Is your food journal failing you?

For long term success with weigh loss and weigh maintenance, keeping a food journal is a very useful, says Tanja Shaw

A food journal is one of the most effective tools for weight loss and weight maintenance.  Some studies go as far as claiming that by simply tracking what you eat, you could double your weight loss.   For convenience, many people turn to their smart phones or computers to keep track of food consumption.  While Internet food journals can be very useful, there are a few things to be cautious of.

1. Understand that the recommendation for food is a rough estimate. Most online food journals start with a basic calculation.  Enter your current weigh, age, sex, level of activity, and the calculator will tell you how many calories you should consume, and how many grams of protein, fat and carbohydrates.   While this may be a good starting point for some, remember that a basic calculator can only provide a rough estimate.  Do not get too caught up on meeting the exact recommendations.  An online calculator does not know how hard you push yourself in your workouts, or any other factors, such as hormones and metabolic rate, that will factor into your specific needs.

2. Remember that ‘calories in and calories out’ are just part of the equation.  While the amount of calories you consume will affect whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight, the quality of calories also matter.   The quality of nutrients will impact how the body uses the calories, and whether or not its stored as fat.   For example, a protein and fiber rich meal will increase your feeling of satiety, and will not be stored in the body when compared to a sugary treat.  While eating too much healthy food can cause weight gain, do not forego nutrient rich choices for processed, low calorie substitutes.

3. You’re probably not burning quite as much as the app says you are.  Recently a client, who was using My Fitness Pal as a food journal, came to me excitedly about being able to consume an additional 1700 calories that day because he went for a bike ride.    While you do need to eat more when you workout more, many online calculators grossly overestimate the actual amount of energy used for a workout.  You may want to enter your exercise a way to keep track of your workouts, but do not use the calories burned to dictate how much you eat that day.

4. Remember that other users often enter the nutrition information.  Much of the nutritional information provided by web based food journals are user entered.  This means, that someone created a food  in the database, and entered the nutritional information.  While much of the data is correct, it’s wise to double check when something seems off.

For long term success with weigh loss and weigh maintenance, keeping a food journal is a very useful.  Online food journals can be a convenient choice-, just make sure to exercise a bit of caution!

Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio.  Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.

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