July 30, 2008

But I Don't Wanna Write It Down!

[By Crabby]




Do You Keep a Food and/or Exercise Journal?

Two studies announced in the last few weeks have confirmed what most of us know already: if you want to lose weight or make yourself exercise regularly, there's almost nothing more powerful you can do than keep a written record.

The fact that it works for exercise as well as food highlights the fact it's not just about information--most of us can remember, if we take a minute to think about it, how many times we worked out this week. But a big part of journaling's effectiveness is the accountability that a written record demands.

Most folks love to write down that they ran five miles before breakfast, but they hate to write down that they had seven oreo cookies after dinner. The knowledge that your behavior will be recorded really can change it for the better.

And the information part can be powerful too. Holy crap, there are how many calories in a margarita and a plate full of nachos? Do I really grab that many handfuls of trail mix out of the cupboard in the course of an average Saturday afternoon?

Not surprisingly, food and exercise journaling works only to the extent you actually do it. The people who skipped days didn't do nearly as well as those who were consistent.

So: if this technique is so powerful and awesome, why isn't everyone who has dietary or fitness goals writing everything down?

The answer is simple:

BECAUSE FOOD AND EXERCISE DIARIES ARE A HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS.

Truly--when I've wanted to lose weight I've used them. And each time they worked really well. Yet I couldn't wait to stop.

Here are some of the reasons why they suck, even if they do work:

1. Weights and Measures:

Whether you are tracking calories, carbs, points, or the nutritional quality of the food you eat, you probably still want to know how much you're consuming. And in order to learn to estimate portion sizes with any degree of accuracy, you gotta start off by weighing and measuring. And what if you don't have ready access to food scales and measuring cups? Well then you have to consciously overestimate--otherwise, you will underestimate, because you are human.

Similar annoyances apply to exercise diaries, although they're not quite as odious. It can be a hassle estimating how many miles you ran or biked or swam. And can you count walking up and down the grocery store aisles? Do kegel exercises burn calories? Pedometers and map-my-run computer programs can help, but it is likely that the same way you underestimate food portions you will overestimate exercise, so plan accordingly.

2. What the Hell is In Here?

If you are a dedicated, energetic person who is super-conscientious about eating a healthy diet, then you probably prepare most of your own meals. In this case, there are plenty of sources of information in books and on the web that well tell you most of what you need to know in order to track what you're eating.

Or, at the opposite extreme, some people buy nothing but processed pre-packaged portion-controlled food with all the quantities already figured out. (Note: NOT recommended).

But many of us are in the middle: too busy/lazy to cook everything, but unwilling to subsist on microwaved frozen meals. So we buy a loaf of bread at the bakery rather than make it ourselves, or grab take-out Thai for dinner, or pick up a rotisserie chicken or some pasta and a "healthy-looking" tub of sauce from the deli.

Welcome to the Educated Guessing Game! And you know what? The more educated you are, the less fun this game is to play.

If a pre-made meal doesn't contain nutritional information, then how do you know how much sugar, salt, bad fats, refined grains, etc are in there? You have to assume the worst.

This is because the more terrible food is for you, the better it tastes.

People selling food don't care if you want to unclog your arteries or lose 50 pounds. They just want you to buy their stuff again. If they made it really healthy, it wouldn't be as tasty so you might not.

(It's not a coincidence that many people who start food diaries also start cooking a lot more of their meals at home).

3. Obsessive, Perfectionist Thinking

The ability to monitor and track your performance can be a force for Evil as well as for Good if you have perfectionist tendencies. Food and exercise journaling takes long-term goals (like getting to a healthy weight, or running a marathon) and turns them into daily sources of pride or shame.

This is of course awesome when you're doing really well.

But you won't always be doing well, and you need to be prepared for that.

I won't belabor this point because there's a whole post on perfectionism right there on the sidebar, and many of you have already read it. But if you're going to start a food or exercise diary you have to learn to cut yourself some slack and recover from lapses or the whole enterprise will become very unhealthy and will likely quit before you reach your goal.

4. Screwed Up Priorities

You may have all kinds of healthy nutritional goals--eating more whole foods, less processed crap, avoiding transfats or whatever. But it's hard to track a bunch of different goals, and what most people end up paying attention to at the end of the day is a number. How Many? Did I go over my Points or Calories or Carb grams or was I Good?

