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.