Committing to a health and fitness plan isn't always easy, but one of the best things you can do to help you along the way is to keep a diet and exercise journal. Below are some key reasons why you should keep a diet and exercise journal, followed by some simple steps that will show you how to do just that.
Why Keep a Diet and Exercise Journal?
- It keeps you honest. It can be easy for us to have "foggy memories" about what we may or may not have eaten, or how many times we may or may not have worked out in a given week, but a diet and exercise journal will show you the cold hard truth. You'll be able to see whether or not you ate sensibly and/or followed through on your workout plans, which will give you a good indication of whether you're on track to achieve your goals or not.
- You'll be able to detect certain patterns and tendencies in your performance and eating habits. Chronicling your workouts, eating regimen, rest level, mood, etc., can be quite an eye-opening experience, because it can give you clues as to why you were in "beast mode" on some days, while on other days your performance was lackluster at best. Examining your journal can help you identify the different factors that may be affecting your performance that may not be readily apparent at first glance.
- It's a safe space for you to vent. Nobody's going to judge what you're writing, so you can feel free to express your thoughts, feelings, random ideas, etc., about your diet and fitness regimen. Just think of your diet and exercise journal as the ultimate sounding board for your fitness journey.
How to Start a Diet and Exercise Journal
- You will need a notebook and a pen. Any empty notebook will work - the important thing is that there's plenty of room for what you're going to be writing. Some people might prefer to journal using their laptop, a smartphone app, etc., but let's keep it hand-written to start. Recent research published by Princeton University revealed that writing things out longhand actually helps your brain conceptualize the information better, and will make a more significant impact on your ability to apply what you've written; this is exactly what you need to happen when keeping track of your diet and exercise program. Plus, taking the time to physically write everything out can create a more intimate connection with what you're writing, which is definitely appropriate for something this important.
- Start off with writing the date at the top of the page. You can do the usual MM/DD/YY style, or include the day of the week as well.
- For the diet portion of your journal entry, keep in mind that you will need to reserve a few lines apiece for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you eat any snacks during the day, you can insert them into the appropriate section that represents when you ate them during the day (e.g., between breakfast and lunch, etc.). Write down everything you ate--yes, everything--for each meal. If you so choose, you can include calorie counts for each food, but it's not an absolute necessity. The important thing is for you to have a record of everything that went into your belly for that day. This entire section should take up about half the page.
- Now it's time to record your workout for the day. Create a "Workout" section, and write down whatever exercises you did that day. Include set and rep counts if you performed strength training or body weight exercises (e.g., 2 x 15 push-ups, 3 x 10 leg extensions, etc.). If you performed exercises that are measured by time more than by sets and reps, be sure to write down how much time you spent working out (e.g., 30 minutes of swimming, 20 minutes of kickboxing, etc.). Remember to be as specific as possible; don't just write "Went jogging" when you could write "Jogged 2 miles around the track at Cedar Park."
- Create a section near the bottom portion of the page called "Comments," and write down any thoughts, ideas, noteworthy items or things you can do better. If you happen to receive a compliment or two about how you're losing weight, looking slimmer, etc., make sure to document them here! You can even include specific to-do items that you plan to knock out the next day, and then when you're writing the next day's journal entry, you can document whether or not you made good on what you planned to do. There's something about being able to check off a to-do item that can really keep the flames of motivation burning.
That's really all there is to it! Just do these steps every day, and over time you'll develop an amazing time capsule of your diet and exercise journey!