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Food Journaling Adds Accountability and Success to Weight Loss

“My favorite thing to do is fill out my food journal and track my calories and macronutrients.” I’ve never heard those words come out of a client’s mouth.

Let’s start with a basic understanding that nobody likes to keep food journals. They are tedious, time-consuming, and the action in and of itself makes us mindful and accountable for what we are putting into our bodies and let’s face it, while accountability is something many of us that struggle to lose weight need, it’s not something many of us embrace.

But if you want to lose weight, you must be willing to do some things that you ordinarily wouldn’t do. Food journals is one of them. Studies show that those that keep food journals are 85% more successful in their weight loss endeavors.

My job as a weight loss coach is to try to make this task a little easier for mt client. It’s my job to take all the things doctors and science say you should do to lose weight and guide you in how to implement those things into your life in a sustainable way.

Many, and I mean many of my clients come to me wanting a detailed meal plan.

There’s two big problems with this. First, as a Fitness Professional and Weight Loss Coach it is out of my scope of practice. I am not allowed to tell you what to eat and when to eat it. If you want that sort of detailed food plan you need to employ a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist.

Second, providing someone with a detailed meal plan like that, in my not so humble professional opinion, doesn’t teach them the ins and outs and hows and whys of their nutrition strategy. It’s a quick fix to a long-term problem. It’s a “diet”, which if you ask me is the nastiest four-letter word in the English language. Diets don’t work for people. There is no one size fits all meal plan that everyone can miraculously follow and lose weight.

The key to weight loss and weight maintenance is long-term healthy nutrition strategies.

That is why my nutrition strategy is to focus on education, implementation, and sustainability. I work with my clients to help them come up with their own meal plans, because in the end, the only meal plan that is going to work for you long-term is one you like and the one you will stay consistent with. For my clients, that means you pick the foods in nutrition wardrobe and you decide how those foods are prepared.

I can make it a little easier, I can give you tips and tricks that will help you, recommend some items you perhaps don’t know about, but in the end, you’re the one that has to spend the time doing the grocery shopping, doing the food prep, and eating the food.

Now that we’ve got that all cleared up and we know what I can do, what I can’t do, what I will do and what I won’t do, let’s talk about how to make your food journaling life easier.

Start with a reputable food journaling program.

Personally, I use MyFitnessPal. I’ve tried other food journaling programs and apps, and I find this one to be the easiest to navigate and use. You can use any program you want, but if you are going to follow my little food journalism blog tutorial series, I’d recommend using MyFitnessPal so that you can follow along with my suggestions.

Getting started:

When you first launch MyFitnessPal, it is going to ask you for a bunch of information. Your height, weight, activity level, goal weight, how many pounds you want to lose each week. It will give you a choice between 1 or 2 pounds a week which is what is considered “safe and effective” weight loss. Selecting 1 pound a week is going to cause MyFitnessPal to put your caloric intake at the higher end of the spectrum, allowing you to eat more each day while selecting 2 pounds a week will put you at the lower end of the spectrum, limiting your caloric intake each day to create bigger calorie deficits and allow you to lose more weight.

Most of my clients choose the lose 2 pounds a week setting. But if you get into your first week of food journaling and you feel like you are starving all day long, you might want to move your settings to 1 pound a week until your body gets acclimated to a lower calorie intake then it is currently used to.

Now it’s time to set your macro nutrient goals.

There are certain rules when it comes to how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and protein you consume in a day. Your body needs a certain amount of each of those things to function properly. To get to these settings in MyFitnessPal click the drop-down menu and select “Goals” then under “Nutrition Goals” select “Calorie and Macronutrient Goals”

The Default goals in this area are going to be Carbohydrates 50%, Fats 30% and Protein 20% – because MyFitnessPal is sort of already assuming that since you want to lose weight, you are going to limit your carbohydrate and fat intakes and puts them on the lower end of the RDA standard recommended distribution ranges.

The RDA ranges for carbohydrate intakes are 45%-65%, fats are 20-30% and protein are 10-35%.

Unless you’ve met with a dietician or nutritionist that suggests a different macro distribution plan specific for your body and dietary needs, you need to stay within these ranges.

My suggestion for how you select your ranges would be to consider the types of foods you are going to be focused on eating the most and raise that number. Then take the types of foods you are going to be eating the least and lower that number.

For example, as a bariatric patient, I follow a high protein diet and my recommended protein intake is between 80-120 grams of protein each day. To get my goals set to meet that protein requirement I set my proteins at 30% instead of 20% and then I remove 5% from both carbohydrates and fats bringing my carbs to the lowest recommended amount of 45% and my fats down to 25% each day.

Nobody is Perfect. Please Remember that.

Once you set these goals, at the end of the day if you are striving for perfection in your macronutrient distribution you are going to drive yourself crazy. I rarely have a day that I don’t have a red number somewhere in my food journal signifying that I went over my goal for carbohydrate and fat intake.

I personally don’t beat myself up over that too much. If I went over in my carbohydrates or fats because I elected to have some low-fat dairy, nuts or seeds, or because I chose to make a protein shake with almond milk instead of nonfat milk that morning, I shrug it off.

But if I went over in my carbs or fats because I went through the drive through for breakfast or went out dinner and had pizza and beer or indulged in some no sugar added cheesecake while trying to lose weight, I give a little more credence to that red number that is glaring at me. If I only do that sort of thing once a week or so, big deal, but if I am ending each day with red numbers because of food selections that are not in line with my goals, then I can’t be surprised if the scale isn’t going in the direction I want it to.

