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The importance of weight loss journaling, especially when it’s hardest

I lost 45 lbs this year and I did it by following evidence based medicine.

The #1 thing that I did was commit to weight loss journaling….writing every morsel down that goes into my mouth (helping me stick to my 1,500 calorie a day allotment that I needed to eat to lose weight at a safe rate). Studies tell us that people who journal every day lose twice as much weight as people who don’t.

One of the most important points about journaling is a defense against what we dieters call “bad” days. We shouldn’t be pejorative like that, but many people who are overweight have a black and white view of food intake (I did anyway). What I mean by that is, if the day is shot (e.g. I broke the bank by eating 4 slices of pizza or a piece of apple pie), well, in for a penny in for a pound and it dissolves into a belly-up-to-the-trough kind of day.

But journaling, I have found, can help even when you hit a rough patch….let me rephrase, especially when you hit a rough patch. It’s like a rip cord for your back up parachute. Because stopping to write things down helps you realize that

A) The situation may not be as dire as what you have worked out in your head


B) Honesty about what you eat is essential. Because if you are over weight (like I was) you probably lied to yourself about it, “I’m not that fat,” or “I’ve tried journaling/everything and it doesn’t work.” These are the lies that keep us from losing the weight and trust me, you haven’t really tried journaling until you have honestly weighed and measured every scrap that goes into you mouth, written it down, and stuck to your daily calorie allotment.

Which brings me back to the holidays. Last week was a challenge for me. I only stuck to my maintenance calories (2,000/day) 2 of the 7 days. But I journaled. Every day. Even when it wasn’t pretty. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t the horror that I had concocted in my out of control imagination. And when I really wanted that desert on Friday, I looked at my journal and didn’t. And while it didn’t stop me from eating the 3rd piece of pizza on Saturday it did stop me from eating the 4th (and stopping my descent into pizza madness is no mean feat).

It worked for me and it will work for you.

It is as much about being honest and accountable to yourself as it is about the calories.

And the only thing you have to lose is the weight.


19 thoughts on “The importance of weight loss journaling, especially when it’s hardest

  1. If keeping a journal helps you to lose weight that is fine. Anything that enables you to focus on the task can only be good.

    Posted by lose weight with pills | December 19, 2011, 12:55 pm
    • It doesn’t just help me, evidence based medicine tells us it will help every one!

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | December 22, 2011, 6:22 am
      • