Food Logging 101

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a couple inquiries from readers asking me to go into more detail about what and how I eat.  While a significant portion of this blog is food-related, most often it’s posts about specific meals or recipes, and commonly ones that involve an informercial product.

I can definitely understand the interest in my diet – I’ve lost a large amount of weight, and eating well has been a major component.  I’ve shied away from going into tons of detail so far, only because, as a blog topic, it kinda bores me.  There are lots of blogs out there where people share everything they eat, every single day, and I decided when I started this blog that I wanted to do something different.  I never want to be bored when I write this blog!

Because I don’t focus on everyday eating, though, I realize that my readers haven’t been included on the very basics that fuel my food choices, so I thought I’d get into that today.

In a nutshell, I’m not on a specific diet.  I don’t do Weight Watchers, or Atkins, or follow day-to-day menu plans.  I also don’t count calories or fat, although I’m aware of them, and sodium, too.  The biggest weapon in my weight loss arsenal is the Food Log.

When I started working with Richard Simmons in January of 2009, he asked me to start writing down everything I eat.  Everything.  The simple act of keeping track of everything that went into my mouth really changed the way I looked at food.  I’m a grazer – I could easily snack all day long if I wanted to, and I did.  When I had to write down all of it, though, all of a sudden grazing was a lot less appealing.  Every handful of Goldfish crackers, every fun-size candy bar… individually, I never thought such small portions of food would ever do that much damage, but when you gotta write it all down, you can see, right in front of your eyes, how quickly it adds up!

Richard didn’t give me a template or program for my Food Logs – I just started writing them my own way.  I know there are lots of Food Log systems out there, where you can plug your food into websites or Apps (if you have a favorite, please share it in the comments section), but what I did was just keep my Food Logs in the ‘drafts’ section of my email, and then, every 4 or 5 days, email it to myself.  The emails go into a folder, and I can go there whenever I want to pull up everything I ate on any specific day in 2009.  The truth is that after I email it to myself, I rarely go back and look at them again – I find that the act of keeping a Food Log is what keeps me on-track.

When I started my Food Logs, I began making changes in my diet – some were changes I wanted to make on my own, and others were suggestions from Richard.  It was a slow process.  Richard really pushed to me to stop drinking Diet Coke, which I eventually did, but I didn’t do it cold turkey, I eased myself off of it.  Since I was bringing my lunch, and often dinner, to work everyday, I wanted to transition to lots of Lean Cuisines and similar frozen entrees, but Richard encouraged me to stay away, as they’re usually pretty high in sodium and have all sort of chemicals.  I still keep a couple in my freezer, in case I’m really in a hurry or haven’t been able to get to the store, but it’s been a few months, at least, since I last had one.

I didn’t go vegetarian, but I also cut back on meat.  I was vegetarian for about 6 months a few years back – it was an attempt to eat better that worked for a while, then went belly-up.  I’d say that now I only eat meat 3-5 times a week, but it varies.  I love soy- and veggie-based meat alternatives, like veggie burgers and soy sausage links, so I always keep a few boxes of those in the freezer.  Fish is really great for you, so I try to eat fish every week, although lately I haven’t been as good about that.  Going vegan would be quite tough for me – eggs whites are a major source of protein for me, as is yogurt.

I’ve also cut back on carbs, although, like calories and fat, I don’t monitor carbs.  Some days might be nearly carb-free, but other days I’ll have a foot-long from Subway or some other ginormous piece of bread, and never feel terribly guilty about it.

The biggest shift in my diet, though, has been the huge increase in the amounts of fresh fruits and veggies that I eat every day.  I buy tons of produce every week, and like having a lot of variety in my fridge and in the bowl on my counter.  Most of the time, I eat my veggies raw, because I like them, it’s convenient, and it’s healthy.

Those are some of the basics that I put into place, over time, that started me on my weight-loss journey.  Everyone is different, so it may not work exactly the same for you, but it’s what works for me.

What I’m going to do for this week (Monday 3/14 – Sunday, 3/20) is include, in the blog, my food logs every single day.  This will give you a better idea of what I’m consuming now, and it’ll be a nice little push for me, too, because in January, I stopped my Food Logs, just to see how I would fare without them.  I’ve lost about 5 pounds since then, which is fantastic.  I also ended up plateauing through all of February, and I’m not saying the plateau is directly related to the absence of Food Logs, but maybe it played a part.

In the meantime, below are my first four Food Logs ever, from January of 2010.  If Food Logging is something you’re interested in starting, than you can see how I started 164 pounds ago!  Keep checking back throughout this week to see this week’s Food Logs.

Keep it up, David!