Likewise, you may have lots of fitness goals, like becoming stronger and improving your posture and increasing your flexibility and endurance--but if you're like most people, you're more likely to track your miles or calories or pounds lifted, and less like to note that you used proper form and did not hurt yourself, or that you remembered to stretch those hamstrings at some point in the day.

This data-driven, number-focussed approach can cause you to put all your energy into things you get "credit" for, and neglect those that don't "count." Which can be problematic when those things you're not tracking are actually really important.

5. It's Too Obnoxious To Keep Doing For the Rest of Your Life

Well, some people can manage but not many. That feeling of being watched and judged and evaluated, even if it's only by yourself, is far more oppressive than just a casual sense that "I need to watch what I eat and get enough exercise."

The goal, at least for me, of doing a food and exercise journal is to internalize those goals and turn them into healthy habits that don't need constant monitoring. For most people, becoming slave to some wire-bound notebook is just too damn unpleasant to do year after year.

But... um... for all that, they do actually do a good job of keeping you on track. Damn it.

So what are your thoughts on Food and Exercise Journals?

59 comments:

  1. Fantastic post, Crabby.

    I don't. Two reasons. One is that I DID for about 3 seconds in college when I decided it was time to shed the Old Milwaukee's Best Light-weight and I almost became obsessed.

    Which is saying a LOT as my issues/baggage/whatevs is not weight but CAREER-related.

    And the other reason you also touched upon: I'm all about doing TODAY what I can and will HAPPILY maintain FOREVAH.

    For *me* a food journal didn't fit the proverbial bill.

    MizFit

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  2. Well, this is what has worked for me:
    -I use a heart rate monitor to keep track of how many calories I have burned weekly, how many times I worked out etc... (I luv my Sunnto!)
    -I have a set goal of how many times a week I want to work out with specifics little goals (improve upper body strength etc...) that I go over and change every 3 months.
    -when need be, I log my food intake on sparkpeople.com. It is a great tool. In general, I can do without it since I have figured out what works for me. But I will go back and enter my food intake for 2 weeks ever few months as a refresher.

    I absolutely agree that diaries are a tremendous help when one in the midst of training for a specific goal or losing weight.
    They should be used with the goal to integrate all those things as part of a lifestyle, because yes, they are kind of a pain.

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  3. I am too lazy to do this. I'd do it faithfully for a few days and then set it aside to "do later."

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  4. I keep a food/activity diary because I am undisciplined in my diet without it. I used to keep a notebook, but now I use an online journal. I try to update it at least 3-4 times a week. It's been helpful in keeping me on track.

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  5. magneticjellybeanJuly 30, 2008 at 8:19 AM

    Hi Crabby, I've been reading your great blog for a few months now. I'm someone who is maintaining my weight following weight loss a few years ago - and a food diary is a big part of maintaining for me.

    I don't find it much hassle:
    - I keep a calculator and electronic scales on my kitchen side
    - I don't eat out that often and enjoy cooking
    - Having calorie counted for quite a few years I can reasonably estimate calories in foods with no info.

    For me it stops the panic of "how many calories have I had today, can I afford to eat this cake/cookie/pud". I average my calories over a week, and keep track of various healthy eating goals such as averaging 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Averaging over a week removes obsessiveness or guilt cos you can make up for it the next day or the day after.

    I don't bother with an exercise diary though, I wear a pedometer most days, and get on the exercise bike or use a DVD for half an hour when I can.

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  6. Brilliant post, Crabby, sums up so many of my own thoughts on food/exercise diaries.

    I'm forever banging on about keeping a food/exercise diary on The Office Diet (eg http://www.theofficediet.com/2008/07/02/keeping-a-food-and-exercise-diary/), because it really was the ONLY thing that got me to lose weight.

    I totally agree with all the drawbacks you've listed, Crabby. I tend to get obsessive and perfectionist about it and I found that if I ever had a day "off" the food diary, I went a bit crazy.

    I only stopped keeping one when I moved in with The Boyfriend (cos it was just going to be way too much hassle to make him weigh every ingredient in dinner when he was cooking!) and I now manage a balanced sort of approach by keeping vague mental track of what I've eaten ... but I don't write it down.

    Overall, I'd say, write down food and exercise whilst LOSING weight, but STOP when you're maintaining. It's so easy to get into an unhealthy frame of mind otherwise.

