If you prefer higher-tech tracking, pick up an app for your phone. Surprised? Of course not. Actually there are many apps available that assist in this task and make tracking your diet easier to swallow. Lose It is a free app and one I prefer that allows you to search foods and beverages with a touch on your smart phone. It even has countless chain restaurant menu items from which to choose. In addition, it asks you to log in your physical activity each day so that it is clear the amount of calories burned compared to calories eaten. Because accuracy is the key to managing your diet, these apps are friendly tools for people on the run.
Dietary journals work
Studies show that the longer food logs are kept, the healthier food choices become. When you realize you must record every morsel, every snack and every sip, you tend to be more deliberate and to scrutinize what makes it into your mouth. So give it a try and track your eating habits for at least 10 days.
How do you learn from this dietary journal? The first step is to observe how and when you eat and drink. Look at obvious flaws in patterns. Do you rarely eat in the morning and eat heavy at night? Do you grab fast food on the run and have few relaxed sit-down meals? Are you eating repetitiously with very little variety and color in your foods? It is filled with starchy carbs? These are some of the issues that will put weight on and keep it on. To feel and look lean you must eat lean.
If some of these flaws in your diet aren't apparent, take your log to a dietitian or nutrition expert. Look for credentials and spend time with them to uncover ways to improve and clean up your meals. Understand that your food log will not be perfect, but it will be the best indicator of your eating habits and can be a helpful tool in learning to eat for health.
Ideally, your goal with a food log is to figure out how to achieve energy balance once you lose your 20 pounds. An energy balance (expending the same amount of calories through body maintenance and physical activity as you are consuming) is how you maintain your weight loss without drastic fluctuations.
A lean diet is filled with nutrients
Pay close attention to the quality of calories you consume. After all, if you are cutting calories, the ones you allow must be nutrient dense with good sources of protein and plenty of fiber. Active people can't live on small amounts of low-quality food. Water must be your primary source of hydration. Leave the sweet beverages, including diet drinks, in the store. And, when you are ready to cave and order the double-cheese pepperoni pizza, remember what a fellow boot-camper told me: Nothing tastes as good as lean feels. Not a bad title for a food log.
Cindy Boggs, corporate fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact her at 304-342-3533.