One of the best pieces of advice about dieting was given to Alice in Wonderland by the Cheshire Cat.
Alice asked “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
Unless you know where you want to go, AND where you’re starting from, you might head completely in the wrong direction.
A food diary is the BEST thing to find out what you need to do. You don’t need one forever… keeping a food diary for even a few days will help you because:
A food diary will see what you can’t
You’ll be surprised what goes in your mouth when you put it in writing. Lots of little things add up. You might be eating way more than you thought. Or way less. Not drinking as much water as you thought you were? Wow, three days without green vegetables? You might even be eating a better diet than you think. Or not. This way you’ll really find out.
Knowing you have to write it down will make you think twice
Even if you haven’t yet made a decision to change your diet, a food diary makes you change your eating habits. Why? Because you become more conscious of what you’re about to put in your mouth. Knowing you’re going to have to write it down makes you think twice.
It works even if you’re not sharing your food diary with anyone else… because you don’t want to write down that you were eating that treat when your goal is to lose weight.
You will know what changes you need to make (if you want to reach your goals)
Do you want to lose weight? How much? Do you want to put on weight? How quickly? Have more energy and perform better? Unless you know your start point you won’t know what changes to make (or how big).
It will stop you from hurting your own progress
The WORST MISTAKE anyone can make is to start a diet without knowing their start point. If you are going to go on a diet (which I DON’T recommend) then it should be designed for you… because your start point, your goals, and your needs are different. You may already be in calorie deficit. Taking away too many more might actually hurt your weight loss goals! Need more protein in your diet? You might already be getting plenty.
If you start with a simple food diary you will still get a lot out of it
Don’t think that you need to get too complex or there’s no point. If you’re thinking you need to weigh and measure everything… it’s great if you do, but don’t let great be the enemy of good. If you start with just writing down WHAT you’re eating and drinking, you will still benefit. To start my recommendations are that you:
1. Just start recording WHAT you eat. Don’t worry about serving sizes (unless they’re obvious). Breakfast: a bowl of cornflakes and an apple. Lunch: two ham and cheese sandwiches. That’s all the detail you need. You will still learn.
2. Estimate your energy intake for the day. A lot of dietary goals revolve around calories in vs. calories out. Estimate your serving sizes. Don’t get too hung up on being 100% here, but having an idea of weights and measures will help. Then how do you know what your energy intake is? There’s an app for that… it’s one of our 5 Free Fitness Apps that Will Help You Reach Your Goals.
3. Identify how much protein, fat and carbs you’re eating. You don’t need to do anything different than step 2, it’s just now you’re looking at the same information from My Fitness Pal a little bit differently.
We’ll cover what you can do with this information a bit later… but to be honest, just doing the food diary you’ll see the low hanging fruit. A food diary is the most important step in achieving your health-related goals. You will get a great look into what you’re already doing, and it will help you make the changes that are right for you.
So what are you waiting for… go find a notebook and crayon and just make a start!
This is from a series of articles from the 9-Week Health and Fitness Challenge for Travellers. The FREE program designed for people who have no access to a gym, equipment, or special ingredients… while having clingy kids and an unpredictable schedule!