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6 Convincing Reasons to Should Start Journaling Your Food Intake

journalFood tracking might seem like a tedious chore, but it’s one of the few things in fitness where just a little extra work can pay huge dividends. The following 6 reasons are why everyone should give it a try at some point in their fitness journey.

You Will Lose More Weight

Just the simple act of keeping a daily food journal can help you lose twice as much weight than you would have if you didn’t do it at all [1]. There are many mechanisms through which this happens, but the main reason is because it makes you more aware of what you’re putting into your mouth.

Many people don’t realize how much they are eating until they see it in writing right in front of them. It’s easy for a few bites of this, and a few bites of that to add up. Writing down what you eat makes you more mindful of your nutrition.

You Learn About Food

Nothing teaches you more about food and what you eat than tracking your food intake. You learn about calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, food additives, and how your body reacts to certain foods and food combinations. All of this information becomes invaluable once (or if) you do finally stop journaling.

You’ll be able to just eat and know the general nutritional breakdown of a particular food without having to look it up. You’ll be able to better keep your portions under control. You’ll be able to make better choices when you go out to eat, and you’ll experience more nutritional freedom as time goes on.

Find Hidden Problems

Journaling your food helps you uncover hidden problems. Before journaling you might have thought you were eating a healthy diet that was sufficient in calories and nutrients, but once you write down and analyze your diet, you might notice that you were eating too few calories to support healthy weight loss.

You might realize you were too deficient in essential fatty acids, or that your fiber intake was way too low. Whatever the case, journaling helps you uncover areas of your nutrition that can be improved.

See why you might not be eating enough calories to lose weight.

Revisit Your Success

One of my favorite reasons for journaling is that it gives you a successful reference point in your fitness journey that you can revisit. When times get tough, and they inevitably will, you can end the confusion and look back to what you know worked in the past.

You can see exactly what you ate and the workouts you did (if you journal that too) that got you results. That’s enough piece of mind to give you the confidence to keep going about your journey.

You can see what calorie intake worked for YOU. You can see the food choices YOU made that got YOU results. You can see how often YOU can cheat and still make progress. Food journaling gives you a highly individualized blueprint for your success.

Keeps You Accountable

You’d be surprised how different your food choices are once you start writing down what you eat. Tracking food helps keep you accountable. Not only does seeing a full day of healthy eating in writing help bolster your willpower, but being forced to write down your nutritional mess ups also makes you think twice about your decisions. If journaling your food can make you just 25% less likely to eat unhealthy food, you will make great progress.

Helps You Make Dietary Tweaks

Probably the most practical of reasons for writing down what you eat is that it makes dietary tweaking a breeze. Is your weight loss stalled? Simple, just cut 100 calories from your diet, be patient, and then reassess the results.

You can’t do that very easily if you aren’t writing down what you’re eating. Need more energy for your high-intensity workouts? You will know exactly where you can fit in more carbs so that you can boost your intensity levels. Journaling will help you make precision tweaks to your diet that will help you keep your progress moving forward.

  • Ian

    Thanks so much for your inspiring and informative posts–I always look forward to them. Keeping a quantitative journal of my inputs (foods and drinks) against my outputs (workouts) is the ONLY way I can keep a handle on how I’m doing. For me, going “by feel” or a mental note just doesn’t work. Subconsciously or not, it seems like I will eventually “trick” myself into justifying why I can eat this or skip that workout. For me, the only way to keep myself honest and reach my goals is to keep a food and workout journal–the numbers simply don’t lie. People often comment that they think I’m “obsessed” or “extreme” for documenting everything, but after getting many years or fat loss and gain under control, I know it’s what works for me, so I’ve stopped fighting it or trying to explain it to others. Good luck to all!

  • Claire

    With food journal-ling, not only was i able to lose 20lbs. and keep it off, it let me really discover what food can do and the power of eating whole foods.

  • Sthomasjag

    Coach, I’ve got a question. I alternate lifting days with HIIT days. Should I have only carbs in my post workout shake on both days, or just my lift days? Same question with fruit, but for the cardio days. Thanks for all you do.

  • Coach Calorie

    If you are lifting hard or doing HIIT at high intensities, you should definitely have carbs post workout. For steady-state cardio sessions, it can be beneficial for fat loss to leave out the carbs post workout, but the difference is negligible and you probably won’t notice much difference unless you already have a low body fat percentage.

  • mb168

    I’ve been a marathon runner for 2+ years now, so log a lot of training miles. I’ve lost a few lbs but nowhere near what I thought I would, it’s a hard reality when you realize you need to run over 30miles/week just to lose 1lb/week, it sort of hits you in the face hard. This past Easter a bodybuilder friend told me about MyFitnessPal, a website/phone app to log your food. I started using it April 1 and lost 14lbs in 2 months. I really haven’t changed WHAT I eat, I’m not eating “clean” or anything like that, but like you said, it makes you aware of how much you’re shoveling in, or drinking. Using the site or app is much easier than actually writing it down so to me it’s more sustainable, you can even scan in barcodes when you eat or cook or make a whole recipe for common stuff you cook, but you still think twice when you’re about to eat something, “is this something I want to log because I have friends that will see it that I share with, plus I will have to run to the front of my neighborhood and back just to make up for it!”

  • Heather

    Hello! This is a very helpful post (as usual) and has re-inspired me to attempt food journaling. In the past have given up because of things I don’t know the calories of. For instance, I make a bread loaf that is made of almonds,sunflower seeds, chia seeds, oatmeal, and psyllium husk. I have no idea how many calories are in it. Or if I make home made chili with lots of veggies. It seems like to much trouble to add all the calories and divide by god knows how many servings. Do you think that it is okay to keep a more simple journal and not worry so much about the calories of tricky foods? I guess it is pretty easy to see if the choice was a good or bad one, regardless of whether there is a number next to it or not.

  • Coach Calorie

    I think writing it down is a good thing even if you don’t count calories. Try to do at least what you’re eating and when.

  • Mari

    Just curious, Tony, was my comment removed or did I make an error when trying to post?

  • Coach Calorie

    Mari, I don’t see your comment listed anywhere. Can you ask it again?