At some point in our lives, most of us reading this have committed to “eating healthy” or eliminating certain types of food deemed “bad”. And yet, we still don’t lose weight or see changes in our body. Why?
There is a colossal difference between what we think we eat (and how much) versus what we actually consume – and not for the better! If you’re feeling “stuck” with weight loss or aren’t seeing changes in your body despite your “strict adherence” to a healthy diet, you may be suffering from “dietary recall”.
Dietary recall is the behavior of relying solely on memory when assessing what you ate and how much. But let’s be real – this only sets you up for failure because we tend to grossly underestimate how much we eat, or easily forget about the bite size Reese’s we popped in between meetings. Days are long and memories, short! The risk of dietary recall is consumption of excess calories and you guessed it – weight gain!
Fact: Most of us eat way more than the recommended portions. Even when priming your plate with healthy foods, we still overconsume. Without tracking your food and becoming more aware of what you’re eating and how much, you can’t know with 100% certainty that you’re eating the right foods and the right amount of each. Because of this, dietary recall will never work when your goals are weight loss.
There’s only one solution for dietary recall and that my beautiful friend, is food journaling!
You know when you first wake up in a super dark room and someone decides it’s a good idea to turn the lights on? So, you blink your eyes and slowly adjust to the light in a ridiculous fashion? Then, once you open them you can see everything muuuuch clearer than in the dark? Food journaling is exactly like that.
What we’re saying is, writing down or recording what you eat instead of “dietary recall” or, committing this information to memory, is going to drastically help your weight loss goals – we promise – and here’s how:
Want to know the most common thing I hear when someone hands me a food log? “This was a really bad week, I don’t usually eat like this.” Yes, you do. In fact, I bet this is actually normal for you but you never really noticed it. I might lie and act like I believe you, but don’t worry! I don’t.
Being able to look at what you have eaten in the past day, week, and month is a huge eye opener that reveals exactly what and how much you have eaten as long as you are honest.
One of the most beautiful things that happens after stage 1 up above? You might mentally decide that you don’t want to write down any “bad” food, so you just won’t have it! Or, because you know it will be seen by others (mayhaps a coach such as myself??) you subconsciously make better choices.
Ever notice if you always eat a meal at the same time? What about in the same spot?
Speaking from experience for a moment, one of my personal trends is that I will always reach for something to eat (usually pistachios) if I sit on the right side of my couch and watch a show. Its uncanny, but something I never would have noticed before. Now I know to avoid that situation or enact a different plan if need be.
Another common scenario is noticing how much you snack. Internal monologue “I had a small snack at 10:00 but then had lunch at noon. Then I hit my afternoon slump and had a quick protein bar. Then, I had one after putting the kids to bed during my ‘me time’. That seems excessive.” This happens all the time.
Ever tell someone you’re something you aren’t? Come one, be honest! I’ll go first. I once told people I was cool and I mean… come on.
Sometimes, we inflate the truth to make ourselves sound better in front of peers. But then, we start to believe in this person we have made without actually living that life. Journaling your food intake might reveal:
In a nutshell, here’s a visual of what typically happens with dietary recall:
Sure, a chicken salad at lunch sounds like a well balanced meal. But what was on that salad? Did you smother it with Hidden Valley creaminess? Was it topped off generously with cheese? Journaling your intake can pull back the curtains and reveal to yourself who you really are. But the best part? You can become the person you want to be, especially with a bit of coaching!
If you’re ready to get started now, here’s 2 quick & effective ways to immediately begin journaling:
This is my favorite method because it has the least barriers and is simple. Here’s how:
Food Eaten and how much:
Any Notes (where did you eat, how did you feel after, etc):
Log for at least 3 days before trying to look for trends, habits, etc. This one is a great tool for general awareness and making healthier choices.
Want to dig a bit deeper into calorie counting? These apps are your best choice for getting a better picture of your overall calorie intake but don’t do as well when it comes to writing notes. If you are relatively tech literate these might be the best choice for you. There are plenty to choose from but I prefer Cronometer — it’s the most accurate in a sea of inaccurate clones.
If you want real results, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF!
Trying to log at the end of the day just isn’t a good idea no matter what. DO you remember what you had for a snack yesterday? How much? Yeah, probably not.
by: Matthias Breon, RF House Nutrition Sherpa & Food Journaling Fanatic