There are a number of approaches to keep track of your progress. Some diets would require you to check your weight frequently, others do not. Some might ask you to check your body fat measurements, while others are more concerned with your calories and eating habits. So, journaling can be a good way to keep track of your progress in reaching your goals.
Depending on the type and purpose of your diet, you may have to track different set of variables to see if your diet is working. For example:
- If your diet is for heart health, you will need to track cholesterol levels.
- If you are on a low-sugar diet, you will need to track blood sugar levels.
- If you are on a diet to increase nutrition intake, you have to track nutrients.
- If you are on a diet to lose weight, you will want to track your body weight.
- If you are one a diet which includes fitness, you should also track your weight and body fat percentage.
Tracking Your Body Weight
Tracking your body weight accurately is crucial when you are trying to lose weight, even though the scale doesn’t reveal the whole story. There are a number of things to consider when weighing yourself. Needless to say, the accuracy of your scale is very important. The number of times you weigh yourself can be daily, weekly or even monthly. If you are on a short-term diet and expect to lose a lot of weight, you will need to check your progress more frequently. The time of the day that you weigh yourself is also important, as is the time of the month for women. There is evidence that checking your weight once a day can be more motivating and contributes to weight loss more than weekly or monthly readings. However, some diets are very specific about how often you can weigh yourself so you should closely follow the diet you’ve chosen.
Try to weigh yourself with minimal clothing in the morning before breakfast. This will give you a good idea of how you are doing before you have a chance to add weight to your body through meals. If you are a woman and notice weight gain close to your menstrual period, it is probably due to water gain. Don’t let it discourage you from dieting. Also keep in mind that weight gain isn’t always bad if you are also exercising. It can be an indication of muscle gain.
Above all, try to keep your weight measurements in perspective. Everyone’s weight can fluctuate one to two pounds per day whether they are on a diet or not. Do weigh yourself periodically and keep accurate records of your body weight. Also remember that the scale does not take into account your body type, bone density, and whether you have more muscle than fat. So, use the scale as just one indicator of your progress.
Tracking Your Body’s Fat Percentage
If you are on a diet to improve your health, tracking your body fat percentage can be crucial in properly assessing your progress. A high percentage of fat in the body doesn’t just contribute to obesity, but it can also affect your overall health negatively. It increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and gallstones. Even the risk of some types of cancers has been shown to be related to high body fat.
One of the advantages of tracking your body’s fat percentage is that any gain in weight may be due to an increase in muscle mass. This can help you maintain your determination to stay on the diet or continue exercising even though the scale may say you are heavier. Following a reduction in overall body fat, you will be able to notice a difference in the overall body shape, regardless of how much you weigh, which is visually pleasing. You might also notice that the clothing you are wearing is starting to hang looser on your body and the pants are less tight. These are all indications that a diet is working even when the weight scale may suggest otherwise.
Keeping a diet journal can be highly motivating in succeeding with your diet. A diet journal can provide several benefits such as:
- Offers an insight into your eating habits
- Helps you eat healthier
- Helps you manage your diet better
- Helps you understand how your diet affects your overall health and lifestyle
- Helps you gauge your progress towards your goals
Before starting a diet journal, you must first decide where you want to keep your journal. You can keep track of your progress using a spiral-bound notebook by hand or use a spreadsheet or software program to do it. There are also diet and nutrition apps available for almost every diet on the web.
The advantage of using a software program or app is that they can track different elements of your diet, which is much harder to do it by hand. Another advantage of getting a software program or app is that they often come with the nutritional values of foods already in a database. You don’t have to keep looking up labels or trying to determine the nutritional values yourself. The software does it for you. This can save you a lot of time when you are on a diet that allows a large variety of foods. Some people prefer to plan their own menus but then find tracking the actual values of nutrients to be very challenging. In that case, software programs can offer the best of both worlds: your own menus and the right nutritional values.
