By Naomi Rabon, NW Fitness Team Trainer
Everyone is wired just a bit differently, and what works for some may not work as well for others. This is true with almost every aspect of approaching and achieving your health and fitness goals … with the exception of one thing: food journaling (queue “Psycho” music, please).
I think there are just as many people (if not more) who dislike food journaling as there are people who dislike cardio. But from what I have seen over the last 16+ years of working with people is that those who food journal on a regular basis are more successful than those who don’t.
WEIGHT IT OUT
One of the most depressing moments in my life was when I first started weighing my food and realized how tiny 16 grams (one tablespoon) of peanut butter was. Or how small ½ cup of rice is. It was then that I realized I had to weigh, measure, and add up everything I put in my mouth in order to know how much of what I was eating. I would’ve easily doubled the rice thinking I was only eating a ½ cup. And even more easily doubled or tripled the tablespoon of nut butter.
To put things in perspective, a half a tablespoon of nut butter is 8 grams. If you don’t know how tiny 8 grams of nut butter is, go ahead and weigh it. That amount of nut butter is roughly 50 calories, about 1.5g carbs, 2g of protein and 4g of fat. So, one tablespoon (16g) would be double those numbers: 100 calories, 3g carbs, 4g protein and 8g of fat. Two tablespoons (32g) would be double those numbers: 200 calories, 6g carbs, 8g protein and a whopping 16g of fat, and so on. It adds up quick!
If you don’t weigh your food, and just eyeball it, you could easily be eating 2-3x’s the calories and macros you think you’re eating, if not more. Even measuring your nut butter with a measuring spoon is not accurate because you could end up piling as much nut butter on that darn spoon as you possibly can fit on there – believe me, I know lol!
I prepped for my first figure competition from 2011-2012 before I was aware of any food apps (My Fitness Pal was created in 2005). Regardless, I still food journaled every day via an Excel spreadsheet. My coach at the time gave me weekly calories and macros, and a list of healthy foods to choose from, so I pretty much created my own meals.
For this reason, I was diligent about food journaling to make sure I was on target to hit my goals.
I plugged in formulas to calculate my calories and macros as I entered in my food totals for each meal – down to every single last gram – and tallied up my totals for the day. Every single day. I was diligent because I knew if I didn’t weigh and track everything, there was no way I would know where I was with my calories and macros.
WHY FOOD JOURNAL
I have been consistently food journaling for years now. It has become like second nature to me, and I always know where I’m at with my food intake. I have learned to rather enjoy food journaling, and here’s why:
1. Consistency Food journaling helps you stay consistent with your portion sizes, food choices, meal timing, and other aspects of nutrition. A new feature in My Fitness Pal is that it records what time you eat your meal, so you can see how consistent you are and pinpoint any inconsistencies that may be affecting your progress or your energy levels.
2. Accuracy As long as you weigh your food, and enter the accurate portion size, you will be confident knowing where you’re at with your daily caloric intake, as well as your carbs, protein and fat intake. This can be a huge deal in achieving your fitness goals, depending on how focused your goals are, and depending on how much you want to achieve those goals. If you just want to live a healthy life, for example, and make healthier nutritional choices, the accuracy of food journaling may not be as big of a deal as someone who, say, is on a mission to become an IFBB Professional League figure competitor.
3. Accountability There is no doubt that food journaling keeps you accountable. There have been a few times where I journaled my first meal or two, then I just didn’t feel like food journaling for whatever reason. When I decided to not journal the rest of the day, I felt like I could eat however much of whatever food I wanted to. It was as if it didn’t count since I wasn’t going to food journal it anyway. When I enter a food and the amount of it, I have to see what I eat. I have to look at all of the food I consume and it makes me want to eat the appropriate amount of food for my goals. I don’t want to have to enter in a food and portion size that I’m not proud of. I honestly think this may be one of the biggest reasons why some people don’t want to food journal. They don’t want to have to look at (and be disgusted by) some of the junk they are eating, so they use the excuse that food journaling is too hard or inconvenient. I know because I have felt that way before.
4. Clarity Food journaling gives you (and your coach, if you are working with a coach) a clear picture of what is working/isn’t working and what changes may need to be made. If you make really good progress over a four week period, for example, you can look and see what your food intake was like for that four week period. This can be true for external physique changes, or for internal health, such as identifying potential food allergies, blood profile health, etc. It can also help you identify things such as how certain amounts of carbs affect your energy level, strength and performance in a negative or positive way, or how certain amounts of fats and proteins affect you as well. Accurate, consistent food journaling can give you a vey clear picture of what works, what doesn’t work, and what variables to tweak and experiment with. For example, I put myself on a 6 week diet to prep for a photo shoot in February 2018. When I recently looked at the pictures and how much I transformed in 6 weeks, I was curious to see what I ate over that 6 week period. Because I food journal every day, I was able to go back in My Fitness Pal and look at what I ate every day for those 6 weeks.
REAP THE BENEFITS
If you aren’t a fan of food journaling in this convenient era of smart phone apps, you’d really be turned off to food journaling in an Excel spreadsheet or Word document like we did in the “old days.” So be thankful we live in an era where food journaling is actually easier and more convenient than it used to be and do yourself, your body and your goals a favor by trying to food journal at least a few times per week. It could really be the difference in continuing to struggle to reach your goals, or conquering goal after goal after goal!
ABOUT NAOMI RABON
One of the trainers on Nicole’s elite NW Fitness Training Team, Naomi is a certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a NPC Figure competitor who has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 12 years.