What I Have Learned by Journaling my Eating

February 13, 2008 · 14 comments

I have been keeping pretty close track of my caloric intake the last few days and have a few observations.

You eat more than you think.  I bought a box of Special K Cinnamon Pecan cereal this weekend.  I’m not a huge cereal eater, or at least I haven’t been since I have been on my diet, but there was a buy 6 Kellogg’s cereal get $10 off of your grocery bill deal and I wanted to get a few varieties (the kids eat a lot of cereal).  On Monday morning, my first day of tracking calories, I got out the measuring scoop to measure 3/4 cup of cereal, which is the portion size.  Wow was that a small amount of cereal.  I normally would have eaten at least twice that much, and when I say normally I mean the new 265 pound me not the 295 pound me, so I am actually being restrained.  Then I would have used at least twice the milk too.  Getting out the measuring cup was an important indicator for me to watch that portion size.

Get a good breakfast.  I was hungrier than normal on Monday and I attribute it to having cereal in the morning instead of the eggs I normally would have had.  2 scrambled eggs with cheese, cooked up in a non-stick pan with no butter and a bunch of pepper flakes has been a part of a strong breakfast for me lately, and that protein helps get me through the day.  Mehdi’s How to Build The Habit of Eating Breakfast is a great post outlining the importance of starting the day off right.

Beware the night time.  I am on a 2,300 calorie per day diet, which is supposed to be enough of a deficit for me to lose a pound or a pound and a half a week.  My schedule for the week has been pretty normal and consistent, and every day this week I had breakfast, a mid morning snack, lunch, and then an afternoon snack or two.  Except for today when I had a bigger lunch than usual (took someone out for lunch), I was coming home for dinner with about 1,000 calories left for me to eat.  And every night to date, despite great intentions, I have eaten more than those 1,000 calories.  I’m just really struggling with the night time and I haven’t put my finger on it yet.  But this has been a recurring theme, and I had better figure it out because I won’t be able to get anywhere until I do.

Journaling is hard work.  Unless you are able to structure your diet so that you are eating the same thing every day it’s hard work keeping a food journal.  And even then it probably is.  It’s really hard when you like to cook and you have to estimate calorie counts.  I’ve said it before, and that is that I don’t have any intentions of doing this forever; rather, it’s part of my learning process.  It’s a good reminder how many calories are in what portion of food.  I’ll need to do this periodically, especially as my target input lessens.

So the journal is sort of working, although it hasn’t helped in getting me past that nighttime issue that is my current downfall.  But it has helped open my eyes to how good I could be doing if I could only get it under control at night, and that gives me hope.

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AndrewE February 14, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Yeah, I had a surprise when I looked at the serving size for cereal as well. I like to have a bigger breakfast so I just kept my normal serve and factored it into my day.

Journaling is hard, no doubt about it but it is definitely worthwhile as it is amazing how much ‘calorie creep’ can work it’s way into your healthy diet even with small portions of irregular foods.

Lady Rose February 14, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Journaling does take some effort - I just keep a steno right in the dining room near the kitchen entrance (where I also keep the family calendar and other important reminder type stuffy). After over 90 wks of eating healthier I have most things down to abbreivations and know the calories of what I’m eating so it doesn’t take me that long. It gets quicker and easiser the more you do it.

I found that it helps not to eat something not in my daily food plan cause I don’t want to bother looking it up. LOL

Skinny Guy February 14, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Measure out your dinner the same way you would measure out your cereal. No seconds. A piece of lean meat the size of a deck of cards is one serving. Divide your plate; 1/4 of your plate for protein, 1/4 for carbs (potato, brown rice, etc), 1/2 for veggies. Use a smaller plate. Plan your dinner, write it down, then cook it. Cook dinner, serve it, pack up what didn’t get served, then sit down to eat it. Easy on the calorie-laden condiments, especially salad dressings, butter, etc..

