5 Reasons to Write Down Everything You Eat For a Week

Written on 8/15/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: sunshinecity

food diaryQuick, what did you eat for lunch on Monday? Ok, stop, you have no idea and neither would I. That’s a problem if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight.

How do you know what is causing gains and losses if you aren’t tracking things?

I lost 50 lbs. (going from a US size 10 to US size 4)by writing down everything I ate and making changes based on the results. The more I thought about it, the more I think this habit is good for anyone – dieters, and non-dieters alike.

If you need to be coerced, consider these reasons why writing down everything you eat for a week will change your behavior:

    1. You snack a lot more than you realize
      Carry a notebook with you and jot down every item of food and drink that passes your lips. Within a day, you’ll realize just how much you snack. A bad of chips mid-morning, a cookie from a colleague’s stash, a few bits of candy … it all adds up. You might find you’re eating more in snacks than in proper meals. 
  • You’re not eating enough fruit and vegetables
    Are you hitting your five servings of fruit and veggies every day? Maybe you reckon that you’re “close”. Chances are, you’re sometimes only getting two or three – if that. Once you’ve written down everything you ate during the week, look back and see where you could fit in some fresh fruit (swap one of your many snacks for an apple, grab a fruit bag instead of a candy bar with your lunch-time sandwich). And if your meals are a veg-free zone, make sure you start including some salad or cooked vegetables. 
  • You drink WAY too much soda
    It’s easy to forget that drinks have calories too – they don’t fill you up. But if you’re chugging down five cans of coke a day, you’re swallowing a total of 175 grams of sugar. And switching to a diet version is only half the battle won – the flavorings, additives and caffeine aren’t exactly great for you. Go for some water or at least some fruit juice if you need more flavor. 
  • You spend too much on junk
    Now this list is going to become ultra-handy. In addition to watching your food intake, you’re also watching the budget. Keep a note of where you eat – or how much you spend on food – if you’re buying it out. You might realize that junk food is costing you more than your main meals: over the course of a day, a burger and fries, a candy bar, a bag of chips and a couple of sodas can top $15. 
  • You don’t get enough variety in your diet
    Are you writing down the same things for meals almost every day? Maybe your breakfast is always the same type of cereal, lunch is a cheese or ham sandwich, and dinner revolves around frozen meals. Or perhaps everything you eat is from your own national cuisine. Try to get more variety: have a pasta salad for lunch, try oatmeal or yogurt and fruit for breakfast, or branch out and eat something which you’ve never had before. 

If you’ve kept a food diary, what did it tell you? If you’ve never recorded what you eat, how do you reckon your eating habits will look on paper?

Try it for 1 week! What’s 1 week?! This article will tell you how to do it, provide templates, etc.

-Ali

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