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  7. I think you already know my answer to this :P

    I track on weight watchers online but I also keep track of my running stats with my garmin.

    Can't help it really - I'm a super geek!

    ...and if I'm over in points, I'm over in points. I don't REALLY sweat it anymore. I just sort of move on with life because I have made such drastic changes in the last three years. I know what it takes to get back on track and kick myself in the ass pretty quickly.

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  8. I hear ya on this. I used to keep a crazy detailed journal and it took up at least an hour of my time each day, and I got that perfectionist tendancy you mentioned. Not fun. Nowadays, I still record what I eat and my workouts, but it's much more general. This morning it was simply kashi cereal w/soymilk and blueberries. I probably spend 5 minutes writing it down throughout the day, but it helps me make sure I'm getting enough fruits and veggies and getting regular workouts in. Nothing crazy. :)

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  9. Did the food diary with obsessive perfection for about two years. Tracked every crumb that came near my mouth, and virtually stopped eating out for exactly the reasons you said... couldn't write it down accurately.

    The good parts...
    1. Got very, very good at figuring portion size without weighing, plus more or less learned the calories in most commonly-used basic foods.
    2. Had ammunition when my husband said, "we are eating too much/too little/too whatever." Well, SEE! We are not.

    The bad parts...
    1. I actually didn't lose any weight at all doing this, but I think this probably had a lot more to do with the type of diet we were eating at the time.
    2. Omigod, it was SO great to stop. I didn't realize just how much time and obsession I was putting into this thing until I didn't do it any more. If you can seriously improve the quality of your life by not doing something, that seems like kind of a good choice...

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  10. I'm on WW and I find tracking all my food intake, even though it can be laborious, is what is really helping me to take an honest look at my eating habits and helping me make some changes. I know someday down the line I will not have to be so diligent about tracking because by then I will have a lot of ingrained good eating habits to compensate, but til then, I write it all down, even if I can't figure out a points value for it.

    And my running & exercise logs are the best thing I've ever done for myself. I even put a sticker on my wall calendar for each day I've exercised. I get such a feeling of accomplishment when I look at it and it helps to see it when I'm having a down day. I can look back at how far I've come and realize how insignificant my current life hurdle really is.

    Blah! I'm typing too much again! Thanks for the great post, Crabby.

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  11. Unfortunately, tracking is the only way for me to get control of myself if I want to lose a bit (or a lot). So, I have logged food off and on for years. I used to write it all down on paper, but now I use the free online nutrition tracker on Sparkpeople.com It really is fantastic and you can customize stuff you eat all the time. They also have a great recipe calculator so if you are one to cook, you find out just how many calories are in Grandma's Special Sweet Potato Casserole.

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  12. "Welcome to the Educated Guessing Game! And you know what? The more educated you are, the less fun this game is to play." Oh, you are so right! And I am laughing SO hard!!

    Kicking my food/exercise journal (that I kept daily for over 12 years) was one of the best things I've ever done. I'm happier, I'm healthier. I understand that lots of people find this helpful and I'm glad it works for them. It made me a neurotic mess.

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  13. I think food and exercise journals are excellent accountability tools, but I think they can exacerbate disordered eating habits (like restricting or compulsive exercise). I think it's a person-by-person type thing--if keeping a journal helps you ensure that you get enough exercise and proper nutrition, go for it. If it sends you down that slippery slope toward disordered behavior, toss it...

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  14. I just found a little weight tracker that I added to My Yahoo page. I set a very reasonable goal. I put it at the top of my page and every time I sit down at my computer to check the stats for my new blog it reminds me how many days I have until I weigh in again.

    Being a teckie, though, I have honed in on two mentions about sparkpeople.

    I'm outta here! I got an account to set up!

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  15. My nutritionist not only made me do a food/exercise log, but he wanted me to keep track of how I felt during the day. He had me focus on my protein intake, so it took a lot of the "good/bad" out of it, and I learned more about how different foods made me feel than anything else.

    It helped that it wasn't so much a weights and measures book as a here's what I ate, and here's what I did.

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  16. Absolutely true in my opinion, especially if you are big numbers person like me (geek). I write down the food, the weight watchers points (even tho' i'm not in WW) and my exercise and the WW negative points for the exercise.

    Another thing that works with me is I MUST write down my morning weight on the top of my food diary each day.

