In the time before smart phones and trackers, food journaling in a notebook was a commonly prescribed tactic when it came to helping people lose weight. Even Weight Watchers helped people on the program learn to write in a food diary/track points with a pencil and paper.
A food journal is a basic record of what you are eating: what you ate, how much you ate and when you ate it.
If you're trying to lose weight and you've never written down what you're eating, then it's time to start.
Why It's Important to Food Journal:
If your trainer asks what you ate for breakfast and you answer "cereal," that doesn't give a definitive idea to what you might have actually consumed. Did you eat Cheerios or Frosted Flakes? Did you eat an actual serving or the equivalent of four? Was their milk? What fat percentage?
The same goes for other meals: not all foods are created equal and their makeup can make a significant difference when it comes to losing weight.
Using a food journal helps you to see exactly what you are eating and make changes when and where necessary. The majority of the population has no idea how many calories they take in a day and grossly underestimate when asked. For many, writing down food helps to actually see how much they are consuming is the first step in making changes in the right direction.
Not only does food journaling help in reducing intake but it can also be of assistance in increasing it. While "healthy eating" is an objective term, many people that have "cut carbs" or "eat clean" actually aren't eating enough due to the limiting factor of those diet tactics. Eating protein and vegetables all day isn't a sustainable diet and might actually cause weight gain/retention after a certain period because the body is hungry and metabolism has down regulated.
How to Food Journal:
The method of food journaling is quite personal. If you are the type that love a pencil and paper, grab a notebook. If you're glued to your phone, download an app like MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+ to help you input your food each day.
There are two important things when it comes to food journaling: The foods consumed and the actual amounts.
Writing down "salad" can mean lettuce or it can mean a 1,000 calorie salad from a chain restaurant. Writing down lettuce, grape tomatoes, 1/4 cup cheese, 6 oz. crispy chicken, 2 Tablespoons of nuts and 3 Tablespoons of ranch dressing is completely different and more significant.
Write down EVERYTHING: the creamer in your coffee, the ketchup on your eggs, the crackers you ate while waiting for dinner to cook. The little things can be just as important as the bigger ones even when they don't seem it.
What Do I Do With It?
If you're working with a reputable trainer/health coach, chances are they have asked about your food intake. Show your food journal to them so they can help you in making sustainable changes to get or keep you on track towards your goals.
If you are working without a trainer, there are many websites that can help you determine what your calorie intake should be. If you're using an app like MyFitnessPal, you can even determine a potential goal within the app and calorie counts come up automatically when logging your food.
When it comes to weight loss, quantity is going to be the most important aspect in getting that scale to budge.
Keep your journal going for a while so you can see changes/progress and evaluate effectively over time.
Now that you have some information on food journaling, if weight loss is your main goal, go download a free app or grab a pen/pencil to get started on your journey!