Sunday, August 13, 2006

Write it down to weigh down

Do you remember that scene in Bull Durham where Crash [Kevin Costner] offers interviewing tips to Nuke [Tim Robbins]? Each time Nuke questioned Crash's advice, Crash responded with three words: "Write it down." It must have worked; Nuke made it to The Show, and eventually used Crash's advice on-camera.

According to studies conducted by the National Weight Control Registry, one of the key factors for weight loss is keeping a food journal. Journaling can be as low- or high-tech as you're comfortable with, and can include the basics or be much more detailed.

The advantages of writing down every morsel you eat are well-documented. You'll see at a glance how much you've eaten as the day goes by. For those of us who must eat at the low end of the recommended calories per day, it's vital to keep track to prevent out-of-control eating. For those just starting a weight-loss plan, writing down what you normally eat can be educational and revealing.

Longtime readers know that I use a piece of standalone software called Don's Calorie Tracker, which was written for the Macintosh operating system. Since my computer is always on, the program is at my fingertips as long as I'm at home. It includes some food value information, and you then add new items as you use them, building up a core list of foods you eat on a regular basis. You also can record exercise activity accomplished each day.

I don't use it as intended – the purpose of the calculations is to provide you with a daily calorie total which, if you stay at or below it, should result in weight loss. That number depends on a daily record of your current weight, though, and I prefer to record my weight once a week. But I get accurate information on the number of calories eaten and burned each day.

For a little more than twice the Calorie Tracker price, CalorieKing offers a similar product, which I haven't tried.

Free products are out there, too, but they're online. I live in the land of dial-up internet service, and prefer to be able to add to my daily foods eaten without logging on, but if I had DSL, I'd probably be using FitDay on a regular basis. The food database is huge, the charts and reports are useful and my Inner Geek likes the amount of information provided each time I update my weight. I use it to keep track of my BMI [I've just slipped over the line from obese to merrely overweight – not really something to celebrate, but certainly something to note!].

SparkPeople's program, including their Nutrition Tracker, is free to use; the program I use is affordable and offers a more diverse menu planning feature. Again, though, these food journals are online only.

Most articles about journaling suggest that recording the when, where and why you eat are as important as the what. If you go to those lengths in your journaling efforts, could you tell me how it helps you? I've not gone quite that in-depth with my food records, and the Calorie Tracker program doesn't have a place for notes, as other programs do. I'm aware that writing down what I eat does help limit it. [I was especially aware of it when I was gone last week, and the computer didn't come with me. I tried to jot everything down the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil way, but I'll admit I'm spoiled by technology.] I'm not sure tracking when, where and why would be worth the time and trouble.

Speaking for myself, when I was at my heaviest, I didn't want anyone to be aware of me, and so was not very self-aware, either. This weight-loss process is not only making others notice me, but I'm paying better attention to myself. If there's more I can do, I want to know about it.


Vickie said...

I guess I fall into the what, how much, when and where category.

I started tracking again about the time that Jonathon mentioned that he had gone back to logging in his food.

I have to admit, it does make all the difference.

I follow Kay Sheppard. She believes that you eat 3 meals a day and one snack. You eat your meals evenly spaced. She believes that:

"Meals should be 4.5 to 5 hours apart. Scheduling is just as important as abstinence from binge foods and balance between protein and carbs. These are all vitally important issues that address the biochemistry of food addiction."
quote from Kay Sheppard.

So, what you eat, when you eat it and that you eat in the right combination are all equally important. I eat just about 1600 very balanced calories, in a wide variety of foods, following her formula.

So, I don’t eat ONE BITE OR BIT of anything in between these meals.

Is this restricting? NO – I eat a much wider variety of very good, filling food than I have on any other plan. My meals are large – they do hold me between eating times.

Kay’s plan steers us clear of wheat, corn, alcohol, processed food, sugar, etc.

Is this restricting? No, for me, it is very free-ing. I am a "binge person" and a compulsive over eater. Eliminating those foods has eliminated my binging, my worries about food, and ALL of my overeating. I have no more inner struggle. I eat what I am supposed to eat, when I am supposed to eat it – period.

Interestingly, as I have the food under control - I am noticing that my other compulsive behaviors (pack rat, messiness, etc) are also going away . . .

Tracking doesn’t keep me honest – I was already honest.

Tracking is like reciting math for the teacher – it reinforces the facts.

It also replaces having a sponsor to call with my meal plans/eating -because there isn't a group available where I live.

Tracking is like a gold star on a calendar for a child doing a good job.

It affirms that I am here, I am doing what I am supposed to do, and that I feel good about my food plan, my life, and my progress.

I also track my exercise, my sleep, how I feel, my water.

I just jot notes on WORD - I am not using any other softwear at this time.

Does this sound time consuming? It is not – I only eat 4 times a day. I exercise once or twice a day. It takes minutes to jot all this down. Remember - I am not counting calories or any other stats at this time (I use to!) - I just follow Kay's formula.

I post "my week" on my blog once a week - usually Mondays.

I write/journal on my blog once a day. This journaling, has been one of the most helpful things I have ever done – it gives me time each day to connect/focus/think about my weight loss journey. Writing down daily thoughts seems to make a HUGE difference for me. this is just as important as logging my daily progress.

I have no one in my real, daily life that understands what I am going through – my blog friends do. Their support has been vital.

I have lost 57 pounds since 4/1/05 and have 18 more to go.

You can find me listed under “Vickie” on the side bar at Angry Fat Girlz.

Mariah said...

OK -- I've tried journaling and have failed miserably at it each time. I measure and write it all down on paper -- usually scraps of paper. Then I try to enter it into a program like Fit Day before I have too many days to enter. I always have foods or amounts that are not included in the data base. It all gets so tedious that I give up with a week.

So I see giving up the scraps of paper and actually using a notebook might help. How else can I make this kind of tool work? I've tried doing it with WW points and that too didn't last. Sounds like a discpline issue, right?

Debbi, knitting with the silky tweed is wonderful. So worth it. Felted purse done, mailed, and loved. In a very knitterly place and getting lots done.