Day 26: Keep A Food Diary | 30-Day Weight Loss-athon

It’s time for Day 26 of the 30-Day Weight Loss-athon.

All tasks in the 30-Day Weight Loss-athon are adapted from my 52 Weight Loss Missions program.

Read the steps first, then take 10 minutes to complete them.

Move fast, act quickly and stop over-thinking. Ready?

What You Need:

Step 1

First, let’s work out why we should keep a food diary.

Here are several excellent reasons.

  • People often underestimate how much they eat – so this is a great way to get real.
  • Having to write down what you eat can help arrest mindless eating – and mindless eating can be a major factor in overeating.
  • It can feel very rewarding when you fill in healthful, weight-loss-friendly choices – so that’s some nice positive reinforcement
  • Tracking your food can give you helpful weight-loss insights into problem foods or problem times of day
  • Writing down everything you eat can suddenly reveal ‘invisible’ calories you never acknowledged before – such as tasting while cooking, finishing kids’ meals, the true extent of snacking (you ate 25 cashews, not just a few).
  • Research shows that tracking your food intake can enhance weight-loss success.

Importantly, keeping a food diary is not meant to make you feel bad; it’s meant to give you information.

Step 2

Next, let’s decide where to keep your food diary. Choose one, or experiment with several to find one that fits seamlessly into your life.

You could:

  • Use a small notebook or food diary you can keep in your purse. Keep a pen handy so you can jot down your entries wherever you are.
  • Download one of the many apps available on smart phones. Search food diary or food tracker in the app store. Note: you don’t need to use calorie-tracking functions unless you want to.
  • Use the Interactive Diet & Exercise Diary from your 52 Weight Loss Missions Action Pack. Use the interactive features to enter text from your computer or iPad, or print it out and write by hand.

Step 3

The key to using your food diary successfully – so it aids your weight loss – is to leave nothing out.

These tips will help:

  • Use it every day, for everything you eat. I’ll say it again so there can be no misunderstanding: Everything you eat.
  • Record your entry immediately after eating, so nothing is forgotten. Make this a habit.
  • Be descriptive, saying small, medium or large; number of items, spoons, cups; etc.
    For example:

    • Medium apple
    • 1.5 chocolate bars
    • 25 cashew nuts
    • Large bowl of cereal
    • Small skim cappuccino.
  • Include the method of cooking – baked, grilled, fried, etc.
  • Remember to include sauces, spreads, dressings, condiments, etc.
  • Include drinks (juices, tea, coffee, alcohol), and their sizes. For coffee and tea include added milk, sugar, syrups, etc.
  • Be sure to record everything – meals, snacks, tasting while cooking, finishing kids’ meals, etc. If you think you don’t eat much, this may be eye-opening – and therefore useful information in your weight-loss success.

If you already keep a food diary, what will you do differently?

If you don’t, will you start today?

Check in!

And you’re done!

Be sure to leave your comment below to check in and stay accountable. If you’re reading this by email or in a reader then please click here to leave your comment.

See you tomorrow!

Michele Connolly

Michele Connolly helps people move from procrastination to action. She believes that taking action on your priorities makes you a happier person. Michele is the founder of Get Organized Wizard and creator of tools for business, home, and personal organization. Her programs are used by tens of thousands of people worldwide.

  • This will be a challenge, but I’m willing to try as last night all I wanted to do was EAT. Not a good plan. Did have some self-control and only ate 1 chocolate and 1 cookie.

  • I actually write down (actually I use MyFitnessPal) BEFORE I eat so if my calories/fat are a bit high for what I am about to eat, I cut something back. Maybe do 1/4 cup of avocado instead of half. Keeping track this way has totally changed the way I eat. In&Out Dbl Dbl Animal Style, oh yeah, 670 calories 41 grams of fat 1440 mg of salt, oh no. I’d have to walk for 2 hours to come close to burning that puppy off. HUGE reality smack.

  • I used to do this previously and then I had stopped, but I know I have to start it again. I stick to my calories alot better when I am writing them down and I will never go over my allowance but since I have stopped counting and recording my calories, my weight is slowly creeping back on. I was just thinking today that I need to start keeping track of what I am actually eating, I jump on the internet and it is todays mission. Very timely indeed. I previously used My Fitness Pal but I am thinking I am just going to write it down as I love using paper and pen.

  • On the ‘To Do’ list.

