The Food Diary: The “Write” Way to Lose Weight
A really clever and alternative method to begin your Success Roadmap
As a child, you may have kept a diary to record your daily activities, your hopes, and your fears. If you wrote in the diary each day, it might have seemed as if the diary itself had become one of your best friends. As you grew older, the diary might have become a record of your job search, love life, or wedding plans. Psychologists, in fact, tell us that writing down your goals can be the first step to achieving them. It has been demonstrated that individuals who kept a written record of their hunt for employment were more likely to find the job they wanted than those who did not.
It’s not surprising, then, that some dieticians recommend keeping a food diary or journal if you’re hoping to lose weight. If you’re not accustomed to writing, the idea can seem a bit daunting at first. After all, if you don’t seem to have the time to record all of your baby’s “firsts”—the first words, the first steps, the first day of reciting the alphabet—how can you be expected to find the time to write down everything that passes through your lips? It’s a valid question; however, if you stop to consider just how much time you spend eating, surely you can find the time to write down what you eat.
The key to keeping a food diary is motivation. You have to have a desire to record your food choices. One good way to do this is to place a picture of your heaviest self onto the cover of a notebook. Also, make sure that you keep the notebook in full view, either on your bedside table or on the kitchen table. This could provide you with just the incentive you need to make note of what you’re eating.
Another motivating factor could be to log your daily weight at the beginning of each diary entry. That way, you can see if your dietary choices are having an effect on your weight. If you find that you are shedding pounds, you can affix a gold star next to your entry. The gold star can provide the psychological boost necessary to continue to lose weight.
Of course, the next question you’ll face is: What exactly should I write down for each entry? To begin with, just include a running list of foods, along with portion sizes. You might be surprised to find out not only what you’re eating, but also how large the portions are. Next, categorize each food entry. Is it a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, or fat? Such information could be vitally important in determining where your excess pounds are coming from.
You can also use your journal for meal planning. If you think about what you should eat ahead of time, you’ll be less likely to indulge in the wrong foods. Such planning can make you feel more organized and more in control—two important elements for losing weight.
If you indulge in comfort food every once in a while, don’t panic. Eating high-calorie foods occasionally can help prevent a feeling of deprivation which can lead to overeating. The key is to eat “bad foods” in moderation. It is also important that you write down everything you eat, including fatty foods. Trying to hide your food choices by not writing them down is counter-productive and could lead to feelings of guilt.
Yet another helpful idea is to write down your goal weight each day. This can be an important element of psychological warfare. Knowing what your goal is—and mapping out a way to get there—can improve your chances of achieving critical milestones.
Also, when possible, try to make your diary experience fun. Do your writing on the patio, by the pool, or in your bathtub. Set the mood by playing some of your favorite music in the background. Decorate your diary by using colored pens or colorful stickers. Whatever you can do to make your diary-keeping chores more interesting will certainly be helpful.
Be aware of the fact that it could take you a while to get into the diary-keeping habit. But, once you see those pounds melt away, you’ll find it’s well worth the investment of time and energy.
Emotional Eating: A Prime Ingredient for Obesity
Always pay attention not to fall into this psychological trap
"Sandra", found her weight ballooning 60 pounds after her separation from her husband.
While part of the weight gain was apparently tied to the medication she was taking, the rest appeared to be the result of what can be described as emotional eating. In recent years, greater attention has been focused on the problem of emotional eating for both women and men. In fact, some experts have gone so far as to claim that most weight gain can be blamed on emotional eating. According to Women Today magazine, it has been estimated that as much as 75 percent of overeating is attributed to the emotions.
For a number of people, overeating stems from anxiety. For instance, if you find yourself consuming an entire bag of potato chips, it’s possible that anxiety is the cause. While many people realize that alcohol and illegal drugs are not an antidote to anxiety, they may not understand that indulging in comfort food in order to combat anxiety can be dangerous as well.
In other cases, overeating may be the result of depression. If you feel tired, hopeless, and have lost interest in your normal activities, you may be suffering from a depressive episode. In order to deal with these uncomfortable feelings, people may turn to food in an effort to cheer up. The problem is that the food can lead to weight gain, which can lead to further depression.
At times, overeating may be a symptom of boredom. An individual may figure that he or she has nothing better to do than overeat. This can be particularly true when one is watching television or surfing the Internet. Rather than trying to determine a cause for the boredom, an individual may just try to “fix” it by indulging in high-fat, high-calorie food.
How do you know if you are an emotional eater? Ask yourself some key questions: Do I tend to eat when I’m worried? Scared? Sad? Do I find that eating lifts my spirits? Am I spending more time eating than engaging in other activities I enjoy? Do my binges come after I’ve suffered disappointment? Am I turning to food in order to deal with the death of a loved one…a divorce…or the defeat of my favorite team?
If the answers to any of these questions is “yes,” you may be overeating purely for emotional reasons.
After you’ve identified yourself as an emotional eater, you’ll need to take steps to correct your behavior. Perhaps the most effective technique is diversion. In other words, if you find yourself reaching for the cookie jar, find another activity to engage in. The answer could be taking a walk, kickboxing, or dancing. Or it could be something less physically demanding, such as needlepoint or crochet. The idea is to get your hands…and perhaps the rest of your body…moving. In time, you might find the urge to overeat subsides as you become involved with other activities.
Another effective step you can take is to identify the triggers for your emotional eating. Do you tend to binge in mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or right before bedtime? Are you snacking while watching television, while at the computer, or when you’re sitting in your favorite chair? By asking yourself these questions, you can identify the time of day when you overeat, as well as the location for your binging. With this information, you can learn to re-direct your behavior to less fattening pursuits.
Yet another helpful technique is to develop a support network to help you combat overeating. The members of your support team could include your spouse, children, parents, friends, or other over-eaters. You may even consider joining a support group which specializes in helping those who engage in binge eating. If you feel the need to overeat, contact a member of your support team.
Talking through your emotions could provide you with the emotional release you need, making overeating unnecessary.
If your anxiety or depression persists, consider seeing a psychotherapist. He or she can help you develop more effective coping mechanisms. If you find it difficult to talk to friends or family about your overeating, sometimes a psychotherapist can provide you with the talk therapy you need to overcome your problem.