Keeping a diary, journal or log

It’s much easier to see whether you’re on track and improving in your healthy eating and exercise plans if you write things down. Different methods suit different people, and depending on your goals, you might like to try one of the below.

Diet diary

If you’ve been on a diet in the past but given up after a couple of weeks, if you’re constantly going to “start dieting on Monday” but never get around to it, or if you can’t understand why you’re overweight when you’re eating healthily – keep a diet diary.

This means logging everything that you eat. At its simplest, you can just jot down a list like:

  • Breakfast: Bran flakes, orange juice
  • Mid-morning: Cereal bar
  • Lunch: Ham sandwich, apple, packet of crisps
  • Dinner: Spaghetti bolognaise, low-fat chocolate mousse

However, you’ll find this method more effective if you record:

  • The portion size (eg. “2 slices of bread” or “40g cornflakes”)
  • And, from this, how many calories were in each meal

This means you can tot up the total calories over the course of a day. You may also be surprised (or horrified) at how many calories there are in some of the foods you eat.

If you want a simple template for your diary, I have several to download(depending on whether you want to track calories or not).

Exercise log

You might be happy with your diet and weight, but trying to do more exercise. Keeping a log will let you see your progression over time, and will be a great motivational tool when you’d rather stay on the sofa!

I suggest writing down:

  • The day and date
  • The activity you did
  • What level it was at
  • How long you did it for

For example:

  • “Aerobics class, high-intensity, 45 minutes”
  • “Ran on treadmill, 8.5kph, 10 minutes”
  • “Leg press, 50kg, 20 x 2 reps”

Every couple of weeks, look back over your log. If you’ve been at the same level on an activity for more than 4-6 weeks, it’s time to try stepping it up a notch! Go to the next level on the cross-trainer, add in 5kg on weights, and try an extra 0.5kph on the treadmill. It’ll be harder work for a few sessions, but you’ll see your fitness levels soar.

Note: Many gyms will provide you with a training plan as part of your induction, and may offer regular reviews. Do take this advice on the best level of activity for you.

Healthy living journal

Sometimes it can be useful to write down a bit more than just the bare facts and figures of your diet and exercise. You could see this as an extension of making a “what was better” list. Try to find time – even if it’s just once a week, or once a fortnight – to sit down for ten minutes and think about how your plans are going overall. You might want to write about:

  • Problems which you’ve successfully faced and overcome
  • What you’ve achieved over the past week (or fortnight/month)
  • How you’re feeling overall about your progress
  • The challenges that will be coming up in the next few days – and how you’re going to tackle them!

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