  • I started using MyFitnessPal at the same time I started this challenge, so I am already doing this. It’s working great, and being aware of the calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol in a food when I eat it has definitely helped me make better food choices. For example, when I went to an open house the other day, I was able to turn down cookies that I knew were calorie and fat-laden in favor of some I liked better that were much healthier. In turn, my weight is decreasing enough that acquaintances have commented on the change. I’m very happy about that!

  • Now that birthdays are over for the time being, I’m going to stasrt the healthy meals/cooking next Monday. As I spend a lot of time on here, I’m going to start a weight loss blog complete with food diary. Just trying to think of some clever name for it……….uuuuuhhhhh……mmmmmm……

  • Each day I already keep track of what I eat throughout the day…………I guess I need to be more specific (how many, cups, spoons).

  • I already journal, but I will work at making sure I note every bite, even condiments.

  • I use this everyday to track my foods.

  • I know tracking your food works because I used to do it religiously with another weight loss program. But…I stopped doing it and regained most of the weight I had lost. 🙁 I’ve been logging my food on SuperTracker on since I started this challenge and it really does make a difference in my food choices. There have been times that I started to mindlessly snack, but remembered that I would have to log the food and changed my mind. 🙂 When I think about skipping a day and not logging my food I think back to my real motivators that I listed on the first day of the challenge and it helps me to get my focus back.

  • Having done this before (with another weight loss program), I can honestly say they do help but you can’t help feeling like they scream out what you are eating to the world (I know they don’t but there have been times when it feels like the spotlights on you) It IS helpful to be able to look over what you’ve eaten and “fine tune” your plan so (sigh…) this will be picked up again and scrutinized accordingly finding flaws and fixing them!

  • still tracking my food intake and exercise using one of the phone apps recommended by the nutritionist. Paying closer attention to all of the stats for the foods I eat. Helps to view stats for foods I plan to eat and modify plans as needed based on what the app tells me the food will “cost”.

  • Using the app…..I do know that it is easy to say medium when it is large. To add to my kitchen – I think these tools would be good: A good scale that is on the counter to weight my portions. Also, containers/spoons/etc that are a specific measure. If I can’t find them, I will have to take some of the ones I have at home and measure what they actually scoop.

    Thank you for another great day!


  • Got sidelined with bronchitis and an injury for a week. I do use the Sparkpeople app though I’ve been hit or miss food tracking, only doing exercise tracking. Will start tracking again. Good news is I’ve gone to the gym the past two days, and even started the water aerobics class (which promptly kicked my butt!) to try to bust my plateau.

  • I’ve tried this method before and all it did was depress me because I realized how much I was eating, or how little on some days! But I’m willing to give it a try again, just have to find that first food journal, I know it’s in my nightstand with all my other little notebooks.

  • I’ve done this in the past for children with allergies when doing food challenges but never thought of doing it for myself. I know I’m pretty good most of the time but how many cups of coffee or cocoa do I really have on a bad day?

  • Oh my, never really though of writing down the spoonfuls that I sample as I cook. But I can see now why some times I’m not very hungry at meals, but still eat anyway. I think this challenge will show me more than I may want to see. So I WILL write EVERYTHING in my journal starting with my morning water & coffee today.

  • My food diary is on My Fitness Pal, which I’ve maintained since this first week of this challenge, and so far, it’s helped me a lot! I’ve lost three pounds and have become very conscious of what and how much I eat. I feel great and have even splurged some in a few special cases (ice cream sundae and burger and fries–exceptions, not the rule!).

  • A food diary is very helpful, but I know I need to get better at figuring out what I need to eat (or not eat). For me, it can’t be about what I want to eat, but what I need to eat to feel better. The problem is you can never get away from food……

  • This is something I started doing a couple weeks ago and I’m already seeing results from it. Just tonight I wanted to snack for no reason but because I thought about the place it would hold in my food diary and the calories it’d add on I was able to overcome the urge to snack and just drank some water.

  • I am already keeping a food diary as I have been using Myfitnesspal for over 75 days. It really makes a difference when I note everything and waht is worth eating or not.

  • This is not as difficult as I thought it would be. I have been keeping a log of ALMOST everything online. Now I will pull out that pocket notebook and jot down everything, before I eat it. That way I will try my best not to have seconds or cheat.

  • I need to work on this one…esp. the little taste test, that I often do, while I am cooking! I don’t ever remember to write them down….I guess I thought they were free! : )

  • I have done this in the past and am going to restart now….with this month’s actions I have become more mindful of the things I eat so maybe I won’t be so ashamed of what I have to write down. It will be a positive instead of a negative for me now.

  • Started the diary yesterday! Hubby treated me to Panera tonight? Probably shouldn’t have eaten that “little” bag of chips.

