Stay on Track: Log It!
Since becoming a trainer, the best success stories I’ve seen are the clients who take control of their lives by tracking exercise and eating patterns. By logging their fitness and nutrition, they are able to take a hard look at what is holding them back from their goals. Today’s topic is all about maintaining a food and exercise log.
THE FOOD LOG: If you’re aiming to lose a pound a week, just a few extras (i.e. a can of soda, a brownie and a baggie of ‘baked’ chips) during the day will prevent you from seeing physical results. Writing down everything you eat demonstrates the cost of those ‘occasional’ nibbles.
Below are some reasons to keep a food log:
- Account for those little ‘extras’ and boost your self-control: knowing that you have to write it down may have you second-guessing that cookie
- Know when you can afford to ‘treat’ yourself – if you’ve been eating clean all week long, maybe you’ve earned a little treat by the weekend!
- Expose your problem areas and highlight patterns of eating–if you overeat at certain times of day or if you’re an emotional eater you can troubleshoot
- Realize portion control-recording will necessitate measuring out your food
- Visually see habits change from week to week
There are a few ways you can log. Many cell phones these days have a ‘notes’ section that work great for logging but there are several other tools you can use:
- Buy a small notebook that fits in your purse or briefcase: perfect for taking anywhere.
- For a monthly or annual fee, Calorieking.com and other online trackers are great for calorie counting
- Free or low-cost smartphone apps such as LoseIt! or Calorie Counter
The most important issue here is that it’s easy and convenient to write as you go. If you save it for the end of the day, you’re likely to skip over that 1/2 croissant or supermarket mini-burger sampler you tried. Cheating is just that – you’re only hurting yourself. A food journal can act like a mirror by revealing to you what goes into your body and can be a very useful tool if done properly.
Once you’ve found the perfect logging method that works for you, it’s time to begin! Record the following:
- Date, time and place: in the car, watching TV on the couch, at the table, in your office, restaurant, etc.
- Feelings and hunger level: tired, starving, bored, upset?
- Exact item: be as specific as possible. Instead of writing “chicken sandwich,” break down the meal further by including each food item. Don’t forget condiments!
- Beverages: record glasses of water, coffee, sodas, etc.
THE EXERCISE LOG: In addition to your food log, an exercise log will help track your progress. By increasing the intensity of your workouts periodically, so shall your metabolism increase with the greater load placed on the body. You’ll get stronger and by looking at how far you’ve come you’ll be more motivated to continue in the same thread in the months and years ahead.
Try to approach logging with optimism, finding something positive in each day. If you ate smaller portions today, make a note. If you were able to fit into your skinny jeans for the first time in months, write that down. If it was as simple as, “I stopped eating when I was full,” great! It might seem like it doesn’t matter, but will help you maintain a positive outlook.
At the end of each week, assess yourself. Take note of trends. Were you able to run 5 minutes longer than last week? Maybe you crave sugar in the evenings? Make new goals for the week ahead. For instance, vow to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day, or add in an extra sprint to your cardio routine!