Food Journaling 101: Write Your Way to Weight Loss

You may have heard the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Well, here’s another saying for you: “The pen is mightier than the pounds.”

What does that mean? It means, if you want to lose weight, one simple tool can help you reach your goal: keeping a food journal. In fact, one study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon found that participants’ weight loss almost doubled when they wrote in a food journal.

Food Journaling 101

Getting started with journaling is easy. Choose a journal format, either paper or electronic, and start writing down everything you eat and drink, including all meals, snacks, and beverages—even water. For greater accuracy, write it down immediately after you eat rather than waiting till the end of the day.

What type of journal should you choose? Whichever one you’ll use! If you choose a paper version, make it small enough to be portable. If you prefer an electronic version, there are plenty of websites and apps to choose from.

Once you’ve selected your preferred format, here are some more tips to get you going:

  • Be as precise as you can. Measure your food and take note of serving sizes.
  • Keep your food log at least five days a week for best results.
  • Commit to keeping a food journal for a month, just to get used to the practice and see how it works for you.
  • Review your food journal weekly, noting any patterns, recurring emotions (see below), successes, and missteps.
  • When you’ve got it all down on paper (or saved electronically) you have to be honest with yourself. For even more accountability, share your food journal with someone who is on a weight loss journey with you.

Going Deeper

Your food journal can simply be a place where you log your food and drinks, but it can also be a place to go deeper. Here are some additional things you can add to your food journal:

  • Take food journaling a step further by tuning in to how you feel before, during, and after you eat. What is your level of hunger? Are you angry, happy, lonely, stressed out, or excited? How do you feel after eating? Energized and positive, or sluggish and over-full? Thinking about what you eat and the emotions swirling around food will help you develop a better relationship with it. And writing about your emotions is a calorie-free way to let off steam!
  • Use a page in your food journal to jot down affirmations or encouraging words to review if it begins to feel hard to follow your healthy eating plan. This would also be a good place to write about the underlying reasons you want to lose weight.
  • Record your experiments with fitness activities and programs—what you liked and didn’t like, how they made you feel, etc.
  • Note your starting weight, your current weight, your goal weight, or any measurements you’re tracking, including blood chemistry results from your doctor, if applicable.
  • Make a list of pleasurable activities to treat yourself to when you’re tempted to eat what you shouldn’t. If a craving hits, pull out this list and do something on it instead
  • Plan out your meals and snacks each day—what do you plan to eat and when? Make note of any challenging situations coming up when you could be tempted off plan.

Keeping a food journal and writing about your emotions and experiences as you lose weight will keep you aware and accountable. You’ll also have a record of your weight loss journey. So when a situation or emotion triggers your desire to eat unhealthily, reach for your pen rather than a cookie—you’ll feel better in the long run!