Most of these software programs can also produce visually interpretive graphs and estimate the number of pounds that might be lost based on calorie counting. Some programs can even compare your diet to the FDA’s Nutrition Plate (formerly, Food Pyramid) to see if the nutrition levels of your diet are satisfactory. They can be used to create menus in advance and forecast weight loss based on menu selections. These programs can be highly motivating in the beginning but they also have to be adjusted as you progress through the diet.
Starting A Diet Journal
Starting a diet journal can be challenging as you are required to record your progress every single day. While you can make your journal as detailed as possible, however, it is best to keep it simple so you don’t get frustrated trying to maintain your journal. In the meantime, it may be easier to do the record-keeping all at once at the end of the day instead of doing it one by one as the day progresses.
1. Record foods, drinks and snacks you consume
The first thing you need to keep track of is your total food and drink consumption for the day. So your diet journal can help you remember what you ate at each meal and snack time. Try to include an exact portion size and serving size of each food and beverage as they are important in assessing your nutritional intake.
If you’ve started the week out with preplanned menus, the odds are that you won’t have to write down the foods you ate unless you deviated from the menu. If you are buying diet packages, try to determine what works better for you and adjust your diet accordingly. This will help you stay on track with the diet, even when it calls for a meal you don’t like. Substitute with something of equal value that you do like provided that it meets your diet’s requirements.
Portion size vs. serving size
Portion size refers to the amount of food you intend to consume for a meal or snack, whereas serving size refers to a standardized or recommended amount of food to be consumed for a meal or snack.
2. Record nutrient data
Your diet journal should also include nutritional information for the foods and drinks you consume. Also keep in mind that your portion size may be somewhat different than the serving size indicated on the Nutrition Facts label. Most packaged foods will have the calories listed per serving size on the package label. If there is no Nutrition Facts label on the foods you buy, you can refer to a nutrition information website such as USDA Food Composition Database or use an app to obtain the essential nutritional data such as fat, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins.
Be sure to record the total amount of calories you are consuming on a daily basis and whether they meet the requirements of your diet plan or not. If you are on a diet that isn’t calorie-based, just note the types of foods you eat or any other relevant information. If you are using a program like Weight Watchers that uses prepackaged foods with the nutritional information on the labels, you can easily count Weight Watchers Smart Points or Points Plus values.
Calories vs. carbs
Many people who are on a diet use calories or carbs interchangeably. However, carbs and calories are two different things. A calorie is simply a unit of energy, and a carbohydrate is a macronutrient composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. For example, a single gram of fat has nine calories of energy whereas a single gram of carbohydrate provides only four calories.
3. Record meal and snack times
Try to keep accurate records of your meal and snack times. Record the exact time of the meal or snack rather than just noting them down as “supper” or “midnight snack.” This can help you observe your eating patterns as to why you eat certain foods at certain times and see if you are eating too often during the day. Frequent eating may be a sign that you are not having balanced meals, which can lead to weight gain or diet failure. You should also compare meal and snack times for weekdays and weekend days to see if you notice any difference that may influence your eating habits.
4. Record your eating environment and circumstances
You should also keep a record of where you eat, and whether you are alone or have company when you eat. Sometimes the type of environment you are in and certain activities may influence your eating patterns. For example, you may tend to eat more when you watch TV in the living room by yourself. Similarly, you may be tempted to deviate from your diet when you eat with family and friends. If you keep a record of your eating environment and circumstances, you may be able to avoid those situations that affect your diet in a negative way.
5. Record your hunger level
You may find it helpful to rate your hunger level before and after each meal. You can use a simple scale ranging from 1 to 5 to rate your hunger level, with 1 being not hungry and 5 being very hungry. This can help you gauge your reaction to hunger and take some steps to cope with it. For example, you may notice that you tend to eat more or more frequently when you are very hungry. In that case, you can substitute other foods in your diet that help curb your hunger.
