One of the most important lessons I learned in my MBA program was this: You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Now this question is a lot like the old saying, “If a tree falls in the woods, but there is nobody there to hear, does it make a sound?” The answer doesn’t really matter, but the point is, you must have some sort of starting point to know you have improved.
A lot of “diets” focus on counting calories, carbs, points, etc… which can get overwhelming. When you’re hungry, it can be frustrating to stop, think, count, total, etc… before you get to enjoy the food your body is telling you it wants to eat. I should also clarify; I hate the word “diet.” Diets don’t work, because that implies you’re done with it at a certain point. Call it what you want, but to get and stay healthy, you’ve got to figure out something that works for you on an ongoing basis. If you deprived, or worst of all hungry, you’re not going to be able to stick to it.
Your first challenge is to begin recording what you eat. It’s a simple exercise really, and requires no change to your current eating habits, no calorie counting, and no excessive hunger. (Referring to the typical side effects associated with “dieting.”) Simply get a small notebook, and write everything you eat. –and I do mean EVERYTHING. It’s amazing how fast those mail room M&M’s can add up. Be sure to include portions. If you made hamburger helper for dinner, would you say you ate 1 cup or 2? Note the serving size on the box, or the serving size in the recipe and be honest. This whole effort is for you and your health, so don’t cheat yourself!
Your first challenge is to gain awareness of where you are today. Now if your goals are truly to lose a significant amount of weight, you may want to consider a program like weight watchers, which significantly helps with understanding portion sizes, trade-offs in food choices, and helps to numerically develop this awareness of where you are today and where you want to be. Our simpler version is just to record what you eat with portion sizes as you eat it. Do not wait until the end of each day to do this or you are likely to miss things. Carry your notebook in your purse, your briefcase or your diaper bag.
At the end of the first week, take a look back. Would you consider this healthy eating? Would you consider your portion sizes to be appropriate or did you find yourself overeating a lot? What would you like to change? What are the things you’d like to keep on your menus, and what are some things you think you should eat less of? We’ll focus more in later posts about those decisions, but in general are you surprised?
I would encourage you to keep up this exercise as you go. My goal for all of my readers is to get you in touch with your own body, and the best way to do that is to start this journal that will give you some data to work from. This activity takes very little time, and should help you to identify patterns looking backwards over time. What are your goals? To feel better? To lose weight? To lose inches? Be sure to make some notes about your goals each day as well. If your goal is to feel better, note each day how you felt. You may also include your exercise habits. If you chose to weigh yourself and record that, too, it could be informative to see what patterns emerge as you change your health habits. You’re first challenge: Write it down.