Ep #32: How to Use a Food Journal for Successful Weight Loss

INTLTLW episode artwork32.jpg

Research shows that successful people use journals to track their goals in life. How can you apply this to your weight loss journey while building a healthier diet and lifestyle?

In this episode, I will delve into what a food journal is and how, when implemented consistently and appropriately, it can help you to reach your dietary and weight loss goals. Keeping a successful food journal is more than making a food checklist, and doing so can further your healthier lifestyle by fostering a deeper awareness of your motivations, food habits, and diet goals. You will leave this episode with knowledge, tips, and a fundamental understanding of the journaling skill to help keep your diet on track!

If you like what you heard today, please go to Apple Podcasts and leave a review. The more reviews we receive, the more women will learn about the podcast and learn from these lessons. If you know someone who is struggling with food, send them a link to the podcast and maybe they can find something here they haven’t heard before!

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • What is a food journal?

  • What is the purpose of a food journal?

  • Why is it important to keep and use a food journal in your successful weight loss plan?

  • What are simple ways to use a food journal to help me reach my weight loss goals?

  • Tips to  personalize your food journal to fit your particular lifestyle.


Featured on the Show:

  • Review “Simple Meal Planning” on Episode 31  to reinforce planning strategies for healthy lifestyles!

  • Begin your A.A.R.P. journey today!  

  • If you have any questions or ideas for upcoming episodes, send me an email at pat@beauprecoaching.com

  • If you like what you heard today, please head to Apple Podcasts and leave a review.

  • Join me in my closed Facebook group – It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight.

Full Episode Transcript:

Full Episode Transcript

With Your Host

Pat Beaupre Becker

You are listening to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast with Pat Beaupre Becker, Episode 32.

Welcome to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast for women approaching 60 who have been successful at everything but reaching their weight loss goals. Tune in each week for tools and strategies to help you lose weight, create a strong body and support a healthy mind. Here's your host, Master Certified weight and life coach, Pat Beaupre Becker.

Hello, my dears. Today I want to talk to you about learning a different kind of skill. Now, in Episode 31, I gave you steps to take so that you can actually choose, plan, and execute on your food plan in a simple way that you can repeat over, and over, and over again. The more you do it, the more you create a habit. Now, if this isn't how you approach food at this moment in time, then you can see that it's actually a new skill. And if you study and figure out how you want to go about it, and then you learn it, and then you practice it, that skill becomes a habit.

Now, another skill that you may not have made automatic is how to use a food journal. Now you might ask, "Why bother with a food journal? Like, what's the point?" So, why bother with a food journal? Well, the reason we bother is because it has been proven to be an effective strategy to lose weight and keep it off.

The most successful people who win at weight loss and reach their goals, they have been studied and the success that they can attribute is to keeping a daily food journal. In general, successful people keep a daily journal. There's been lots of writing about that, even if it's a brief morning journal. But, a food journal is another proven effective strategy to achieve your goals, and in this case your weight loss and your healthy-eating goals.

So, what is a food journal or food diary?

I think there's two critical factors, and one is it is a place to plan what and how much you're going to eat. The second critical factor is a place where you keep track of what you actually did eat, when you ate it, and actually how much you have eaten. Now, there are many approaches to food journals, but every successful approach includes those two things, right?

We create a food journal so that we have a place to record what we plan to eat. And then, once again, we keep track of what we are actually eating.

Now, the interesting thing is when you start to get into the habit of sticking to your plan, there really is no second part because you will always just eat what it is that you plan and you become better at sticking to that plan and there isn't much tracking. But initially, if you are not used to keeping a journal and if you are not used to eating according to a plan, then tracking is going to give you the awareness so that you can actually learn what it's all about.

Now, another approach that you can use in terms of a food journal is to keep track of how you feel before and after you eat. Often, we eat because of emotional upsets or even boredom, so keeping track of your feelings and your level of hunger when you actually eat, that's going to open up this internal process that's going on in your brain that's being done unconsciously. What we want to do is become aware of that process, bring that process to the surface so that we can influence it.

Another thing you can keep track of in a journal is your specific goal and actually why you want to reach it.

Now, changing habits really requires strong motivation, right? Because if you don't really want to change, it's not something that's going to come easy, so you really have to have a strong motivation to step out of your comfort zone into the discomfort of something new. When you write down your goal and you make it very specific, and then you spend time writing about why you want to achieve it, what are your thoughts about why you want to reach that goal, those thoughts can actually rekindle your emotional motivation to help you make those changes.

Because remember, your thoughts create your feelings, and your feelings drive your action, right? They give us the motivation to do or not to do something, to eat that apple instead of that cookie. And those actions, whether you eat that apple or you eat that cookie over and over again, is going to give you the result you either want or you don't want.

Now, writing about what you will feel and get when you reach that goal ... Let's say your goal is to lose 25 pounds. Then, you want to ask yourself, "Why do you want to lose that weight? What are you going to get at the end of that?" Sometimes we can discover that the thing that we want we could actually have right now. We don't have to wait until we lose the weight. But once we start feeling better about ourselves, actually losing the weight will come a bit easier.

