One of the major obstacles to successful weight loss is mindless eating: especially if you don’t even know you’re doing it! I’m sure we’ve all been there: grabbing a candy bar on the way out the door, grazing at a potluck, grabbing handful after handful of popcorn at a movie. It’s easy to do-and it’s easy to forget about. The best way to curb this kind of mindless eating behavior is to be really aware of everything you put in your body. Doing this mentally can be effective for some people, but in my experience what really opens people’s eyes to what they’re eating is to get it on paper. So buy a cheap notebook, or create a new document on your computer, and start keeping track of what you eat, you’ll be amazed how many calories you eat each day without even noticing!
A food journal can be extremely helpful and if that’s enough for you, by all means, keep it simple. But if you’re ready to take it to the next level, journaling can be a great tool for all kinds of goal setting. I also highly recommend starting an exercise journal. Write down everything you do from the big achievements: that half marathon you ran over the summer, to the yoga class you attend every week, to the exercise so minor you might normally write it off: running on the playground with your kids, taking the dog for a walk, or taking flights of stairs to switch your laundry. A food journal can often have a disheartening effect: you realize just how much you’re consuming each day. The exercise journal can be an excellent counter balance for that feeling: with the exercise journal, you’ll notice the opposite trend- you’ll find that you do much more than you account for. I’d recommend starting both at the same time, but again, if you want to start small, one or the other is fine.
One final note: journaling is good observing where you’re at right now, but it can also provide a benchmark for where you’re going. After you’ve been keeping a health journal for a while, maybe a week or a couple weeks, start setting some goals for yourself! I would start the journal first though; if you don’t know where you’re at, you won’t know where you’re going. If you notice that you eat a sugary snack every night before bed, make it a goal to replace a bowl of ice cream with a piece of fruit. If you find that you’re driving short distances that you could easily walk, make it a goal to walk them instead. Whatever your goals are, keep them realistic. It’s unlikely that if you’re a couch potato right now you’ll be an Olympic medalist by next week. But it’s taking a mile walk several nights a week is totally attainable.