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Using a Food Journal to Aid With Healthy Weight Loss

Using a Food Journal to Aid With Healthy Weight Loss

The term "healthy weight loss" is often used to relay the message of losing weight the right way; however, it is not always understood. Healthy weight loss isn't fast, it isn't dramatic and it takes more than a short-lived commitment. Healthy weight loss includes a lifestyle change, not just a change in your diet for a few months.


Losing one or two pounds a week is typically regarded as a gradual, healthy goal for reaching your ideal weight. Since 3500 calories equals one pound, one or two pounds of weight loss every week requires you cutting out anywhere from 500 to 1000 calories every day. While this may sound like a lot, it is a goal that is easily accomplished when you look at your daily diet. 


Before you start modifying your diet, keep a food journal for a week or two. Write down everything you eat and drink and when, including how many calories are in your foods -- whether it's a small snack in the middle of the day or a tall coffee drink during your morning commute. The reason for keeping a food journal is that you may forget different foods from one day to the next, something that can keep you from realizing how many calories you are actually taking in. Another type of note to keep in a food journal is if you're eating for a specific reason -- or the reason you decided to eat. Being stressed out, tired, happy or in an energetic mood can alter the way you perceive food and push you into eating without you knowing it. 


After a week, read through your journal and decide which habits you have while you're eating. Common bad habits include skipping meals, eating too quickly or eating while trying to tackle other tasks. Try to look at what led you to eating whatever it is you ate and when. Do you eat something every time you walk into your kitchen or watch television? Do you eat when you're stressed out? Do you feel compelled to eat when you see food (work parties, walking by a bakery window or something similar)? 


These "cues" that trigger you to eat may or may not be unavoidable, but you should see if you can alter them or avoid them all together. If coworkers are frequently bringing in calorie- and sugar-packed baked goods, consider bringing in some healthy crackers or leaving dried fruits or nuts at your desk. If you eat when you're stressed out or feeling blue, find a quick exercise you can do anywhere -- such as taking a quick walk around the house or office. 


Make conscious efforts to eat more slowly, stopping when you feel approximately 80 percent full (it takes time for your body to take in all your food, a reason people often feel over-stuffed after a large meal). Drink a glass of water before you eat to help you feel fuller. Don't worry about "cleaning your plate" every time you eat.


Look in your food journal to see when you used condiments. Condiments are a quick way to add calories, saturated fats and cholesterol to your diet. Take time to look at the back of the label and read the serving suggestions. At first glance, the calories and other items listed in the nutritional information on the back of the label may not seem bad, until you take the time to measure out the serving size. You can easily double or triple the calorie count from condiments without thinking twice. A prime example of this is salad dressings. The two tablespoons suggested may be one-third of what you put on your salad, and end up consuming. For salads, consider the healthier, less-calorie method of dipping your fork in a small dish of dressing and then gathering your vegetables. You still get the flavor, but you don't get the unwanted calories that come with drowning a healthy, vegetable-filled salad in your favorite dressing.


Lastly, look through all of your eating habits and see where you can make easy changes. Portion control, eating slowly and taking your own, healthy snacks to work are all changes you can make to slim down on your calorie intake -- and slim down your waist. Take each day as it comes, and don't fret about a small mistake here or there. The goal isn't to deprive yourself of a cupcake at work every now and then, but to eat healthier as a whole. 

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