Alternatives to Food Diaries

If it’s an article about how to succeed at weight loss, chances are, I’ve read it. Over and over, studies and articles focus on the habits of people who succeed at both losing and maintaining weight loss. Keeping a food diary is one of those habits.

Why does it work? One explanation:

[F]ood diaries force an increased awareness of habits and eating patterns. By allowing patients to follow their eating patterns throughout the day, the visual diary can highlight pitfalls that may have previously gone unnoticed by a dieter.

Additionally, when clinicians such as physicians or dietitians review a diary, they can often point out problematic cues, triggers and habits that may be contributing to weight gain. The increased awareness and knowledge allows for targeted problem-solving to improve these troublesome situations.

In other words, when you hit a plateau, and can’t figure it out, but then look back and see that you’ve doubled your ice cream intake but halved your veggie consumption,you gain a bit of insight.

Last week, several of us were discussing these logs. I’m lucky, in a way, because I’m a list-maker and gadget-user, so tracking everything I eat on Lose It fits easily into my routine. I think tracking what I eat is one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal, frankly.

I totally understand, however, that logging your every bite can be a burden for many people. Are there options that are less work than logging, but that accomplish the same goal?

Take pictures with your phone of everything you eat. This still gives you a record, but you’ve simply snapped a photo instead of writing everything down. If you can download (or upload, whichever it is) to your computer or Flickr, you’ve got a great record to review. But even if you don’t, you have moved from mindless to conscious eating by the simple act of snapping the shot.

Make a check-list. I know that I need to drink a certain volume of water each day, a certain amount of protein, etc. In the past, I made a check list that I could print blank copies of that contained check boxes next to the things I needed.

If my meal plan called for 4 oz. of protein three times a day and nine servings of veggies, I had 12 check boxes next to 1 oz. protein, and nine check boxes next to single servings of veggies. At the end of the day, I could simply make sure all the boxes were checked. If I ate something without a check box, like chocolate, or three servings of fat instead of two, I’d make a note. I didn’t necessarily know what I’d eaten, broccoli or beets, but I knew that I was meeting goals (or not).

Some people in my group are looking for alternatives to logging in Lose It or SparkPeople or the like, so I’d love to hear what you’ve got that works.

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6 Responses to Alternatives to Food Diaries

  1. trysatori says:

    I use Calorie Count, but it took me forever to get used to it, but it isn’t for everyone.

    Logging is the one thing I tried to get away from last month, and have had to start using it again, even though I take pictures of my lunches, I was kind of lax about my dinner. Logging is a hard process to do on a daily basis, but I treat it like working out. It has to be done because it works. I know exactly what I am eating and how much I am eating, and maybe subconsciously, paying attention, and that is the only way I can motivate myself to do better the next day.

    Brilliant idea about the checklist…I am totally stealing that idea (if you don’t mind).

    • Andie says:

      Steal away. I am a total checklist nut – I get great satisfaction in checking boxes or crossing off items, so this was an easy way to track before I had a smart phone.

  2. I have tried several online diaries. My biggest complaint is calculating the information for recipes. I think right now I might benefit from some journaling again, just to see where my calories are since I suspect they are creeping north. But, oh the hassle. Sigh.

  3. When I lost weight, I didn’t count or log food regularly. I like SparkPeople, but it is a big large. I wish I had the perfect solution for you. I focused on learning what a portion looked like, and only eating one at a time. I also kept my fat in the 30 percent range – and focused on healthy fats.

    • Andie says:

      I’m definitely committed to weighing & measuring food so I can really learn what a portion is. I suspect that eventually, I’ll be OK eyeballing protein and veggies, but will always need to measure starchy vegetables and breads – the kind of things I’m most likely to overeat. I feel so lucky that I actually like using Lose It, and that it has been working for me for so long.

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