By Susan Schade
It was several years ago that I first did this. I was interested in losing some weight, shaping up, the usual. But I was most interested in seeing what I was putting into my body without really thinking about it.
So when I began, I did not attempt to limit anything that I was eating. I wanted to see what foods, portions and at what times during the day I was eating.
Everyday, in a notebook, I wrote down what I was eating, how much and at what time. I also recorded the calories and fat grams that went along with the foods that I was eating.
After recording my eating habits for a couple of days, I saw where changes could be made to improve my diet. I had three main problems -- portion size, food choices, and a "weak" time of the day for snacking.
If you are not used to measuring out portion sizes, you might be eating more than you think. I was.
For example, dry cereal has a portion size that can vary from ½ cup to 1 cup, depending upon type. That is not much in a bowl.
I considered myself a fairly healthy eater but even with choosing decent foods, I was eating more than I realized. This also made me a more educated label reader.
I was making protein smoothies for meals or snacks, but never read the label on the frozen fruit to know that sugar had been added. As a result, I began buying organic frozen fruit where fruit is the only ingredient. And I stopped being tricked by processed food labeled "low fat" and "fat free."
Okay, I was not eating as healthy as I thought. When I looked at my list, it was clear. There were changes that could be made.
I had to be ready to make some better choices. I could still have ice cream, just not several nights a week after dinner, which was my dessert habit.
For me, eating can sometimes just be a habit. For example, if I go to the movies, I want popcorn. And if I go there hungry, it is probable that I will eat the entire bag.
So I changed the habit. I make sure that I don't go hungry or order the smallest (and worst-valued) bag and share it with my husband.
Cutting back on sugar is always a challenge for me because I like it. Holidays are the worst -- Christmas cookies, Easter candy, Halloween. It takes a few days before the cravings cease, and then I don't miss it.
I found out that I had a weak time of the day that started around 3:30 and lasted about an hour, until dinner preparation.
First, I wanted a Diet Coke, then something salty to eat with it. Next, I would find myself searching the back of the cupboard for some chocolate or remaining piece of holiday candy.
Interestingly enough, if I made it through that hour, the eating pattern didn't happen. I also realized that drinking water made me feel pure on the inside so I ate more fresh fruits and vegetables to stay consistent with that feeling.
The Diet Coke had the opposite effect which might have been why the salty, then sweet, pattern started. So I stuck with water and gave up the afternoon soda.
After I used the journal to evaluate my eating habits, I continued to keep it up to record my progress. Even if it is only for you, you know you have to write down everything you are eating.
You can't cheat yourself. Whenever I feel like I have gained a few pounds, I start keeping an eating journal again to get me back on track.
Edited by Jody Smith
By Susan Schade