A few months ago, I posted about the Gladwyne Diet — my revolutionary weight loss program that involves two steps:
1. I eat less than I want to eat
2. I exercise more than I want to exercise
By following these radical breakthrough steps, I’d lost 10 lbs over 3 months or so, or roughly 0.75 lbs per week. This brought me within about 7 lbs of my goal weight.
And then, there I sat.
Oh, there were reasons for my plateau. I had a book come out. The baby, who had been sleeping through the night, stopped sleeping through the night. There were illnesses, my husband’s work-related disappearance for big chunks of January, February and March, a bizarre and likely stress-related gum infection that had me in pain for an entire week, and so forth. Whatever the reasons, I stopped losing weight and likely gained a pound or two back.
So I decided to do what every nutritionist tells you to do and keep a food journal.
I’m well aware of the concept. In speeches for the past two years, when I tell people to keep a time log, I say it’s like a food journal. Write down what you eat and it keeps you from eating mindlessly. Write down what you do with your time and it keeps you from spending time mindlessly.
[Some people add in a third element: money. Write down what you spend to keep from spending it mindlessly. That’s true, but there’s a big caveat here. Whatever food you’re eating at that moment, and whatever you’re doing with your time at a given moment is all there is. With money, big chunks of people’s expenditures go out the door once a month. If you’ve got a financial problem, that $500 car payment is a bigger worry than the $3 latte, but a traditional spending log will highlight the frequency of the latter.]
I’ve kind of enjoyed keeping time logs. I like the accountability, and knowing I’m recording my weeks encourages me to plan good things for them. Planning good things both heightens your enjoyment of them, and makes sure they happen. I also like the data analysis.
I was not so excited about keeping a food log. I think the reason is that I like the idea of being able to eat whatever I want. Since I run regularly, and have spent almost the entirety of the past 5 years being pregnant or nursing a baby, I have somewhat higher caloric needs than average. But while I might be able to eat a lot and maintain a certain weight, I cannot eat whatever I want and lose weight, too. For whatever reason, I gained more weight with my third pregnancy than my second or first, and have had a much harder time losing it. Since my weight loss had stalled, I needed a different approach. I also realized that, if I kept a food log, I could still eat whatever I wanted. I’d just need to write it down and look at it there in black and white.
The food log did, indeed, keep me accountable. While I knew, intellectually, that I was snacking a lot, seeing multiple snacks written down reminded me that I was doing it. Even if the snacks were healthy, they still had calories, and weight loss is about creating a calorie deficit. By day two, I was snacking less, simply because I didn’t want to write it down. By day 3, I’d handed over my stash of ice cream “snack size” bars to my kids and did not purchase more at the grocery store. Hopefully I’ll be able to eat them again when I’m at my goal weight. And the good news is, having logged my meals and snacks, I’m starting to lose weight again. For the first time in a year, I’m back in the 120s. 129.5 lbs, to be sure, but I still took a picture of the scale.
Have you ever successfully lost weight? How did you do it? Did a food journal play a role? What did you learn by recording what you ate?
photo courtesy flickr user jamieanne