  • This has been one of the most helpful things for me to do especially because I cook/bake a lot for my work (and pleasure!) which means I HAVE taste things to see if they are “right”…but, I don’t need to taste as much as I do ;-).

  • I use, but I have a harder time remembering to do this on the weekends. Got to push myself a little more on that.

  • I have been recording my food on My Fitness Pal for awhile, so I’m good on this one. I will try to be more meticulous about recording immediately after I eat.

  • I just download MyFitnessPal app to track my progress and it is AWESOME. highly recommend it to any smartphone users looking for a great app (and its free!)

  • My food diary would either be with me when I eat or at my bedside table and when I eat now I turn a blind eye to the food that will not be good for me.

  • I do great at keeping a food diary UNTIL I over eat or eat chat I shouldn’t! I’m learning to write it all down no matter what! As the say in WW, “If you bite it, write it!”

  • Emm.. I did it once and it didn’t work out for me! I’ll skip! I’m happy eating on a basis of my hand is the measure of the meat portion, and as much allowed vigs as I can!

  • I did this last night 🙂 Weighed myself this morning, and no more excuses, it’s time to think about portion control, my biggest downfall 🙁

  • I have been using my fitnesspal since we started this and its working out for me!

  • Started this at the beginning of the month. It’s amazing at the stuff I missed at first, especially little add ins.

  • This is how I started working toward my healthy-me goals. I use the Lose it! app.

  • This will keep me on top of my eating habits.. I tend to forget to eat in the mornings and then end up snacking too much at night!

  • Been tracking for a couple of weeks now, bought a weight watchers 3 month journal.

  • I always start on a good note, but after a few days, I forget to mark things down. I should try harder to keep track!

  • I have been doing this since day one. It really makes you more conscious of what you are eating and when.

  • the toughest part of this is remembering to do it and forming a habit. and away we go.

  • I keep a small notebook on my nightstand and record everything before I go to bed every night.

  • I need to get back into this, think I have been sneaking in a few lol.

  • Done! I have a food journal on my cell and I like it

  • I will have this in my Evernote notebook 🙂

  • I am writing it all down in my head. Just kidding 🙂

  • This is going to be interesting.

  • I kept a food diary some time ago and it really worked for me, being ‘accountable” for what I REALLY eat in a day.Reality check! So I shall start again.Makes one aware too, well for me; of how difficult it is to make sure I really eat enough fruit and veg- now the daily & weekly planning of my menu should ensure this…

  • 1 quarter strength coffee, not much skim milk. 11/2 raison bread, later a small bowl of coco pops and now a small apple. Making pumpkin soup. I feel a little hungry yet I know that it is a great feeling. You know somethings comming off. Not the best choices, yet I haven’t had the favorite cadbury for quite awhile (amazing). Pumpkin soup is simmering. mmmmmmmmmm Heather Sinclair.

  • I have been tracking what I eat on Weight Watchers. This has been a great help to see what I am really eating each day. The new app for my phone lets me scan the barcode of what I am eating and enters it right into my daily log!

  • Hello to everyone: I’m so glad you’re still doing Michele’s Program. Keeping a food diary will give your insight into what you eat; the portion size and what you need to cut back on and then eliminate off you food list. The food diary I made up included the seven days of the week with categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Activity. The Activity could be your exercise and/or behavior. I also added goals: Diet, physical activity and behavior. This will help you become a healthier you through nutritional eating. Remember, your body has to last a lifetime. Please continue to post to stay accountable. Good Luck.

  • I have been using Calorie Counter on my iPad. It is super cool…it also has an area to track weight, and exercise so that you can actually see you “net” at the end of the day. In other words it tells you if you have consumed less calories than exerted. So far I have burned more than consumed…yeah!

  • It will most certainly make you think before putting it in your mouth if you have to track it.

  • I started using Really easy to use.

  • Already do this….so I’m good to go.

  • Need to commit to journaling daily.

  • Started it two weeks ago. I use a excel. And in the morning, when I check in here and in the evening, before I surf in the internet or watch tv my journal pops up – ready to be filled and showing me the reality – I hate it to write “cake” and see the fact of 600 ckal… but I love to write “cucumbers” 🙂

  • I usually “forget” some of the things I eat during the day, so this is a good way to control my meals (and test the new recipes!)

  • Am doing this on the Biggest Loser Club site. Have been doing this for a year and when I forget is when I start to gain weight again. You get used to portion sizes etc when you use it every day and it becomes easier not to over eat. Great idea. Love it