If your diet has a fitness routine, check to see how exercise affects your hunger level and what you eat. Try to record if you experience increased hunger right after an exercise session.
6. Record your emotions
Try to record how you feel before and after each meal. You should wait about 15-20 minutes prior to writing down how you feel about the meal so you can make a better assessment whether you are satisfied with the meal or not. This can provide some insight into your eating behavior.
If you are tempted to overeat or consumer high-carb foods when you feel anxious or stressed, try to understand what emotions cause you to eat certain foods and what effect certain foods have on you. In times of negative feelings, it is important to get a feel for the patterns of behavior that you exhibit. When you realize what triggers emotional eating, you can develop alternative strategies to cope with it and plan your diet accordingly. Finally, when you are following a strict diet plan and happen to cheat, it’s important to record how you feel about it as well.
If your diet includes a fitness plan, your journal should also contain information on your physical activity. What you want to track in your fitness journal may differ depending on the type of physical activity you intend to do and the purpose of your fitness plan. You should review your journal once a week to identify activities that are working and activities that may need to be modified or changed.
Weight Training Journal
If you are doing weight training to build muscles or endurance, you can record the exercises you did every day along with other relevant information. This is very important so you can track your progress accurately. Otherwise, you won’t be able to challenge yourself to increase the exercise level as you won’t have reference points to compare, which is important as your metabolism starts to adjust to the changes in your diet and fitness program.
Below are some of the details you may want to include in your weight training journal. You can modify them according to your own needs.
- Date and time of exercise
- Type of exercise
- Time spent per exercise
- Weight used for each exercise
- Number of repetitions per set
- Number of exercise sets
- Rest intervals between exercise sets
- Training method
- Mood before and after exercise
- Level of difficulty
- Fitness goals and targets
Cardio Workout Journal
Keeping a journal of your cardio exercises will help you see how many calories you’re burning every week, and how much exercise you are really doing. Also remember that exercising can also burn away some of the extra calories you ingested that weren’t part of that day’s diet allotment. This will help promote a more balanced diet and ease your conscience too.
Below are some of the details you may want to record in your cardio journal. You can modify them as you deem necessary.
- Date and time of workout
- Type of cardio workout
- Time spent per workout
- Number of workout sessions
- Rest intervals between workout sessions
- Heart rate
- Distance covered (e.g. walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, or swimming)
- Workout method
- Mood before and after workout
- Level of difficulty
- Fitness goals and targets
More on Fitness Journaling
You can include entertainment as part of your fitness activity like dancing or golf. These may be harder to track in terms of calorie busting, but they show that you are maintaining a certain level of activity that should increase your fitness level. You may even find that you are doing more of one activity than another, and that might clue you into other ways to modify your lifestyle to make it more enjoyable and active.
In the fitness section of your journal, be sure to record your body fat percentage periodically too. This number is a better indication than weight gain as to how effective a fitness activity is for you. If you take frequent body fat readings and correlate it to specific fitness routines, you may find that one activity works better for you than others.
Part of tracking your fitness activities is also to be able to tell when the best times are to add activities and what sort of obstacles come up to stop you from exercising. Being more aware of how to best schedule your day to include physical activity into your routine and how to avoid obstacles can help you stop procrastinating and start getting fitter.
You will also want to use some sort of format that can help you spot patterns in your own behavior and help you modify them when they interfere with your fitness plan. If you notice that you’ve scheduled an evening gym session that never gets done, then it’s time to change the time or pick a different activity. Doing some activity is better than doing none. And whether an excuse is valid or not, where there is a will, there is a way.
“The Ultimate Guide To Healthy Dieting”
- What Type Of Diet Should You Choose For Your Body Type To Lose Weight?
- Factors To Consider For A Healthy and Balanced Diet
- How To Develop Good Habits When You Are On A Diet
- The Best Methods To Measure Your Body Fat Percentage
- Keeping Track Of Your Diet and Fitness Progress
- Strategies To Help You Stay On Your Diet Plan