The Importance of the Food Diary

19 Jan

As I promised earlier this week, I’ll be dedicating today’s post to the food diary.  In your weight loss journey what you eat is 80% of it.  If you don’t write it all down, you might be fooling yourself into thinking that you’re eating less during the day than you actually are. The way to avoid that pitfall is to create a food diary.  There are two “types” of food diaries that I typically talk about when I talk about food diaries. The beginner and the beast! I’ll talk about both options, as well as some great online/mobile options that have been popping up over the last year or so.

The Beginner

A food diary at it’s most basic form is simply a list of all the food that you ate over the course of the day.  It can be kept on an excel sheet, in your phone or a little notebook that you carry with you.  Every morsel that passes your lips MUST go down in the diary (or journal if that sounds less girly to you!).  When you’re first beginning a food diary, keep it simple. Write down what you ate and approximately how much you ate (1/2 an apple, three scoops of ice cream). The key here is to be honest about the size and amount.  Most people underestimate how much of one thing they’re eating. So play it safe and overestimate!  This your basic food diary.  Stick with it until you feel more comfortable, then switch up to a “big daddy” version of a food diary.

The “Big Daddy (or Mamma)”

This is where diaries get fun.  Now that you’re used to writing down every piece of food that you eat, now is the time to add more details. I recommend breaking your day into Breakfast, Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack, Dinner, and Anytime.  Now when you eat at one of those predetermined times, write down the time and your hunger level on a scale of 1-5, 1 being I’m still stuffed from my last meal and 5 is “I’ve been in the desert for three days and I’m STARVING!!!”  As a rule of thumb you should never be eating at any of those extremes. In theory you should be eating before you get to the starving place, but you shouldn’t be eating out of boredom.  It’s particularly important to note that you should also be noting if you’re upset or bored, etc.  Remember this is YOUR diary, no one is going to see it but you, so don’t be embarrassed if you at that pint of Ben & Jerry’s because your boyfriend just dumped you.  Because no one will see it but you. But if you’re an emotional eater, you’ll begin to see patterns and learn how to cope with your feelings/issues without eating.  But I’ve digressed, anyways, you also what to get more specific about how much.  Buy a food scale if you have the extra cash, they’re well worth the investment.  If you don’t want to, that’s fine (it does take extra work), but try to be as precise as you can.  Also begin to write down the caloric content of eat of your pieces of food, as well as meal and daily totals.  This will give you a good idea of where/when you’re calories are coming from. You’ll also get to see if you’re meeting or exceeding your recommended caloric intake. It’s important to not fall too below your recommended intake either, because that will slow down your metabolism.

Now What?

Congratulations, you reached your first week of diary keeping (or big daddy keeping!).  Now you need to go back and look at what you ate over the past week.  Look for places where you could’ve cut out sweets or were eating because you were bored.  A food diary will allow you to see a record that can’t be argued with. It will also allow you to set food goals for the next week. Like, I’ll have dessert 4 times this week instead of 5.  It also gives you something to be proud of when you reach those goals!  Also, decide on rewards (non food related) if you reach your longer term goals (like eating at my caloric intake for 1 month) like a book you’ve been wanting to buy or tickets to an event you’ve been dying to see.  These shorter (and obtainable) goals will incentivize you to continue on towards the larger goal of a healthier you!

Online/Mobile Options

I love the mobile option that has emerged in the last few years. Thanks to smartphones, you can now log your food intake on the go! My favorite is Lose It! It’s a fabulous site that has both a mobile app and you can use it on the web. Plus if you have a FitBit, you can link the two accounts and Lose It! recalculates what you can eat and still lose weight based on activity!  Check both products out! Lose It! is free and the FitBit device costs $99, but the online software is free (and it too has a mobile app).

So bottom line here is log your food for successful weight loss!

Keep Sweating!

~Coach Lindsey


8 Responses to “The Importance of the Food Diary”

  1. GiGi Eats Celebrities January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Food Diaries can be good but they can also be bad, sometimes people get too dependent on their food diary, that it makes them crazy and causes them to eat less and less…. turning into an eating disorder. But for those who need to lose weight and need to pinpoint the issues in their diet, this could be a good tool.

    • Coach Lindsey January 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      Very true. You’ve made a valid point that I forgot to mention. There’s no need to obsess over every calorie, but it is useful for those trying to understand their inability to lose weight or those trying to “clean up” their eating. It’s simply not a tool, not something that should rule your life. As with everything, moderation is important. 🙂 If you don’t know where to start or are worried about the nutritional side of things, then it’s important that you see a Registered Dietitian to discuss your particular needs/concerns. But in it’s basic form, it’s a good way to see if you’re consuming too much (or too little). And if you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please seek out professional help.

  2. sweetopiagirl January 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

  3. ybenner January 19, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    I’ve been using Livestrong’s Myplate app to track my daily intake. I agree that it’s easy to get obsessive, but it is a great tool to use. I try to keep fiber intake high and tracking is the best way for me to get a snapshot of my day. 🙂

  4. ksmahoney January 20, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Thanks for the post! It is amazing how different your memory of what you ate is from what the data actually reveals. I really like My Fitness Pal app for android for a food diary.
    Sara from

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  6. place i kadry January 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

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  7. hyip investment February 3, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    The Importance of the Food Diary Live, Love, SWEAT I was recommended this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thanks! your article about The Importance of the Food Diary Live, Love, SWEAT Best Regards Shane Craig

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