Now, I believed that if I lost weight, I would stop disappointing myself, right? Because a big part of the suffering that I was going through was that I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to eat healthy, but I just kept breaking those promises. I couldn't figure out how to stop feeling so bad and eating all of my feelings. But then, when I learned that that feeling of disappointment, that's really what I wanted to change, right? I mean, I know I wanted to be healthy and I didn't want to get diabetes, right? Because I saw my mom going in that direction. She suffered with that. But when I saw that disappointing myself was the problem, then I could look at how can I stop disappointing myself right now? That became a different problem to solve as opposed to just losing weight.

I also thought that when I lost weight, I would have more self-confidence, but I could actually learn how to have confidence right now. So, it's really interesting and fascinating that when you write about why do you want to reach your goal, you may still be inspired to lose that weight, but you may also find that there are things you can do to feel better right now.

Okay, let's get back to this food journal.

So, what's the purpose? The purpose of a food journal is to lose weight and to keep it off, to eat healthier foods. Successful weight loss studies have shown that keeping a food journal has a positive effect on weight loss. It's also journaling has helped with depression and stress. Then additionally, when you set a goal, any goal, and you write it down, we know, through studies, that you are more likely to achieve it.

Why does it work to have a food journal?

Researchers speculate that the success of using a food journal to lose and sustain weight loss comes from both awareness and accountability. Now, often we're not aware of how much we eat, and writing it down gives us a way to evaluate, well, exactly what it is that we're eating. What are the portions that we're eating? When we write it down, we actually become more accountable to ourselves. And if we share our food journal with a coach, a trainer, or a partner, then we have even another level of accountability. Sometimes just not wanting to write something down will change your desire for eating a particular food. Another benefit is that just using your imagination to visualize yourself eating a meal that you're planning as you're writing it down is also going to strengthen your chance for success.

Remember, when we're talking about changing habits, that is what is the key to success. We want to make this sustainable over a long period of time, so we want to really be able to learn new skills in order to maintain our behaviors, right? So when you're working at changing old habits of overeating, using a food journal actually takes advantage of your brain's designed to support you in this process. And why is that? Is because using a food journal actually engages your prefrontal cortex. Now remember, your prefrontal cortex is your mental CEO and the executive of your brain and your life. It's great at planning, executing on a plan, and understanding that what you do today immediately is going to have a long-term impact on you in the future.

Now, if you are often standing in front of the fridge at the end of a long work day wondering, "What do I feel like eating?" you're not using your prefrontal cortex, but your limbic brain, the one that cannot see the future, that's only seeking immediate gratification. In fact this part of your brain may likely be running the show right now, and may have been running the show for quite some time. And of course, every time you use that part of your brain, you're building a skill, right? So you'll building on the skill to live unconsciously, which is really going to doom any chance you have at achieving your weight loss goals. So now, I do highly recommend, again, listening to episode 31 on simple planning. Because in order to be successful in writing down your food, you have to have the food in your house. It has to be ready to be cooked or has to already be cooked, right?

The other thing you can use your food diary is to understand your food and taste profile. Now, we often, you know, say, "Oh, I like this. I don't like that. I hate this. I love that." But as you get into the habit of writing down your food and your goals, you're going to be able to see, well, what food is working, what's helping you lose weight, and what's not working. It's going to help you identify areas where you can make changes.

Maybe you think you should eat some food because it's healthy, like maybe kale, right? So you start to try and implement these recipes and you find you don't like it. Well, then, that is not going to be sustainable. So really picking, we know it's a green and we want to find maybe another green that is healthy for you that you could add to your meals that's going to support you in sticking to it because you like the flavor, right? So, you really want to look at that food plan and that food diary so that you can actually get information about what it is that you like and what works for you.

I want to give you several tips that you can use for being successful yourself at creating a food diary.

#1 What kind of Journal?

The first thing is I want you to decide what kind of a journal works with your lifestyle and your personality. I have used pads of paper that sit in my kitchen to write down my food for the next day. You may have a similar situation, right? You just kind of jot it down. Or, you can keep a small notebook that you can write day after day. You write down all your food. This way you can actually take it with you, put it in your purse so that you can use the same notebook to track your food in real time. Or maybe you actually want to use the notes on your phone, right? There's a little note thing on your phone and you can use that or you can use a food app.

You want to decide what is your personality, what is your lifestyle, if it's simple. Are you more likely to use electronics or are you more likely to use paper? Are you more likely to remember to write down your food in a little notebook in your purse or do you want to just keep it on your phone? So, that's the first thing, is you decide, "Well, what are you going to use?"

#2 When will you write?

Then, you want to decide how often will you write in your journal. I know for me, I always write my food before bed, right? Some people would plan their food after dinner and some people would plan their food in the morning, so whatever works for you. You do want to do it 24 hours. So, if you're planning it in the morning, it's for the following day, right?

The other thing is you want to figure out when you need to track, especially initially, what you actually ate. You want to make sure you put that on your schedule so that you can check in at lunch, check in at breakfast, and check in after dinner.

