Sunday, July 25, 2010

Food Journals : a most effective weight-loss tool

I found an excellent post about food journals here. I asked the author's permission to use her idea to explain my own feelings about a food journal. I really thought it was an incredible explanation about the process of tracking your food. The first part of this post is detailed description with a little editing and the second part is my personal evaluation. I highly recommend visiting the site. It is full of helpful advice.

The Food Journal Ladder :

Level 0 : “Healthy Eating”
At the “Healthy Eating” stage there is no tracking, no real awareness of self-control, just eating what you consider healthy because it’s what you prefer & it’s become habit. Sounds good in theory, but in practice it’s wickedly hard to do — one of those things where the ‘devil is in the details’ – it doesn’t take much to let this slip a bit and then a bit more and then you’re in a cupcake pit UNDER the ladder in the “free for all” eating space…

Level 1 : Eat with the intention of Losing
More than just “healthy eating” this also is a concerted effort to hold back enough volume and food choices so that you achieve a loss. It builds on everything you already know about dieting. Not for beginner dieters. Sort of a more controlled area of ‘intuitive eating’ type of thinking – it’s ‘intuitive dieting’ where you know when you need that spoonful of peanut butter, but you also know to reach for celery or brush your teeth instead of eating at all…

Level 2 : Write it all down
This can be done with various levels of control. You can write it ALL down, or you can write down just the meals that are problematic, just the special event, just the transgressions, just the weekends, etc. At its most basic it’s just an awareness tool to make you aware of choices you make and accountable to reporting them to yourself. Can do pen & paper, or electronic records of many types – Excel, word documents, emails to a buddy, your blog…

Level 3 : Counting
This is the level where you watch a number (or more than one, depending on your diet plan). Calories. Fat. Points. Carbs. Protein. Glycemic Index. Sodium, whatever. You can do it on paper if you have a reference book with the values of your food (and you have a basic idea of serving sizes as a rule of thumb). Today there are lots of good electronic tools too – dedicated software, many good websites (a lot of people use FitDay or LiveStrong’s Daily Plate, or Sparkpeople or iphone aps).

Level 4 : Weigh, measure, count, track : the full enchilada
At the highest level is the actual weighing & measuring. It’s more precise than the other levels but it’s more involved, takes more mental energy and might create extra stress if you are worrying about an extra 3 Cheerios that you ate. On the other hand, nothing makes things clearer than measuring 3/4 of a cup of cereal into the bowl & then measuring out the milk & realizing that the quantity you’ve been eating daily from that bowl is probably 3 times “one” serving.

Where Finding the Fit Girl “fits” on the ladder
Level 0 – This is where I want to be for the rest of my life. I can visualize myself here when I visualize the fit girl inside me.

Level 1 – I have been her for the better part of 3 months with the exception of my vacation, off the ladder there.

Level 2 – I started here in Jan thru about April. I just tracked transgressions from my food plan. If the plan was a low carb week with bread allowed at lunch. If I ate something off that plan then I would just jot it down on my excel file. This was a successful time for me.

Level 3 – The difference between levels 2, 3, and 4 is what really struck me when I first read about the ladder. I can see the difference now between full tracking (level 4) and partial tacking (level 2). I can see myself using level 2 and 3 but not the full level 4.

Level 4 – I completely understand the need for this tool. I also see where I might need to refer to it for a time period but right now I do feel I have portion and size in control. This is the level where I get nutty which directly leads to failure.

Applying the Food Journal Ladder to myself :
My ultimate goals is to be in level 0 all the time but right now I need to switch some things up, lose some vacation weight and regain some control on things.

Right now I think I need to move into level 1 and 2. Going back to having a plan and then tracking the transgressions of the plan. I will also mentally be tracking my carb counts. I want to keep under 30g for a meal and 15g for a snack. I want to balance bread carbs with protein, 14g for meal and 7g for a snack. This method follows a book I partially read, The Insulin Resistance Diet

I want to thank for the permission.  She did such an excellent, detailed job there is no way I could have done any better.


  1. Amy, I love that you took my idea and made it useful to someone other than myself.

    I also love that I'm not the only one who gets driven nutty at level 4 - sometimes I've felt there must be something wrong with me, because diet books talk about weighing and measuring like it's no big deal, whereas to me it's incredibly invasive. Useful in certain circumstances, but not for normal life...

  2. Great post. I also have trouble with step 4 - I don't even own a kitchen scale - that's how much I resist that level. Keep at it! Alesha