Sorry about the stream-of-consciousness tips, but it was the easiest way for me to get them out of my head.

Journaling is a necessary evil. But it will help you in the long run, especially when you can go back and see what worked and what didn’t. I have 95 weeks worth of daily food journals that I can reference when needed. It’s one of the biggest factors in my own success.

Hang in there and good luck!

TB-Milwaukee February 14, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Without journaling, I would not be where I am today. Even on the worst days, I still write everything down. It does take time, but I am worth it. And so are you. Write it down!

Dutsji February 15, 2008 at 3:31 am

I think an eating diary is crucial in a weight loss journey. I think a lot of people are not aware of how many calories they take on a daily basis. An eating diary is very confronting, but will help you sort out your eat problems.

IAAdmin February 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

Yupp, journaling is a great tool. Studies have proven that most people don’t realize how much they actually eat, when they eat the most, and although it takes work, it’s an eye opening experience.

Keep up the good work……………….:)

workout mommy February 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I need to start doing this….thank you for reminding me why!

Diana the Scale Junkie February 15, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Journaling showed me that I can eat my days worth of calories in snacks alone if I’m not careful.

Sparkpeople has a great recipe calculator if you want to figure out how many calories are in whatever you are cooking.

Katschi February 16, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Hi John,

Great post. I recently started my first blog to record my weight loss by journalling my food intake with photos of every meal I eat in a day. It’s much easier for me to go over each meal when I see it rather than read about it. It’s making me more aware of my food and I find that presentation is more important to me than I would’ve guessed.
Journalling, especially in a blog made for public consumption (so to speak), keeps me accountable in ways that I wouldn’t be if I were to keep it private.
I do need to measure my portions more. I am using a smaller plate for my meals so that helps right off the bat.
I’ve decided that dessert needs to be fruit of some kind or the occasional bag of 100 calorie popcorn and some cocoa.
This is my first visit here. It won’t be my last.
Take care.

Lady Rose February 17, 2008 at 8:05 am

Hi John - I know you were concerned for me and my health so just letting you know I took my stress test and have more tests with the cardiologist coming up too - the results were much better then they were two years ago so I’m getting healthier! I also checked with the medical staff about the other concerns raised by some of the fatbloggers.net - a full report is posted on my blog 2/17/08 “weight gain explained” - congestive heart failure, and the medical staff confirmed my food plan and herbal supplements are good for me. Thank you for caring so much and all your support.

Wishing you health and happiness now and always.

Cynthia February 17, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I log religiously in software… and it is very helpful for me. As is measuring out portions of any high calorie density food.

One thing though, you mention saving 1000 calories for dinner… that’s a lot for one meal. You might be better off eating some of those earlier in the day. I tend to make my earlier meals heavier, then go a little lighter towards the end of my day.

But then again, if you like to eat at night, you may need them. Watch out for eating during TV or book reading or on the computer, all those can get you less conscious of how much you are actually eating.

Good luck!

Kenny February 17, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I’ve never read your blog before, but you’re doing great and I’ll keep checking back. I feel your pain regarding the keeping a food journal, but I may have something for you. Go to http://www.dietpower.com and try their product. I don’t want to over sell it, but their product is the fantastic if you’re trying to lose weight in a smart way. You can try it for 2 weeks for free so if you don’t like it, forget it. The only thing that kinda sucks is that their food dictionary is limited, but what you think sucks at first ends up being the most rewarding part of the exercise. Try it out.

Mike February 20, 2008 at 9:37 am

Journaling is hard work, but definitely worth it. I find that I have the easiest time by using Excel.

mrs darling May 17, 2008 at 10:59 pm

I know this post is old but I would think I was in heaven if I could eat that many calories. I eat between 1100 and 1200 a day but then I exercise very little so maybe thats why you can eat so much more; more exercise. I gained all my weight by eating 2500 a day and now here you are losing with that amount. No fair. :)
I really am happy for you though.

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