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  17. I definitely write down everything.
    I keep track of my food, it's how i plan my menu at least a week in advance. I write down my water intake and my exercise. It helps me to be accountable to me and it's a great way to look back and see what worked and what didn't!!

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  18. I tried to keep a food journal for a while, but it become a huge pain in the a**, so I try to watch what I eat. I am eating a peach right now, someone jot that down!
    I am now keeping a workout journal because I am training for a 1/2 marathon so want to make sure I am doing it properly. Otherwise, again, too much trouble.

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  19. I kept a food journal on www.fitday.com a couple years ago. I do most of my own cooking, so I was able to get real numbers most of the time (though they don't have a very good database of foods and the strangest normal things wouldn't be listed). It was nigh impossible when I went out to eat to guesstimate.

    Every now and then I consider going back on it, but it was truly a pain in the ass to keep it. I just try to keep a vague idea of how well I'm doing during the day, though I honestly couldn't tell you how many calories I eat on average.

    For exercise, I work out so much teaching that I don't really keep track. But now that I'm doing the 100 pushup program (http://leth-gourmet.blogspot.com/2008/07/one-hundred-pushups-program.html), I totally see how keeping track can be useful - if left to my own devices, I'd totally just do 15 pushups here and there. But being forced to do increasing numbers of them really kicks my butt (or my chest/shoulders/back/abs) into shape. I think writing down what weights and reps for lifting could definitely help out with progress.

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  20. Right on sista.

    I am in my training season for upcoming marathons and I am a good girl when it comes to tracking my workouts. I use an online journal that even keeps mileage I put on each pair of shoes. But a food journal? Urgh. I have done it before, I know it works. In fact, when I was doing it, counting points, I was in the best shape of my life. I just can't take the plunge to do it again.

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  21. From reading these comments, it sounds like it's useful to keep a food diary for awhile -- long enough to train yourself to estimate portion sizes, but not so long that you drive yourself totally insane. (Partially insane, that's different.)

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  22. Of course our site (Calorielab) has the nutritional information on foods. I have never really kept that strict a calorie count. I have used portion control and, a little applied secret technique called, still be a little hungry when you stop eating! That one works really well!

    As you said, keeping an accurate count has been shown to work, and over time, if applied, will become second nature and easier.

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  23. Lots to say!
    "most of us can remember, if we take a minute to think about it, how many times we worked out this week" Not all of us, though. If I think about it, I can remember whether I walked or "did the bike" or did yoga *yesterday* but going back farther is just guessing. Unless you do really different kinds of exercise, it all blurs together. "Was that yesterday? or the day before? or last week?" I mark the top of the day in my weekly calendar (above where the hours start) with a y for yoga, and an x for some form of exercise with number of minutes for walking or something in parenthesis (garden) (loaded wood) if I did something else, and since I got the exercise bike a b for that. I'm still writing up elaborate reports in my journal on that: how many minutes and miles and what my heart rate was at various times, and whether it was impossible to do my target speed. When I get it down to a sameness I'll just put "x:b" in the calendar and forget it.
    Food journaling: several years ago I tried using Fitday, since I have no interest in calculating calories or points or anything. I measured food as accurately as I could, and did a lot of custom foods, because I don't buy much pre-packaged food, and it was neat to see the record, but it kept telling me I should have lost weight on what I was eating, even when I switched my profile down to sedentary (I was still grooming then; you never stop moving, even when you're sitting down to do something) and stopped putting in all my exercise, so after several months I quit. It obviously couldn't deal with different metabolisms. After the mentions in the comments, though, I'm going to check out this sparkpeople thing.
    My mother kept a food journal for about the last twenty years of her life for a different reason. Her food allergies were getting worse, and changing faster, and she wrote down everything she ate to help her plan meal rotations, so she wouldn't eat the same food too often, and to track what she had eaten when her symptoms got worse.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky, shutting up now

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  24. I've kept an exercise journal for about 20 years. Pretty meticulously too.I exercise a lot most of the time, so it is a source of personal pride.

    I keep an eating log only when in "focused" weight loss mode. (I'm chronically 20 lbs over ideal weight, but frankly just can't do battle with it every waking minute.) I have to say keeping track of my intake helps, because at least I don't tend to GAIN weight when I record each iota of food that goes into my body. But, unlike the exercise journal, I find the food log an annoying drag for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Hmm, I guess I'll start a new log today...