You want to decide, again, when are you going to write your food down and how you're going to keep track of what it is you are eating until you get into the habit of just following your plan.

#3 What are you willing to track?

Now, the other thing you can decide is, what are you going to track? Now, let's say you love creating Excel spreadsheets and you love different data points to track, right? You get to decide what it is you want to track, and this is my recommendations. I'm going to give you several of them.


I think it's important for your overall food protocol. When you started out here you decided, "These are the kinds of foods I'm going to eat in order to lose weight. This is how much of each food I'm going to eat and when I'm going to eat it." So, you want to have that food protocol written down somewhere, right?

Meal Plan 24-hours in Advance.

Then you want to have a meal plan for the next 24 hours. So, you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You plan what it is you're going to eat the next day, and you want to be specific, right? You're going to have, let's say, chicken, and broccoli, and salad, and olive oil or you're going to have yogurt, and fruit, and oatmeal. Whatever it is you're going to have for breakfast, you write it down, you write down the amount, and you write down exactly what it is that you're going to have the next day.

Now, this is brilliant because I love this process because what it does is it actually gives you the anchor, right? If you're confused about what it is you're going to eat, you just look at your plan, and there it is. You have already determined that food is in your house, whether it's already cooked or whether it's ready to be cooked, right? So, you really want to look at that piece of paper that has the food you're going to eat tomorrow and be able to rely on it.

Exact portions and timing of meals.

The other thing you could track is how much you're going to eat and what time you actually eat. The other thing is you really want to make sure that you don't forget to record any snacks or beverages, things that you maybe don't consider having added calories or added food. Let's just even say carrot sticks, right? You want to make sure every single time you eat, you write it down, especially as you're practicing creating a plan and then following that plan.

Those are the basics, the minimal tracking. I think if you do that much, you're going to see some success, right? So, it's the food protocol, your meal 24 hours in advance, and then the review, how much did you actually eat, when did you actually eat, and making sure you put every single thing down that you put in your body on that piece of paper, on that computer, or on your phone.

Tracking more than food.

Events and Feelings. So, I want to talk about additional things that you can track that will also impact and give you some insight into your emotional eating patterns. You want to write down, let's just say any stressful or emotional moments that came up in your day, and then how you handle those situations. Were you upset? Did you eat? Did you want to eat and you didn't eat? Basically, you want to keep track of what happen for you emotionally that day.

I also like to consider what surprises did you learn? Maybe you learned that you thought you had to have a snack at 3 o'clock, and when you didn't snack today at 3 o'clock, it wasn't a big deal, right? And you might have been surprised by that. So whatever you find that surprising in your journey would be nice to write down. But whatever you do, you want to be consistent and write down your food every single day.

#4 Review what is working.

Then, the next tip I want to give you is to review your success against your journal. So if you're successfully losing weight each week, then you want to just keep doing what it is you're doing. Also, remembering that your weight is going to naturally fluctuate between one to three pounds from day to day, and you want to accumulate at least two to six weeks of food journaling to determine if your plan is working. Now, if your plan is not getting you the results you want, let's say after two to four weeks, you can actually review and tweak your plan with your coach or with your trainer.

So ladies, at any age changing habits created over years of practice is going to take time and patience as you learn new skills. For many of you, using a journal, a food journal, might be a new skill. I want you to use it to notice how you react to your weight fluctuations, how you react to hunger, your emotions, and your thoughts about your successes or your missteps. Because all of this information, plus the tracking of your food, what you're going to eat, making that commitment that you're going to stick to that plan, these are all going to be processes that will become easier. The more you do them.

What ends up happening, which I think is a beautiful thing, is that you become really more understanding of the richness of your own humanity. And in the process, you're becoming the person you want to be, which is choosing a healthy lifestyle so that you have the energy and vitality to live your life.

So now I want to talk about my favorite things, and today I'm going to ... My favorite thing is what didn't use to be my favorite thing, but it is, I'm going to say it, AARP. Now, people make fun of it because as soon as you turn 50, you start getting all this mail from AARP, and everyone's freaking out about it, right?

But, I think that the information in the magazines and the newsletters, oh my God, they're so spot-on and interesting. I almost always learn something new. So when you get that AARP in the mail as soon as you turn 50, or if you haven't, maybe you're 60 and you still haven't actually replied or taken advantage of AARP, don't dread that application. Welcome it and become a member, because I think you're going to be very surprised at how much really good information AARP can provide to you as you are turning 60s and in your 70s.

So, thank you so much for listening to today's episode of It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight. If you know someone who's approaching 60 and struggling still with weight or wellness, send them a link so that they get to listen to what I'm sharing. And if you want to speak with me about your particular situation, just send me an email to pat\@beauprecoaching.com, and we can find some time to talk. I'd love to show you how I can help you succeed and what I see as the final frontier in your weight loss journey. Because if you're listening to this podcast, you know one thing for sure, it's never too late. I'll see you next week. Bye-bye.

Thanks for listening to this episode of It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight. If you liked what you heard and want more, head over to never2late.info/guide to download your quick-start guide, to jumpstart your weight loss plan and begin creating an amazing life you love.