Thursday, September 20, 2012

Using food journals to help you lose weight

Do you want to lose weight?  If you answered yes, continue reading.  If no, then don't waste your time reading this post.

For those looking to lose weight (in particular women), using a food journal has been shown to help lose excess weight.  In a recent study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), they determined that women who want to lose weight "should avoid skipping meals and eating in restaurants - especially at lunch.  One interesting fact that they found was that the total calorie restriction was more important than eating low fat or low carbohydrate diets.

According to Anne McTiernan, lead researcher for FHCRC, the study found several behaviors that supported calorie reduction.

1.  "women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 more pounds than those who did not".
2.  "women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 pounds fewer than women who did not".
3.  "women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average 5 fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently".

I have listed a few great websites that make keeping an online food journal easy.  I have used for many years and I can honestly say that if you take the time to enter your food you will be amazed by how easy it works.  The most important thing I learned from doing this was how deficient I was on certain nutrients/minerals.  I wasn't necessarily looking to lose weight, I was more concerned that I was getting enough calories for the rigorous training that I was doing.  Which leads me to another reason these sites are so useful.

For athletes looking to perform at their best, getting adequate amounts of the proper nutrients (carbs, protein, fats) is crucial for success.  Below are my favorites, in order of recommendation.

My Fitness Pal
Anytime Health

For those who operate solely with their I-Phone or Android, here are the FREE apps I found to be best...

My Fitness Pal
Lose It!
Calorie Counter by Fat Secret

When keeping a food journal there are 4 things to keep in mind.

1.  Be honest - make sure you record everything in each meal, including the oil you used for cooking
2.  Be accurate - if you can, try to measure as many food items as possible.  Guessing the amount can lead to a couple hundred calories difference
3.  Be complete - make sure to include toppings and condiments used to make foods
4.  Be consistent - always have your journal (or phone) with you, especially when eating out

The thing I learned from using the food journal was that I became more aware of the total calories in certain foods I would eat on a consistent basis.  After a few weeks I was able to know (without having to rely on the journal) how many calories I was eating.  You don;t have to be dependent on food journals, but hey are a very useful tool to get you started or to keep you accountable.  Good luck!

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