Have you ever felt overwhelmed with the immense tasks of eating better or trying to get fit? Have you ever started a diet or exercise program with high motivation only to end up back in your old habits just a few weeks (or days later)?
If you are anything like most Americans, then you have been here before. Each year countless people try starting out diets and exercise programs just to end up right where they started shortly after. There are many reasons why people have such a hard time sticking with their resolutions: they have unrealistic expectations, set goals that are too focused on results, they don’t have adequate social support systems, or maybe they don’t have a good plan to stick to at all.
Journaling a daily log of everything you eat, what exercises you do, and even how you feel or what obstacles you faced in your day can help keep you focused and it can also provide you with a valuable larger picture look of what you are working towards.
The old food journal tip…
I have known many people who have had a lot of success with using journals to track what they eat and what their activity levels are.
I certainly think it can be very helpful for many people.
Try using journals to keep track of your daily performance; this is beneficial for several reasons: keeping a journal will bring more attention to your daily performance and allow you to view your daily choices, it will encourage you to make better choices (especially if you will be sharing your journal with others), and it can also be used to track how you feel on a daily basis (giving you more insight into which strategies work best or don’t work or you).
How to use a food and exercise journal to track your fitness goals
Step 1– Pick up a journal that is small enough to be taken with you.
First you need to pick a journal that is small enough so that it can be taken with you. The whole point of journaling is so that you can write down: everything you eat, all your exercise, and how you feel throughout the day.
Step 2– Get a partner or two (optional, but helpful)
Next, getting a partner to journal with you can help you out tremendously throughout the process. Not only can the knowledge that someone else will be seeing your results motivate you to do better and hold you more accountable, but it can also encourage you to have someone else going through the same process as yourself.
For the best results, pick someone who you can spend a few minutes with each evening (in person or on the phone or skype) and go over everything you ate, did, and felt throughout the day.
Step 3– Write down your food, feelings, and fitness activities
First, commit to write down everything that you eat throughout the day and the time that you ate it. By writing down everything that you eat, you can see a better overall picture of what you are eating, for example: you might realize that everyday for a week you are eating fast food on lunch break; in an effort to stop eating fast food, you could try packing a lunch the night before.
When you are writing down your food entries try to be as descriptive as possible: include the amount of food you ate, what time you ate it, how many calories or carbohydrates it had (if you know this information).
Next write down all of your exercise and activity throughout the day. Again, try to be descriptive as possible by including what activity you engaged in, how long it lasted, and if you hit your daily goals.
Finally, make sure to include how you feel frequently into your journal entries. Include how you feel before and after food or exercise, include how you feel in the morning, at night before bed, after going over your daily journal with your partner, etc.
Keeping a log of how you feel is super valuable in the journaling process as it can help you identify problems, lack of motivation, and it can ultimately help you create interventions that will help you succeed.
Examples of how writing down how you feel can help you with your fitness goals:
- By writing how you feel before you eat junk food, you might realize that you start feeling depressed right before you eat; you could use this information to pack healthy snacks for “depressed feelings”, you could try exercising during these times, or you could even plan a check in with your accountability partner.
- By writing down how you feel after eating food you might realize that after eating junk food you feel sluggish, guilty, and even more depressed than before you ate; however, you might also realize that after eating healthy foods you have higher energy levels, you feel happier and more accomplished, and you have less cravings for junk food later.
- Writing down how you feel before and after exercise could help you realize that on the days that you exercise you feel better, have more energy, feel accomplished, and generally have less feelings of depression throughout the day.
- Writing down how you feel might make you also realize that the day after exercise you wake up feeling sore and groggy and it often leads you to eating a junk food breakfast. You could use this information to create a healthy breakfast the night before or buy things that can be prepared easily on your “sore and groggy mornings” after a tough workout.
Journaling can serve several very beneficial purposes
- Holds you more accountable
- Helps you identify long-term trends (like always skipping the gym on Friday, or eating junk food on lunch break)
- It helps you identify “triggers” of bad behaviors (like not getting enough sleep causes you to feel groggy in the morning, which leads you to eat a bad breakfast)
- It helps you gain more awareness of what you are eating, doing, and feeling (most of the time we don’t even consider these things, and seeing what you actually eat, do, or feel throughout the day can be an eye-opening experience for most)
- It can show you how bad your “normal” behaviors are. (some people may not have a clue that are eating 10 cheeseburgers per week, but a journal can show you the unbiased truth)
- It helps you reprogram bad habits and replace them with good habits (if you notice a feeling of sadness is always followed by a tendency to eat, you can have healthy snacks on hand to eat rather than eating junk food)
- It helps motivate you (accountability and a better sense of what you are doing each day can help you stay motivated to succeed).
- It can help show you your successes (journals can help us stay focused on daily progress rather than short-term results like weight loss) (product or process goals)
— Makeyourbestself.com (@MakeYourBstSelf) October 26, 2015
What do you think? Ever tried journaling to help you reach your goals or find success? I use a form of journaling in my daily routine (rigorous schedules, daily reviews, and monthly progress checks). Have a story of your own to share? Let me know what you think I would be glad to hear it! Also make sure to follow us on Facebook where I will give you regular reminders about new posts, Twitter where you get inspirational tweets, new posts, and random tidbits of knowledge, and also Instagram where I produce 3 quality motivational posts each week!