Do Diet and Exercise Logs Really Help with Weight Loss?Posted: February 13, 2019 in Lifestyle by Craig Primack MD FACP
Every popular diet from WeightWatchers to the various low-carb/keto plans includes tracking your daily food intake and exercise as a key part of their system. Fitness and health experts also tout the benefits of tracking. However, it can seem like a lot of work, so you may wonder if it’s worthwhile. This article takes a look at why tracking your food and exercise each day helps you lose weight and gives you some ideas for doing it easily.
How Logging Your Food and Exercise Helps You Lose Weight
First, keeping a food and exercise log gives you a baseline to know your starting point and habits. You may even want to start logging your eating and physical activity before you formally begin your new diet and fitness regime, so you can see what your typical routines are when you first start out.
Many of us believe we have a general idea of how many calories we take in, and how many minutes per week we work out, but research has shown that people consistently underestimate their calories and overestimate their activity. Logging helps you be realistic about your food and exercise. In the long run, you will also learn to more accurately estimate calories in and calories burned.
Tracking also helps you reinforce the good habits you are working to develop. It’s a reminder of what you are doing and why you are doing it. This can be as simple as being able to check how much you have eaten that day and use the information to help you decide whether to have that bowl of ice cream or glass of wine.
Once you have a few weeks of data, your log becomes even more useful. You will be able to see what is working for you and what isn’t, and tweak your program as needed.
This is why it is critically important to be honest and log every bite of food – even the littlest ones! Lick some cake batter off the spoon? Log it! Eat a free sample at the grocery store? Log it! Mindless eating is one of the biggest sources of hidden calorie intake, so keeping a record of everything you eat helps you stay in a mindful state about what you are putting into your body.
It is also helpful to make notes on how you feel each day. Note whether you have been having cravings or not, whether your workout was enjoyable or a chore, and overall how good or bad you are feeling. This will help you find out whether eating certain things or doing particular exercises make you feel better or worse afterwards. Then you can adjust accordingly.
Finally, keeping a food and exercise log will help you stay motivated. It provides a concrete record of your progress. Looking back over your fitness and weight loss journey will give you powerful motivation to keep going, especially on days when you feel like slacking off.
Tracking Is Easier Than You Think
The most basic way to log your food and exercise is with a simply blank notebook. It’s inexpensive, but can be intimidating at first, especially if you aren’t sure what information to record and how to organize it.
Another option is to purchase a journal that is specifically designed for tracking your diet and fitness. This allows you to simply fill in the blanks rather than having to organize everything from scratch. Food and exercise journals often include helpful references such as conversions for different types of weights and measures, calorie counters, and charts that show how many calories are burned by particular workouts.
However, a notebook may be cumbersome to carry around. You also may not want everyone to know about your diet; pulling out a notebook when you eat will make it obvious! Fortunately, there are plenty of tracking applications that you can use. Making a quick note on your phone is less noticeable than writing in a book, and you are likely to have your phone with you wherever you are eating or exercising.
Fitbits and similar wearable fitness trackers can also help you capture and track your exercise data. They often link directly to various apps on your phone so that recording your steps or calories burned is automatic.
Popular apps like MyPlate or MyFitnessPal also include automatic calorie calculations, which saves you some time and avoids miscalculations. You can also set them to remind you regularly to record your food intake or exercise times. Many apps are free, and most paid apps have a free trial so you can make sure it works for you before setting up a regular subscription. If you are working to lose weight or get into better shape, logging your food and exercise will greatly assist you on your journey. Find a system that works for you and spend a week or two simply entering information without worrying too much about what it shows. Once you are armed with real data, you can use it to make more informed choices to speed up your process of losing weight and getting healthy.