College life can do some crazy shit to you when it comes to weight. I can't think of a time in the four years at school that I refused a McDonald's burger or a second beer. Or third. Or a shot of Fireball. You get the point.
By 2015, I had learned such horrible eating habits that I almost didn't recognize myself in a mirror. I went from a size 3 to a size 11 and felt super uncomfortable in my own skin.
I knew I had to get healthy or I would just spiral into a wasteland of french fries and doughnuts. I was constantly eating huge portions with no balance, and whatever vegetables I ate were covered in ranch dip or cheese. I even found myself eating in the middle of the night without any recollection of it in the morning. It was actually getting scary AF.
I realized I really didn't know anything about food or where to start with my diet, so I sought out nutritionist Michelle Blum. The first thing she did for me when I saw her changed everything — she handed me a food log.
I wouldn't be surprised if my eyes rolled straight to the back of my head. It sounded annoying to have to write down all my meals on a daily basis. And why do I have to be constantly reminded of every piece of food I put in my mouth? But starting to fill out food logs was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Tons of nutritionists swear by food logging. Michelle told me that her clients who track their food lose 75 percent more weight than those who don't. She also said clients who track are much less likely to gain weight back. A 2008 study by Kaiser Permanente also suggests that logging your food could lead to double the weight loss.
Writing down what you eat doesn't have to be a super formal thing that takes major time out of your day. It could be as easy as putting your meals in an app like MyFitnessPal. I personally use these amazing little health and fitness notebooks from May Designs. They come in hundreds of different patterns and colors, and they even have spots for you to log your water and workouts.
It seems like such an unnecessary thing while dieting, but food logging has a whole slew of benefits that will help you in the long run.
You can see the trends of what you eat and when.
When I first started logging my food, I realized I always went for a snack around 3 pm. I would go to the 7-Eleven down the block from my office and get some chocolate or candy on the daily. After seeing this trend, I tweaked my plan and made sure to bring a snack with me from home. It's usually something like a protein bar or a piece of fruit with peanut butter. Now, I'm less likely to grab some Cheetos from the snack bar in the work kitchen.
It keeps you accountable.
From the first week that I started seeing Michelle, I knew she would be analyzing my food logs. She was making sure that I was eating three meals a day and balancing my proteins, carbs and fats. She was double-checking that I was drinking my water and she was on top of how many indulgences I had that week. But you don't need a nutritionist to do this for you!
Ask a friend or a parent if they would mind looking over your log. You'll feel much better putting that third cookie down if you know Aunt Nancy will scold you for it at the end of the week.
You're aware of the extras you probably didn't need.
I can't tell you how many times in the past I would grab something to mindlessly snack on during the day or try some food that a co-worker left up for grabs in the office. When we're not fully aware of the nutritional choices we're making, we're more likely to fill up on empty calories.
Michelle told me,
When you track your meals, your eating habits are more conscious, and you are more likely to make better decisions.
Now every time I'm offered some food I probably don't need, I know I'll have to put it in my food log. It makes saying “no” a lot easier.
It gives you some major weight loss motivation.
I personally see my logs as a way to beat myself at my own game. I'm always trying to fill out the current day better than the day before. This is especially true when I'm trying to get back on track from a weekend of drinking or eating like crap. If I went in on some Ben & Jerry's on Sunday, I'll try fill out my food log perfectly on Monday. The only person you can truly compete with is yourself.
Planning your weekly meals gets so much easier.
I use some pages in my food journal as planning for the week ahead. I'll write in the different breakfasts and lunches I want to eat that week and use that to get my food shopping list together. That way, I'm all planned and ready to go with healthy options in the house instead of eating whatever I can get delivered the quickest on Seamless.
It also makes grocery shopping cheaper because I'm not mindlessly grabbing stuff from the aisles that I don't need. It's good for your waistline and your wallet.
After just a week or two of beginning my food logs, I started to see the weight drop off. As time went on, I continued to make small changes with my diet and even started adding in some exercise. Now, I'm back down into a healthy weight range and I live such a healthier lifestyle.
There are hundreds of other things that Michelle taught me about nutrition that have helped me lose the weight I put on. But it all starts and ends with being aware about the fuel you're giving into your body.
What you put into your body is what you'll get out.