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  25. And another comment from the distant past: when I decided, in college 35 years ago, that I should drink eight glasses of water a day (in addition to the glass of milk I drank at every meal before I got allergic to it) I put a piece of paper on the refrigerator and made a tick mark on it every time I got a glass of water, starting a new line every day. After two years of this, I didn't need to keep track any more.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  26. "the more terrible food is for you, the better it tastes". Sad but true.

    I keep an exercise blog to motivate myself, but writing down food just wierds me out. I had friends on diets with points and lists and they kept turning food into something they didn't enjoy...always counting up if they could have something that day by adding up what it would cost them. It was wierd and obsessive and took all the joy out of eating for them.
    I am my own harshest critic...I know what I've eaten. I don't pretend to not keep track of it.

    Lists for budgeting tho - *that* is where it helps me out. It helps me realise what I'm wasting $$ on. I guess everyone has their uses for lists.

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  27. Journals do have a high PITA factor, so I don't bother. I just make myself move every day and don't bother to eat what I wouldn't want to write down.

    messymimi

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  28. Not to sound too obnoxiously smug, but yes I do keep a food and an exercise "diary", in fact using an online application to do so. But I'm kind of a data nerd anyway. I lost 130 pounds so for me it worked. And I'm still doing it even though I reached my goal weight because I don't want to start lying to myself again about how much I'm eating. The payoff for time spent logging what I eat and being able to analyze carbs, fat, protein is in knowing that I have a real tool for maintaining my weight loss. Which I am firmly committed to doing. I personally use the Calorie Count web site, not to tout it specifically because there are others sites I'm sure just as good.

    One small nit I'd like to pick is about the statement: "This is because the more terrible food is for you, the better it tastes." Nah, this is true only if you really think that the only good tasting food is what you buy out of a box or get at a restaurant.

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  29. I am a food journalist addict, yes I will admit it. I have to track down what I eat. It drives me crazy not knowing and it not only keeps me on track, but it keeps me informed.

    Yes, sometimes it gets annoying measuring out my portions, tracking them, etc. But in the long run, it is worth it, for me anyways. TheDailyPlate, I have found is a great tool when tracking foods.

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  30. I track intermittently: when I feel that my snacking might be heading towards a dangerous place; or when I realize, "Hey, my body can't handle pizza, fried chicken, or burgers three nights in a row."

    I base my eating on the WW Core model, make a daily checklist of the 8 good health guidelines, and write IN ADVANCE what I'm going to be eating that day.

    It definitely helps me stay where I want to with my weight and nutrition.

    I also keep an exercise journal, and a folder for magazine clippings of workouts I've tried and incorporated into my workout.

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  31. I can see how food journaling could bring out obsessive tendencies or get really, really boring, but I'm not there just yet -- course, I've only been keeping my log for a month and a half. I've found it useful for accountability (when it comes to taking vitamins, in particular) and pattern recognition (I didn't consciously realize I found -- and still find -- a way to work cheese into nearly every meal). I'm not sure how long I'll continue with it -- I keep thinking I should track weights and quantities and calories so I actually learn what equals what and then wean myself off it, but then I think, naaah. It's more fun to write "big pile o' bing cherries." And I already know what the culprits are -- it seems masochistic to write down quantities, in those instances.

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  32. I track one week of every month to keep myself on the right road. The rest of the time, I sporadically write down what I'm eating.

    I track ALL my exercise, 'cause that's fun!

    I track food on sparkpeople, but track my workouts on mapmyrun.com

    I do better when I'm tracking, but since I've been in maintenance mode for the last few months, it hasn't been as big a deal. Now that I'm going to lose that last 10-ish lbs, I'll have to track every day until it's gone.

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  33. I definitely find that keeping a detailed journal brings out my eating disordered behaviors like WHOA. On the other hand, NOT keeping track leads to sticking my fingers in my ears and singing, "LALALALA I DON'T KNOW HOW BAD THIS FOOD IS FOR MEEEE!!!" Ha!

    My compromise is to tape a blank calendar page to the fridge every month, give myself some general guidelines (step AWAY from the refined carbs!) and then draw an "X" through every day that I meet those general guidelines. That way, I still have some accountability, but I also have some flexibility. PLUS it helps to know how many days I've eaten well, so that I can figure out how much eating that ice cream will really throw my system off.

