Monday, January 5, 2009

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 12: Write it Down

Welcome back to the Habit-A-Week Challenge after half a month (or more) of holiday craziness and (possibly) indulgence! I am excited to see people trickling back to the blogosphere, ready to tackle some more weight. Now is the best time EVER to get the weight off, and it is all within your power. Make a change today! You'll be SO much happier by spring!

This week we are tackling a habit that is *very* helpful, but a lot of people tend to resist it. It takes effort, ya know, and we all want the effortless way to weight loss. (Not gonna happen). So even if you roll your eyes and think "I am not doing THAT," give it a try, just for a week. You might be surprised the difference it makes.

The healthy habit of the week is: Write it down. This is, in fact, the one single thing that has made my success this time. Writing down everything you put in your mouth is a real eye opener. In fact, I really wanted to make this habit the very first habit of all in the challenge, but I knew people would be resistant so I started with something easier. Now that you've been working on other habits, it's time to try this one. And if you are restarting your weight loss efforts, there was never a better time to tackle this habit!

How to do it: You can use a paper and pen... a notebook... a spreadsheet. You can scribble it on a grocery list. You can start a special journal. Or you can use a free program online like the Daily Plate, FitDay, or Sparkpeople (which I use daily). Doesn't matter what you use; do what you are most comfortable with. Start by simply measuring out ALL of your food (yes, with actual measuring cups and tablespoons) and writing down what you eat. I know at this point some of you are groaning and thinking it is too much effort and you want to find an *easier* way to lose weight. This is NOT THAT HARD, people. If you won't do something this simple, I don't know how you expect the weight to come off. (If you already have something else that is working for you, this doesn't apply! I am directing this comment to people who are sick of being fat but looking for a magic bullet with no work). Anyway, measure your food. You can measure out a serving (read the label) or you can pour your usual amount of food into a bowl and then measure that. Write it down. Do this ALL DAY LONG... every bite. If you eat your kid's sandwich crust, write "one sandwich crust" on your list. If you add ketchup to your food, write it down. If you drink some juice, write it down. If you lick the bowl after you make a cake, write it down. If you pop a few bites of dinner into your mouth as you are prepping it, write it down. Every single bite.

By the end of the day, you'll have a nice list going. Something like this:
1/2 cup milk
1 cup Cheerios
1 banana
sandwich made from 2 bread slices, half a can of tuna, 2 T mayo.
3/4 cup orange juice

Now if you were writing on paper, you need to add up the calories. It's easier if you write the calories down next to the food as you eat it for things with a label like the Cheerios, and then later you can look up calories for stuff without a label, like the banana. You can purchase a calorie counting book or look things up online. Add everything up and get a calorie total for the day. If you are using the online software I mentioned earlier, it is easier, because the food you eat will most likely be in their database and you just add the food and it automatically calculates for you.

Do this for one week. See how many calories you are eating. Weigh yourself and see if you gained or lost weight. Then adjust your intake accordingly. Simple! Look up how many calories you *should* be eating online here or here or here or wherever else you want to look. See if you are eating too much or too little.

Even if you are not going to be a long-term calorie counter, it's a good idea to do this for one week to see where your diet could use improvement. You can look down your list every day and see where the majority of your calories are coming from. Are you eating too many snacks? Is mayo 25% of your daily calorie intake? Do you eat a lot of calories at night? Not enough veggies? You can easily see what needs to be cut out in order to lose weight. And if you have never done this before, you'll be surprised how much you learn by doing this.

Give it a try. You have nothing to lose but the weight and the misery. If you're already a person who writes down what they eat.. whether for calories, points, exchange programs, whatever... use this week to go back to basics. Stop eyeballing your portions and really measure this week. Be extra accurate about your counting. Pay attention. Examine your intake and make necessary adjustments.

For "advanced dieters": If you already do this, then try writing down your *feelings* on your food intake list each time you eat. Examine the times you are eating, and your emotions. Write down how hungry you were on a scale of 1 to 10. Take this week to think about WHY you eat what you do, and whether or not that is healthy for you. Everyone can learn something by keeping track of their intake and feelings.

