Food Journals

Food Journal - Will

In one of our previous articles, we touched on the subject of matching your goals up with your behaviour.

If losing fat is a goal for you, the most important piece of behaviour you need to focus on is the food choices you make.

Oftentimes people are confused about what role their nutrition plays in their body composition. Hang around the fitness industry for any length of time and you’ll hear people say things like “my diet is pretty good, I just need to lose about 4 stone”.

Folks, the harsh reality is that if you have a lot of fat to lose, your diet is not “pretty good”.

How do people get this idea? There are two main reasons:

The first is that people tend to over-estimate the effectiveness of exercise for losing fat. I’m a vaguely mathematicaly-minded person, so it irks me when people write things like “fat loss is 80% diet or 75% diet or 93.45675% diet”, because it’s just not a numerical situation. For our purposes let’s quantify the effect of exercise on fat loss as “moderate” and the effect of nutrition on fat loss as “very large”. If you are interested in losing fat, exercise can be useful, but it is much, much more important to get your diet sorted.

The second reason most people think their diet is “pretty good” is that they have absolutely no idea what they eat. Yes, I know you think you remember every little thing you eat over the course of a week, but you don’t. This is not a failing on your part, it’s simply how the human brain works.

We will be dimly aware that we had “a few” biscuits with our tea yesterday. We do not remember that it was actually 7.

Food journals are necessary for reminding you what you are actually doing. You may think you barely ever eat junk food, but when you start writing everything down, you may discover you’re actually get through enough of it for it to be a problem.

I’d like to stress at this point that you’re not a bad person if you eat biscuits.  Food journals are not some kind of witch hunt. No one is going to give out to you or attempt to make you feel guilty if you a ate a biscuit,  you just need to record an accurate reflection of what you’re doing if you want to be able to make a change. How on earth can you improve your diet if you don’t know what your diet is?

Just write it down. If you ate 30 biscuits this week, fine. Maybe next week, we’ll make it a goal to have 20, or 15 or whatever.

Again, this comes down to behaviour, and goals. If the two are matched, you’ll do fine. If they aren’t, you’re screwed.

For most people’s goals, being 100% perfect with their nutrition is not neccesary (or in some most cases even helpful!). You might be just fine with 90% compliance, or 80% compliance. Hell, if you are currently 0% compliant, you will do better with 10% compliance!

The issue is, where are you? You might think you’re 90% there, but if you take a sober look at the entire week you might find the actual figure is closer to 60%. Once you know exactly where you are, and where you want to get to, all you have to do is connect the dots. If you don’t know where you are, how are you going to make a sensible decision about where to go next?

Your food journal could take a number of forms. It could be a photo of each meal taken with your phone. It could be a notebook you keep in your pocket and discretely scribble in after meals. It could be a www.myfitnesspal.com account. Pick one, and get started.

Compare each week and each month to your goal. Track how you are doing and adjust as neccesary. This is the easiest, most impactful step you can take towards better nutrition. If you aren’t doing it, you are making your job much harder than it needs to be.

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