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  34. From time to time I try to be good about "logging" food and exercise and have found this to be pretty useful software if you don't want to have to go online to track stuff : http://www.dietpower.com/

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  35. I've kept a complete log of all my food and exercise at DailyPlate since November 6, with only three days off (I was at running camp, with no internet access, with home cooked food that I looked at the calories for and it seemed pretty okay, and we were typically exercising 3 hours or more per day - I probably didn't fare TOO badly there). I'm a complete addict, but it makes me wonder if I will actually do this forever? It seems crazy to do it forever, but I also can't see myself stopping.

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  36. Great post, I think I'm in the too lazy category. The junk food after dinner is big downfall too.

    I've put up a tally chart in the kitchen to mark consecutive days running. So, that's a start.

    The diet log would be a real winner, something to think about.

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  37. i've done them a few times. maybe it's just me, but it really didn't keep me from eating crap. i may have eaten less crap, but that is all.

    the last time i kept one, i was also wearing a tech device called the bodybugg that made me go crazy. kind of.

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  38. Wow, some great suggestions down here for making the whole tracking thing less of a pain in the ass.

    And Dr. J, how could I forget Calorie Lab? I tend to go directly to your column there so I forget what a great resource the whole site is is.

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  39. For me, The Book is simply too harsh a mistress.

    A poor workout when I was full of flu just looks like a poor workout when it's in The Book. Similarly "a slice of birthday cake and two big pieces of pizza" just looks like an unhealthy dinner, rather than a treat because it was my best friend's birthday.

    Life happens, and sometimes life doesn't look like a perfect diet and exercise regime when you put it on the page. I could never get over the guilt of seeing my "slips" in the cold light of day - I ended up cutting the treats out altogether (and the friends that came with them), and that was no fun at all!

    TA x

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  40. Crabby, are you talking to me? Totally guilty. I have an exercise log, but loathe writing down what I eat. I've tried it before but because I got scary obsessed with what I was eating, I stopped. There is no reason in the world I should be able to tell you how many calories 10 cherries have. That's the other downside. If you have obsessive tendencies, writing down every bite can bring out that beast. At least for me.

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  41. Can't do it. Or rather, I CAN do it. I CAN keep track consistently and amazingly, and it works- soon the ingredients and nutritional values and relative values of my excercise are always in my mind... and then I am in serious trouble. It is hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle when a monster in the back of your head can't find a happy medium between starvation and overeating.

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  42. Nice post! Free online journal...
    http://www.fitday.com/

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  43. I am definitely one who can become extremely obsessed and, last time around, it started to turn really bad... I just stopped enjoying food and I was chronicling everything that went near my mouth and it just became something my entire life revolved around, and it wasn't doing me any good! The last time I did it I actually lost 30lb, but it just isn't working for me anymore. So I have had to quit, though I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to track a few days here or there just to see how I'm doing.

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  44. Well, I have to change my eating habits and exercise habits, so maybe I'll just start out by marking a calendar when I've eaten well and when I've exercised. Then work on getting a full month of check marks and go up from there.

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  45. I've tracked food a few times before but don't anymore... I get too obsessive about it! But I still keep track in my head and I pretty much always assume the worst when I don't have the nutrition info at my fingertips.

    But I DO track my exercise- how many flights of stairs, how much I've walked/biked/swam/danced, and what exercise videos I've done. Its fun to look back and see my improvements!

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  46. Great post, Crabby! I've never tried tracking what I eat. Perhaps I should. On the other hand, maybe I don't wanna know....

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  47. I used to track my food using FitDay, but I'm pretty much over it. My weight has been consistent for 8 months, I know what to eat and know when I've screwed up. Every once in a while I say: I will track for a week just to make sure. Get half way through the first day and find something hard to account for and quit.

    That said, I sit down every weekend and plan my workouts for the week. Then record what I've accomplished. I make notes of when I need to increase weights or when I've cheated myself on an exercise (I hate the floor exercises).

    Usually LOVE planning the workouts, then don't have to think when it comes time to do it.

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  48. I admit it, I've tried to keep Food Diaries. With my current diet, I'm considering calorie counting... but, you see, I remember how much I hated writing in my food diary, trying to remember where it was, and what I ate, and how much and blah blah blah. And when I tried Weight Watchers, the Point System kicked my @ss. So why I'm even considering calorie counting, I don't know.

