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How I Food Journal

December 12, 2011
Food Journal headings

Let me preface this by saying, this won’t work for everyone. Results may vary, and so may satisfaction :) Find out what works for you – but you have to start by trying everything!

One of the first things I did when I stopped making excuses was to start food journaling. Everyone talked about food journaling as super important, and I had made a few attempts before, including using a few iPhone apps and also Weight Watchers online (WW ‘offline’ is no longer in Italy, having left in 2006).

But those times didn’t work. Tracking what I eat, down the calorie and gram, isn’t fun. It’s not sustainable. At least for me.

So I decided this time around, I was going to track what I eat. But on a higher plane, not by counting calories, but so I could just keep track of what I’m eating, and also when I’m eating, to see what’s going on with me.

I thought I would share the file with you, as a Google Doc (if you aren’t using Google Docs, there’s really no excuse) that you can open and save as your own!

Here’s an intro to the main headings of my food journal – mainly, I tried to break up my day into chunks where I might most likely eat at breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner, and I wanted to track my coffee consumption, alcohol and post-dinner dessert separately. You might also want to include post-dinner snacking if you might eat after dinner (I never do).

I have columns for Weigh-ins (notice I track both kilos and pounds because of living in Italy) though I fill in this probably only 1-2x a week, Exercise for any and all exercise I do that day, and Other Notes. Other Notes at times are the most important thing of my day that I journal, and I might jot down notes about how I’m feeling that day (mentally, emotionally, or physically) or anything else that will help me process that day. It could be a sentence or two, or I might not take notes for a week.

I put in a sample day in the Google Doc so you can see how I fill things out, but it’s up to you how granular you want to track. I count the things that are easy to count and approximate for the rest. Remembering to glance at the size of your portions before you eat them will help you, too.

After tracking for a while, I figured out pretty easily that I get very very hungry between lunch and dinner, like clockwork. So much so, that I now always plan to have a snack in the afternoon in order to avoid getting reckless by dinnertime.

There are two other sheets on my food journal, one that’s more focused on the weight loss and another as a sort of “overview” dashboard of the weight loss. There are directions in blue about what to change and personalize. I definitely recommend inserting new days from the top down so you don’t have to scroll down to enter in the day’s journal.

Click on this link to get my Food Journal Template.

Fonts by Typekit

Fonts by Typekit

You can also get a cool weight tracking template from Roni of Roni’s Weigh, which is one of the sheets on my spreadsheet.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2011 9:45 pm

    Wow. this is really great. You’re so organized! :) Thank you for sharing.

    • December 12, 2011 9:52 pm

      Hey Candice – hope it’s useful :) If it feels overwhelming, like I said, try to track things at a higher level (ate sandwich on white bread with turkey, cheese, tomato), etc. and you’ll see it only takes maybe 1-2 minutes to fill out every day. I usually try to do it directly after eating so I’m not guessing about what I ate earlier.

  2. December 12, 2011 11:59 pm

    Did you use the food tracking data for anything specific?

    • December 13, 2011 8:55 am

      So, I did it at first to see exactly what I was putting in my mouth, and when, before I made big diet changes, but in general I use it on a rolling-week basis to see if I’m staying balanced or not in what I eat. I use a color-coding system that I didn’t explain b/c I thought it’s a step further & perhaps too much for newbies (basically, green for eating well, yellow for a portion of the meal/snack that’s not great for me, and red when I ate badly) so I can see at a glance how I’ve been eating.

      I’m not interested in counting down to the calorie, especially when I use the weight tracking in conjunction – when I gain or don’t lose a particular week, it’s usually pretty easy for me to see where/why by looking at my food journal without knowing I went over by XXX calories, etc.

  3. December 19, 2011 9:32 pm

    I just did a new one in a google doc too. Not as detailed as yours but is serving me well!

  4. January 5, 2012 7:01 pm

    I love the strategy, but I’m nowhere near as organized… I generally just setup crazy eating rules for short periods of time to keep my health in check rather than setup sustainable eating lifestyles.

    Your system sounds way more effective. Kudos.

    • January 5, 2012 7:20 pm

      I know a lot of guys who can do that – craziness for short periods of time. I’m not one of them! :) I think whatever works….long term….is what works :)

  5. kmarie permalink
    January 10, 2012 10:58 pm

    i read back a few posts earlier this week and saw the book you mentioned “new rules for lifting for women” and borrowed it from the library. it’s a great help–thanks for sharing your experience–it’s inspiring!

    • January 10, 2012 11:55 pm

      Let me know how you like it and if you do the routines (or the diet!) I’ve already incorporated a few combo/complex moves into my free weight routine.

  6. January 10, 2012 11:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing and I am so glad you’ve found something that works. I recommend that my weight-loss clients keep a food diary for a week… It’s important to get ENOUGH calories too. So many people go on low-calorie diets and their body goes into starvation mode, putting their metabolism out of whack. It’s a battle getting people to look truthfully at their calories but food journaling is really effective!

    • January 10, 2012 11:58 pm

      Totally agree on the ENOUGH calories – too few and that’s when you’re tempted to jump ship / binge / get desperate. That’s another thing I like about weight lifting – we need nutrition / protein / calories to keep those muscles happy!

  7. January 11, 2012 11:04 pm

    Just discovered your site today after seeing your comment on ronisweigh.com. I like the idea of using Google Docs, I think I’ll borrow that idea. I invite you to follow my progress on fat-o-meter.com

    • January 11, 2012 11:12 pm

      Try everything :) WW should give you some tools, too but you might find something that works better for you moving forward :)

  8. January 14, 2012 11:31 pm

    Keeping a food journal is totally helping me be accountable for what is going into my belly. I use the Lose It! app on my iPhone to track my food, exercise and weight…down 27 pounds so far…I love it!

  9. January 18, 2012 3:36 pm

    Great journal! They say it is a very valuable tool! Time to get back on track! Thanks for sharing.

  10. March 13, 2013 3:07 am

    I’m just starting my food journal and looking for inspiration. I’m with you, I don’t feel tracking every calorie, carb, and gram of fat is sustainable for me, so I’ll just journal what I eat to be more aware of what I’m eating. So far I’ve lost 43 lbs and haven’t necessarily tracked my food stats. It’s working so I’ll keep it up until it doesn’t work. :)

    • March 13, 2013 10:08 pm

      @Amber – congrats on the loss! I’m finding more than what I ate certain days is WHY I ate how I ate…getting control of the emotions a lot of times goes a long way to eating better.

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