? Are you tempted? Why keep them around? Keeping a food journal may help identify what needs to change in your environment.
Perhaps you’re eating nuts—healthy, yes—but loaded with calories, so eating by the handful? Probably not a good thing. Portion might be your goal. Once you start writing down not just that you’re eating almonds but how much. Then knowing that handful is roughly ¼ cup at about 200 calories may put in perspective and help recognize it’s a portion control issue.
Another client of mine had a wonderfully healthy diet and no health issues. He loved to entertain and delight his friends with his healthy cooking cuisine. Yet he struggled with his weight. We finally figured out the culprit. Olive oil. “I thought it was good for me.” It is! However cooking with massive quantities is not. Thinking he was doing himself good he was using ‘extra light’ olive oil. Extra light is not lighter in calories—it simply is lighter in flavor and color. It actually is quite highly refined. And still 120 calories per tablespoon like all oils. (For the healthiest, choose extra virgin olive oil. And yes, you can cook with it.)
Recognize the goal
Rosanne explains someone who has just been diagnosed with high cholesterol or diabetes may have different dietary goals. So, when they are keeping track they might want to hone in on carbohydrates if they have diabetes or saturated fats if they have high cholesterol. Or perhaps sodium needs to be addressed.
“You cannot set all the goals at once. But working on achievable goals that are measurable and not too overwhelming is key. I find that clients have an easier time when they are just focusing on one thing. When that becomes a change, they modify, check it off their list and move along to the next area.”
Write it before you bite it
Whether you use a journal like Rosanne’s book or any of the many online tools or apps available or even just jot down on scraps of paper, the important thing is, it increases awareness. Ideally, if you write it before you bite it you might think twice, but regardless, just do it.
Please watch the video with my full conversation with Rosanne.