I'm off to trudge through the snow and run some errands. Have a super great week!


Karyn said...

I agree that this is probably the most important habit to cultivate. (As long as weighing and measuring are a part of it.) I was actually surprised, when I started w & m that I could have MORE of an item than I initially thought I could. If you have written everything down, it is easy to go back and SEE why you didn't lose this week - or why you lost BIG.

Barefoot Pixie said...

I really struggle with this one. I'm sure I'm going to get to a point where I can't progress without it.

♥ Dee ♥ said...

I do this, too. I track it on NutriMirror. Mainly because it has a recipe builder, and doesn't send me a bizmillion emails... lol.

Tracking and planning are the key to my success!

Sheri said...

Hi Lyn! Prior to my holidays a couple weeks ago I was tracking everything I ate and drank, regardless of quantity. I was using Spark People, which you have linked. It really can be an eye opener. When I thought I'd done good, like what I bought for lunch at work, I was astonished by the reality of my 'good'. One day in particular comes to mind, it amounted to over 900 calories!!! - for lunch. Along with the four primary trackers, I also traced the sodium. Is it any wonder water retention was peaked? The amount of salt consumed was ridiculous, expecially the prepackaged stuff. So, for Christmas I did up homemade pasta helpers for my sister's family, homemade taco seasoning and homemade onion soup mix, all extremely low to no salt. Plus, way way cheaper! This is something I used to do for me all the time, and will be again.

Big Girl said...

I've never kept a food journal per se, but I think I'm in on this one for a week. It could be very scary but also very enlightening and I'm sure very helpful. Thanks for the nudge.

Laurens_Closet said...

I hear this is the most important thing to be doing but, for me, it is so hard! I think it's just inconvenient... but I need to start. Habits, right???

Okay... I'll giv'er a try!

Thanks, Lyn!!


Dutch said...

As soon as a read about writing down what I eat I went and did it. I have been doing it but sometimes I wait until the end of the day. My food journal is upstairs and I know I should keep it downstairs where I eat. I don't count calories or measure my food. I know I need to do this. My portions always seem big. Thanks for all the great tips and ideas.

Marjie said...

I track my calories with the cronOmeter. It not only give you how many calories it also has protein and all the other stuff that is in your food.
But really, just knowing how many calories your eating is a good start.
It's free, I have it on my desktop.

Cathy said...

Happy New Year!

I am back on my program. Using to track my intake. It feels good to be back on my 'plan' or a better way of life.

I just love your blog, and what it does for all of us.

Vickie said...

I think that what you have written can be very helpful to people who are suddenly at a plateau or stall too. Sometimes things work until your body reaches a certain poundage - and then not so much.

I also think that when a plateau happens it is REALLY helpful to look at the ratio of fat/protein/carbs within the calorie range. It is an eye opener too.

fosterscreations said...

Hey there I just found your blog today. Congrats on the 60lbs gone. I am a fellow SPARKIE. Keep up the great progress.

Sarah said...

I would love your opinion on my new idea, especially since it stems from from the idea that I originally got from you!

Chad said...

I think some people have a hard time writing down their food intake because they're afraid of what it will tell them. So long as they have nothing objective sitting right in front of them, their diet can always be "not that bad." I think it all hits home once the pen meets the paper.

sonia said...

I used to keep a food journal for a few months here and there in 2008. After I got used to eating healthy, I decided to only journal when I ate something out of the ordinary. Ex - a dinner out that was high in salt, or 2 glasses of wine with dinner, etc. Alongside the 'out of ordinary' eating and drinking bits in the journal, I write down my weight daily. This seems to help, as I only focus on 'out of the ordinary' eating habits which in turn makes me feel like I am a healthy eater over all, and also makes me feel like I have more time to spend on other things.

But, I do agree, when starting off, it's essential to keep track of everything you are eating.