+ + + + + + + + + +

SATURDAY 1/23/10:
–Breakfast:  2 packets instant oatmeal, bananas and cream flavor); 1 banana.
–Lunch:  2 salad wraps.  Made of: 2 whole wheat tortillas, 2 big handfuls of mixed salad greens, 1/4 onion, cilantro, Mrs. Dash.  1 pear.
–Snack:  1 more salad wrap, same as above
–Dinner:  At BJ’s Brewery, I had Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, no soy dipping sauce.  (Nutritional guide on menu estimated around 300 calories and 2 grams saturated fats, but didn’t list total fats)  Also had 6-8 french fries (off friend’s plate)
–Beverages:  1 can La Croix sparkling water, 1 diet coke, 6-7 glasses water throughout day.
SUNDAY 1/24/10:
–Breakfast:  2 frozen blueberry waffles, each with ~1 tbsp pomegranate jam.  1 pear.
–Lunch:  Veggie Wrap:  Made of 1 whole wheat tortilla, 1 big handful salad greens, and 1 tray Green Giant “Just For One” portion of Cauliflower in Cheese Sauce.
–Dinner:  Subway – 12″ Veggie Delight sandwich, on whole wheat bread. With Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Green Pepper, Onion, Spinach, Olives, Honey Mustard.  No cheese/mayo.
–Snack:  1 sugar free popsicle.
–Beverages:  1 can diet sunkist, 1 liter flavored sparkling water, 3-4 glasses water.
MONDAY, 1/25/10:
–Breakfast: 1 packet instant oatmeal, bananas and cream flavor; a carton strawberry Yoplait 99% fat free yogurt
–Throughout the work day:  1 apple, 2 clementines, 2/3 cup goldfish crackers, 1 bag (16 oz) baby carrots, 1 piece sugarless gum.
–Dinner:  Sesame Chicken w/Noodles Lean Cuisine
–Beverages: 1.5 water bottles (64 ounces) of water, and 1 Crystal Light raspberry lemonade flavor packet; 1 diet coke (2:30pm), 1 caffeine free diet coke, 10pm.
–Snack: 1 sugar-free creamsicle.
TUESDAY, 1/26/10:
–Breakfast: 2 packets instant oatmeal, one blueberry/cream flavor, one peaches/cream flavor; 1 banana.
–Throughout the work day: 1 bag (16 oz) baby carrots, 1 single-serving bag BirdsEye SteamFresh peas, 1 apple, 4-5 red pepper strips (off veggie tray, no dip), 2 tootsie rolls (the 2″ kind), 2 pieces gum
–Dinner:  Chicken Portobello Lean Cuisine
–Beverages:  1.5 water bottles (64 ounces) of water, and 1 Crystal Light lemonade flavor packet, 1 diet sparkling lemonade, 1 beer, 2-4 more glasses of water.
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12 Responses to Food Logging 101

  1. adam says:

    David – can you explain the reasoning behind giving up diet soda? I’ve heard this before, but never understood why.

    One explanation I’ve heard is that when people drink diet soda, they may subconsciously feel they are therefore allowed to stray from good behavior in some other fashion.

    The explanation that makes more sense to me is that by drinking diet soda, one conditions himself to crave something artificially overly sweet with a meal, which is a bad trend.

    Are either of those reasons what you’ve been told?

  2. Jen says:

    I love the food log on My Fitness Pal. It’s an online system, as well as an app for smartphones. It has most foods already in their system, plus it has a social networking aspect to it as well. It helps when you are doing this with others!

  3. caseykay68 says:

    thanks David. This is the piece that I suck at, and trying to get better. I agree with you that its the act of writing it down that can help – aside from if you track calories or not. I am trying to kick the diet coke habit right now. I say to myself on the scale of vices diet coke is pretty low on the list but if it is keeping me from doing other things and getting healthier – then I need to stop it. I have been trying fatsecret.com online and on my blackberry and I like it so far. It’s free and has good selection of foods.

  4. Maria says:

    I fear the food log… I know it works, but if I saw what i ate… I would get upset at myself and then punishment would follow… and I’m a mean punisher! But, once again..you’ve inspired me David..so I’m hunting around for my notebook..wish me luck and hope I don’t get myself mad! lol.

  5. Jenny Dahl says:

    The food log is essential! I use the one available for free on everydayhealth.com. My eyes lie to me about portion sizes and my memory fails me when I try to remember what I ate, so I’m religious about logging and weighing and measuring. Keep it up, David! 🙂

  6. Heidi says:

    Agreed that the food log is imperative. I use a similar method as you do at the end of the week (to send to Richard) – but during the week, I log on LiveStrong.com, which has a HUGE database of foods, even brand-specific. (Even Trader Joe’s.) I love that it shows me the balance of carbs/protein/fats, too.

  7. amdavis05 says:

    Hi David!!

    I began using http://www.looseit.com to monitor my calories and exercise activities in January. It has definitely helped me further watch what I eat, as I had not been tracking my calories until I started using this. Like you, I’m not following a specific diet plan and am mostly eating whole grains, leafy greens, and lean proteins (am having a blast making different salad creations and cooking with veggies, plus can’t wait until the weather clears up here so I can start a garden). Thanks for the inspiration and sharing all this. Looking forward to trying some of the recipes here too!!!

  8. Nettie says:

    Congrats on your weight loss! 🙂 Since you asked for favorite apps/tools, I suggest you look at sparkpeople.com – it’s a SUPER great site including social networking and blogging, unlimited articles on health and fitness, and goal tracking tools including nutrition, fitness, weight loss, and whatever other goals you’ve set for yourself. But best of all, the folks on this site are SUPER supportive of one another and very encouraging.

    • David says:

      Thanks for the comment and for checkin’ out my blog! I’ve used the recipe calculator at Spark People, and think it’s great – but didn’t investigate what else the site offers. So thank you for the additional info – I’ll be sure to check it out!

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