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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.

If You Are Reading This – I Owe You An Apology

Almost four years ago, I started doing something that I never should have done.

I stopped being a blogger. You see a blogger, is someone that regularly writes material for a blog.

I was a blogger, a very passionate weight loss blogger for the better part of five years from 2010-2015. Many of you followed me along my journey from desperately seeking slender at 420lb. and my challenge to get my BMI to where I needed it to be to have weight loss surgery. Many more of you joined me through my weight loss journey, through the death of my father and through my reconstructive surgery journey. Together we ran half marathons and traveled all the way to Wilmington, NC, where I began pursuing my dream to become a personal trainer and help those affected by obesity.

Then it all started to change…

Though I still passionately pursued my dreams, and in fact, made them a reality, I stopped sharing that journey with you.

Looking back at it now it’s easy for me to see what transpired. It’s a little harder for me to admit it, own it, and write about it. When you write something down in words and publish it for the world to see, you can’t take it back. You are now vulnerable and exposed. I used to be good at being vulnerable and exposed. That is what many of you admired about me.

But once we got to that part of the journey together, when I had torn down all the walls that I had built up behind my weight, given up my relationship with food and realized much to my surprise that losing weight didn’t instantly fix everything that was wrong in my life, all that was left was the woman that had started building all those walls to begin with.

I convinced myself that I didn’t have anything relevant to write about.

I wasn’t “desperately seeking slender” anymore. I had achieved slender. I had accomplished the healthy lifestyle that my father and wished for me. I told myself that if I kept writing about all the stuff that was going on in my life I would just be the “skinny bitch” that everyone wanted to shut up and stop rambling on about how great their life was while everyone else was still in that desperately seeking slender phase.

But that was far from the truth. I had plenty to write about. I just didn’t want to write about it. I didn’t want anyone to know how much I was struggling. I didn’t want to be honest, exposed and vulnerable. I didn’t want to be judged or gossiped about. I was scared. So, I started building walls again.

This time I build them with silence, exercise, a busy career, and “love” instead of food.

Losing all the weight had made me a healthier version of myself. I was fitter and in much better physical health. I had a much better chance at the “happy and healthy life” my father had wanted for me so badly. But I was nowhere near happy. I wanted to be happy. I was chasing happy like a coyote chases a road runner. But if you’ve ever seen Wile E. Coyote chase Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon, you can only guess how that was working out for me.

This presented a whole different issue. Here I was, trying to make a name for myself in the fitness industry as a weight loss and wellness coach and while I had won my battle with obesity and emotional eating, I was in a whole new battle with emotions, my past, my mental health and myself.

It’s time to own the truth, be honest and vulnerable again…

Some people might call me an addict. In truth, once upon a time I was an addict. A food addict. Now, I’m a recovering food addict. As a recovering food addict the one thing I know beyond any shadow of a doubt is that I can’t ever go back to that addiction. I can’t let myself slip back into that dark place. I’ve been there before. I’ve fallen off the wagon. It ended up with me weighing 420 lbs. for a second time in my life and having to find the strength courage and perseverance to start all over.

I’ve been emotionally and verbally barraged by someone I dated for the unhealthy behaviors I used as my coping mechanisms enough times to have almost been convinced that addiction was my problem. But I know, at the core of who I am, that is not what my problem is.

No matter what my vice is at any given time. I can trade it for something else. If I want to. I stress the I in there. Because it must be something I want. Not something someone else wants for me.

If you try to bully me, pressure me into doing it, beat me up for it emotionally, nag me about it all the time, argue with me about it in a fashion that board lines emotional abuse, what you end up with is Pandora in survival mode and victim mode.

I’ll fight back just like I did when I was a little girl being emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually or verbally abused. Whatever fashion you come at me in, I will come out swinging in the same manner. And when the fight is over, I will do what I do best, find some sort of escape from it.

Because that is what my issue is… I am an escapist.

There is always something that I am using to distract myself from whatever reality, issue or emotion I don’t want to face. Something that makes me “feel better,” whether that’s emotionally, mentally or physically. Sometimes I make some good choices regarding what I use as my escape, other times, I make some horrible ones.

We can talk all about addiction vs. escapism in blogs to come. Because I promise you, there are more blogs to come. We can talk more about food addictions, healthy emotional outlets, unhealthy emotional outlets. We can talk about how losing weight doesn’t fix everything. We can talk about battling re-gain, about weight maintenance. We can talk about exercise, fitness, and nutrition. We can talk about how desperately some of us that have been affected by obesity seek love, to the point that causes us even more emotional and mental trauma.

We can even talk about that 10 lbs. of yo-yo weight gain/weight loss that if we tallied up would probably be another 100 lbs. of weight loss and in the end, constantly leaves us in that “Desperately Seeking Slender” struggle with obesity.

You see we have a whole lot to talk about. I was lying to myself when I convinced myself differently.

I used silence as my escape from the dark realities of life after bariatric surgery and weight loss.

I am not going to do that anymore. I owe you all a big apology for doing it to begin with. Because you see my friends, the truth is, if I had stayed open, honest and vulnerable with you through my journey, some of you who were experiencing the same sort of things might have had an easier time with it. You might have known you were not alone.

Some of you might have appreciated knowing there was someone else struggling with the same things. Some of you might have been more prepared for some of the issues, challenges and obstacles you might face.

I got called out on my silence.

Here I was trying to convince this woman I hold in such high regard, that the entire reason I wasn’t a blogger anymore was because I had decided that what I had to say was irrelevant to people, and that they didn’t want me going on and on. I was trying to convince her, and in truth myself, that I had gone silent because it was what I would have wanted. I explained how I thought I needed to get someone else, that was more in that phase of “Desperately Seeking Slender” to write for this blog and its previous reader base. I justified it all by telling her how I always tried to treat people the way I would want to be treated.

This is what she said…

 “You deciding what other people didn’t want to hear about was selfish Pandora. Maybe some people thought that you had found your “slender” and you left them behind, abandoned them, and that you didn’t need them anymore. The golden rule is to treat people the way you want to be treated. But the Platinum rule is to treat people the way they want to be treated.”

That hit home hard. First because she was exactly right. What I did was selfish. But even more so, because what she proposed some people MIGHT have felt. Was exactly how I would have felt. So not only am I guilty of not treating my readers how they might have wanted to be treated, I’m guilty of not treating my readers how I would have wanted to be treated.

I vanished. No explanation, no discussion. I used silence as an escape and the facade of a far to busy life and good intentions to justify it.

To each one of you who have read even one of my blogs throughout the years…

To those of you who might have read all the blogs I haven’t posted in this period of silent escapism and couldn’t because I didn’t write them…

To anyone that felt like I moved on and abandoned them, or worried about the reasons behind my textual Houdini act…

I apologize.  

It was one of those “really horrible” choices of escapism methods I mentioned I sometimes make.

Now that I’ve come to terms with the reality that I have done it, I am choosing not to escape in this fashion anymore. I am back. I am willing to be open, honest and vulnerable again. Today that vulnerability starts with …

I am sorry.


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.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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