In the world of physics, what goes up comes down. However, in weight management, what goes on doesn’t necessarily come off. Similarly, what goes in as fuel doesn't always get utilized through exercise. Poor calculation — or rather the absence of calculation — is often the root of unwanted body fat.
A food journal is an important resource in weight management. Stop living in denial of causality and physics when it comes to food. There are often simple answers to why obesity happens, and they can all be seen in your own personal food journal.
Knowing the Equations
How many calories did you eat yesterday? It’s okay if you don’t know — most people only have a rough idea, if even that.
Awareness is always the root of change. If you aren’t aware of a problem, you can’t fix it. Maybe you are aware that you are not at race weight by looking in the mirror. When you are looking in the mirror, you are only seeing a superficial image and not penetrating to the core of the problem. If you really want to see the whole picture, keeping a food journal will garner the finer details. Sometimes we are moving so fast and doing so many things, that we can’t keep track of all that is going on — least of all how many calories we are feeding our bodies. But by putting it down on paper, you can clarify this and take the first essential step to achieving balance.
Weight management is a matter of addition and subtraction. It’s not rocket science, just thermodynamics. The calorie is a unit of heat measurement, after all. Here it is beneficial to think about the First Law of Thermodynamics — matter is not created or destroyed. It just changes form. Calories are sometimes energy, sometimes matter.
Think of your body as a furnace — a point where matter ignites into energy and fills the surrounding universe with activity. You get fat because you are stockpiling fuel, but not burning it. In fact, maybe you are so fueled up that you can’t even get a spark going.
If you have been stockpiling fuel, it’s shelved as fat reserves. (This is how our ancient ancestors survived winters and famines, by the way.)
When you eat, you will:
- Burn those calories to perpetuate your life and actions, OR
- Store it (fat being the focus here)
This is an oversimplification, but helpful in deciding how much you should be eating.
The good news is that you can transform body fat into energy via work. Exercise will balance out the equation.
Overweight people are just well fueled for an epic journey ahead. If you burn more calories than you consume, your body will burn fat. Your body has to burn the fat — it won’t let you die. Though you might feel like you’re starving, you’re not.
Other than exercising, one can reduce caloric intake. This all can only be done properly with accurate accounting — the food journal.
How to Make a Food Journal
1. Don't Stress.
If this becomes a burden, you will fail.
2. Find a Way to Make It Fun.
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over missing a day here, or a meal there. All is not lost if you have blank entrees on your spreadsheets. Just do the best that you can, learning what methods work best for you as you go. There are countless apps and online resources. There is also an ancient form of journaling that uses something called a notebook and a pen. Keep your food journal easy to use and ever present. Be creative; Have fun with it, and make it yours.
3. Do Short Studies.
You can learn a boatload of information with just one week of data. It usually is enough to make your bad habits obvious. Knowledge is the power that allows you to shift the momentum of your habitual behaviors.
4. Make Estimates.
It’s okay to make rough caloric guesses when you have to. Was that one serving or two? What was in that? You are learning more about the foods that you eat each day. Over time, your guesses will get better and better. This is not an all or nothing competition. Do the best that you can, whenever you can. Just keep trying.
In the end, the most important thing is that you make progress. Keeping a journal about anything almost always helps in developing healthier, stronger, more productive habits. How you eat, what you eat, and when you eat it is a vital part of your overall health, as well as a major contributor to your physical performance. Start small, keep it simple, and watch how this practice impacts your life.