Food Journals - Is It Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Food Journals - Is It Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Is food journaling all it's really cracked up to be?

In two words… Heck NO!

One of the BIGGEST mistakes I see my clients make when it comes to nutrition adherence is believing that keeping a food journal is the key to a successful weight loss journey.

Whereas exercise tracking is straight-forward and also fairly objective; you can count how many reps you perform, how much weight you lift and track visible signs of effort, as well as fatigue. The practice of food journaling is "Reactive" and generally a futile exercise (imho).

Here is what I mean about it being Reactive. First off no one is following you around to make sure that every meal is properly measured or that you are actually tracking everything you put into your mouth. I find that most people, especially after a few days, make their "journal entries" at the end of the day and try to remember exactly what they ate throughout the day. I will note there are a few very diligent individuals who can actually muster the energy to go through the process for every bite, but rarely over a long period of time.

So what that means to me as a coach is that I have to accept that a food journal is an approximation of what my clients ate as it effectively involves making the assumption that what was documented was done with 100% accuracy. Now before anyone gets worked up by my suggestion that food logging is a fool’s errand, consider this:

  • For the average client (someone who follows a typical Western diet) who is starting out on improving their nutrition, counting and tracking daily calories is hard work, boring to do and is extremely frustrating. How many things that you are aware of that meet those descriptions that people actually stick to?

  • In order to start tracking calories accurately, you will require measuring devices, food labels, databases and a calculator to keep on top of it all.

  • Clients will regularly underestimate their caloric intake by 20-30% (unintentionally), which defeats the purpose of logging foods in the first place — a fact that many users have caught on to, causing them to become less diligent in their journaling or to quit altogether as a result.

  • Food labels often underestimate the true caloric content of that food by anywhere from 10-15% and in some cases by as much as 25%. That is like trying to balance your check book with a broken calculator.

  • The energy cost to digestion of protein is much higher than that of carbohydrates or fat which is not factored into any of the common calculator apps. Also, it isn't always about how many calories you eat but what your body actually absorbs.

  • Calorie counting totally ignores the micronutrient profile of foods, nutrients that are typically necessary to support a healthy metabolism.

  • Most clients eyeball servings, as opposed to accurately measuring them with a scale.

  • Only 3% of people will use a food journal for more than a week.

  • More often than not, what the client logs and what they actually eat are two completely different things.

Not only is food journaling an imprecise science at best, I’ve also seen it lead far too many clients into justifying bad food choices because they are “low calorie” or because their app said they can eat more.

It’s easy to see how the process can undermine not only the reliability of a journal, but also your goals and motivations you had set up for yourself when you started this journey.

As a transformation coach, it goes without saying that calories matter in relation to a person’s goals, and as such I have certain food/nutrient requirements in mind for you. However, I also recognize that throwing numbers at you especially when you are just getting started will likely not bring the same results as if I were designing a plan for myself.

What I have found is that when someone is new to good nutrition, numbers tend to be just too complicated and all love is lost in treating food as the fun, social activity that it should be. It becomes just numbers, and if people loved numbers there would be a lot more accountants in the world 😃

And here is the other thing, all those numbers and tracking and questioning can also create a lot of anxiety and confusion, which is usually the main reason you likely sought my help in the first place – you know to remove the ‘fear factor’ of nutrition.

But here is the REAL ANSWER. If you are new to good nutrition, you don't actually need this amount of detail to see results. Truth be told, I care less whether my clients log foods, or not. I know if they’re doing what they are supposed to be doing because I have other forms of tracking, and accountability, built into my programs.

Weight loss nutrition is simple third grade math, and I know the numbers. For example, if I have a client that has a goal of losing 2 pounds per week and after 5 weeks they haven’t lost a single pound… I can hand them a pen and piece of paper and say, “write down the extra 35,000 calories you’ve eaten since we began your program.”

Inevitably they will look me in the eyes and swear that they haven’t eaten an extra 35,000 calories, but THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE.

Simple math tells me that there are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat, and their goal is to lose 2 pounds per week (3,500 x 2 = 7,000 calories). 7,000 calories x 5 weeks equals 35,000 calories. Barring any major medical conditions, ANYONE that is in a 35,000 calorie deficit will have lost weight! Yet they haven’t lost a single pound.

See? I didn’t need a food log that may, or may not, be accurate to tell me that the client isn’t following their meal plan. Now naturally, I don’t wait 5 weeks to check a client’s weight loss progress. In fact at my facility I encourage my clients to do weekly weigh-ins using our Fit3D Proscanner for all of our clients because it’s a lot easier to track a client’s progress towards their body composition and measurement goals than their food log.

Simply put, logging your foods is reactive, planning your foods and meal planning (yes we have tools for that as well) is PROACTIVE. I don't want you to be reactive but I ALWAYS want to track your adherence to the habits and methods necessary to achieve your goals. Tracking is an invaluable tool for holding yourself accountable and setting expectations around what is required to achieve those results is key.

Our system works so well for three reasons…

  • You will find it much easier (and you will be more willing) to track a single diet goal , as opposed to trying to log every single food item you eat in a day, each and every day.

  • Even if you are CRAZY DILIGENT in logging your foods, the likelihood is high that the information is very inaccurate, just by the nature of the process.

  • Tracking a single goal is less time consuming and more natural process that you are already accustomed to.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of clients to help them transform their bodies. And it boils down to being honest with yourself about what you are eating. If you fudge the information (pun intended) you are only sabotaging yourself.

Harsh? Maybe. But it’s a remarkably effective when you realize and understand your role and responsibility in the body transformation process. Though I recognize the process of weight loss can be extremely challenging for some and easier for others, “weight loss is simple third grade math and I know the numbers. I’m like your attorney or accountant, because I know the answers before I ask the questions.”

My job as a transformation coach is by providing the tools and support necessary to make the transformation happen in a healthy and natural way that stands the test of time (Sorry NO CRASH DIETING HERE). You can help the process when you are truthful, when you are proactive and when you use the tools and advice that my team and I provide.

My job as a transformation coach isn't to force you to change. At the end of the day, the only person who ultimately determines your success or failure is you. However, we do have the responsibility of providing you with an appropriate intervention for your current abilities… and this means helping you with both exercise AND diet.

Dedicated to YOUR Success,

~ Coach Leon

P.S. If you have been struggling to get lasting results and if you aren't afraid to invest in your personal health and wellness, then I strongly encourage you to reach out and BOOK A CALL WITH ME HERE.

I can only take on a few new clients each month and my goal is to make each client and amazing success story. If that sounds like something you’re ready to do, hit me up and let’s get it going!