My long-term rule of thumb is to focus on meeting my protein goals, and only worry about my carbs and fat if those red numbers are double digits.

Next week in part two of this series, I’ll talk about logging food in your food journal and how I use my food journal as a method of planning ahead. But for now, I recommend that you open up that food journal and start playing with it, familiarize yourself with it. Log your food for a week and see how close you are to your macronutrient goals each day.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Some Days I Hate That I Don’t Feel Pretty

I’m unsure as I write if I’ll post it. I try not to put too much negative self talk out into the universe anymore.

11207285_1178583082168160_5042750784111183783_nI’ve struggled with feeling “pretty” lately.

People tell me I am pretty all the time and yet, I rarely see it unless I catch a selfie at a good angle.

My weight has been bouncing around on the scale between 159 and 165 lately. That’s awesome. 165 is my maintenance weight. Every single time I get into the 150s though this instant panic sets it for me.

I’ve started to gain more muscle again. People have started to notice. They ask me if I’ve lost weight and tell me I look great. I thank them even though my heart palpitates with fear.

You might be asking why I would be afraid to lose more weight right?

For me to achieve a “normal” body weight on a BMI scale I would have to get under 150 lb. According to a BMI chart my “ideal body weight” is somewhere between 127 -156, So really I shouldn’t be afraid of losing a few more pounds. Not that I adhere to the standards of a BMI chart. I’m from the BMI Is Bullshit Club truthfully.

My ideal body weight has to be ideal for ME.  But those are the statistics. Those are the magic numbers provided to me and I really should not be afraid to be somewhere in these numbers. Yet the idea  of being anywhere in those ranges really does sort of terrify me.

I’ll tell you why.

Last night I sat on the couch and as I put my leg up to rest on something I looked down and noticed this area behind the back of my right knee. It was that area right behind that amazing calf muscle that training for and running eleven half marathons earned me. It was a patch of loose skin. Not quite the trophy I was after.

I’ve already had four major reconstructive plastic surgeries after massive weight loss. I even had two little procedures after that to try to fix my right arm. That damn little crease in it STILL drives me insane. That was the ONE thing I wanted fixed more than anything during my last round of reconstructive surgery. It didn’t work.

I look amazing compared to my before and after photos both from a weight loss perspective and from a reconstructive plastic surgery perspective.

But I still look in the mirror each day and see spots that my body hasn’t been reconstructed that bother me. Nobody else notices them, unless I point them out. Just me.

Most days I reason myself into accepting my flaws and strive to accept the perfectly imperfect me.

Some days it’s harder than others.

I hate that noticing a new area on my body that is now affected by excess skin deters me from wanting to lose anymore weight.

I hate that the terror of making anything on my body looser after putting myself in bankruptcy to get where I am today is a legitimate fear of mine.

I’m disturbed that at 5am on my day off when I could be sleeping in, this is what keeps me awake.

I’m disappointed in myself that I can’t see what others see when they look at me.

I get resentful when someone says to me “You don’t look like you weigh 165 pounds.” – I realize it’s an attempt at a compliment. But really, implying that I don’t look like I weigh as much as I do is something that I have heard my whole life. “You don’t look like you weigh 420 pounds!” – I just want to look at them and say, Gee, thanks, I’m glad I wear my weight so well.

I’m perplexed by the fact that when I see a number lower than 165 on the scale — without even realizing I am doing it — sometimes I start to self sabotage any further weight loss.

Yeah, those two pieces of pizza last night that made me feel like I was overdosing on carbohydrates and fats and sent me into a food coma is a good example.

Yes, even I make some really bad food decisions when my head isn’t in the game.

I’d consult with a plastic surgeon about getting the areas of my body I am still not happy with fixed if I didn’t know that the price tag on doing so would be way beyond anything I will ever be able to afford again. True story.

I detest the fact that when it comes to our own mental well-being after weight loss surgery, everything is considered cosmetic and has a five digit price tag attached to it.

But most of all, I just hate that I don’t feel pretty.

I wish I had some magic mirror that showed me what everyone sees when they look at me rather than what I perceive as my own reflection. I’d make a million dollars and be able to afford all the reconstructive surgery I wanted if I found a way to make that product.

Sometimes I just have to take a deep breath and remind myself that this too shall pass.

Some days I just have to take a few of those positive emotion moments that I have stored in my emotional savings account, withdraw them and remind myself of all the things I am proud of.

Sometimes I have to think of all the things that make me feel good and tell myself that it’s okay.

Some days I just need to work on that positive self talk with a little more determination than normal, remind myself that my feelings are valid and that the long list of things about myself that I am proud of make me beautiful on the inside and that is all that really matters.

My father used to tell me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s awesome, I wish I had the beholder’s eyes.

But since I don’t have their eyes or a magic mirror that reflects what everyone else sees back to me, I’m just going to have to go back to sleep and hope that when I wake up my head  is in a better place than it did at 5am this morning.

Maybe I’ll do something crazy and sleep well into the afternoon, waste the entire day away and then get up and spend a little “me time” by taking a bubble bath and reading a book. Maybe I’ll take a bike ride to the gym and spend a little time sweating in the sauna.

Whatever I do with my Sunday off, it’s going to be something that makes me feel good so that I can attempt to wash this negativity off my skin. I just don’t like the smell of it, it’s far from my signature scent of positivity.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.


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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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