    Though, I must admit, thinking about calorie counting has made me check the calories of much more of the food I want *before* I take it home from the store. It keeps me reaching for low-cal, no fat, "diet" foods. And, in most cases, since these are simply the counterparts of what I'd normally eat, I'm not going to massively over-eat with them. Well, so I hope!

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  49. I hate food journals. I don't do it. It makes me obsess over every tiny morsel, and puts me right back into my ED mindset.

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  50. I just started myself back on food journaling. I hate it. I know it's absolutely necessary for me to make sure I'm eating healthy and to keep me accountable and help me reach my goals, but DAMN it's annoying.

    It takes up so much of my time figuring out the "numbers" associated with what I'm eating, and i end up buying more expensive "pre-packaged" versions of what I want to eat (no frozen dinner type pre-packaged but I live near whole foods so like a pre-packaged salad)

    As far as the fitness journaling, that's much easier ^_^ I just blog it. That actually ups the ante as far as my little mind is concerned...it's a lot harder to cheat when you know that someone else will actually KNOW you cheated.

    That said, I am doing a food journal again, because they do work, and I do need it to loose the weight. But as soon as I'm out of "loose" mode and into "maintain"? that journals getting shredded!

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  51. Unless there's a specific food-related issue, like a potential wheat/gluten problem I'm trying to pin down, I don't track food. It's too much work.

    The workout/mileage logs are easy to do, and give me a great deal of satisfaction at the end of each week or month.

    Great post - and comments from your readers.

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  52. It seems that most of the food I eat is food that I prep myself. I have no idea about calories, or counting anything, etc. As for eating out, it's usually a burrito, or some Thai food, and I never know the calorie counts. I intermittently keep a dairy, but I just write down what I ate, not bothering with counts. I figure if I'm eating huge amounts of food out of boredom (a downfall of mine) I'll notice it from a diary. I notice it in real life, too, but can ignore/deny it.

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  53. You have (uncanny) impeccable timing, my dear Crabby. When I saw the title, I knew I shouldn't read it, because I have been trying to talk myself out of starting my journal for the past 2 days.

    Ugh. Now I have to, because I fit all the reasons that I SHOULD do it. A kick in the butt. Needed it, didn't want it. So sort of thanks. :) Hehe.

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  54. I found keeping a journal only helped me lose weight because I'd see a cookie, then think, "Well if I wanted to eat this, it's not JUST eating it - it's eating it and pulling out my journal and finding out how many calories are in the cookie and then writing it down...eh, eating a cookie is too much work."

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  55. I go to Weightwatchers who are, I think, the "granddaddies" of food journaling. And, you're right -- when I write down everything I eat, I lose weight. My guess is the reason it is so hard to write everything down regularly is the little part of all of us that HATES to be told what to do -- even when it's ourselves telling us! So, we rebel by NOT writing it down. There. I'll show "her!" We're our own worst enemy.

    This post and the great comments have inspired me to start tracking faithfully again and lose that last 10 lbs.!

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  56. I don't anymore, but whenever I fell off the eating right wagon during my Weight-Loss Diary column, I'd keep a food journal for a few days and bring myself back on track.

    It always worked, but it was a real pain.

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  57. I do super well when I log everything into FitDay (the PC version - so that I can make my own custom foods)

    Thing is, I'm at work most of the day. By the time I get home I'd have to remember everything so far. I suppose I could keep a running list on a little notepad at work but dude, that would require me to not be up to my eyeballs in needy tourists that require me to wipe their ass or something.

    /tangent

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  58. I find it annoying to write down everything I eat, too. I do a pretty good job, I think, of keeping track of it in my head. That works well enough for me! :)

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  59. I hate to write stuff down, but I have done it off and on and have to be totally honest... I have lost weight writing stuff down before, and gained weight when not doing it and not weighing daily.

    I've gained nearly 30 pounds since marrying and moving away from my gyms, gym friends, and lifestyle I had before (I have to cook constantly now.) I am glad I saw this, because I'm heading out now to find a new online diary. I've always used Calorie King for the Mac and loved it, but I am at multiple computers and need it online now.

    I even have a Bodybugg and didn't do the tracking consistently and have gained about 8 pounds since I got it! Jeesh...

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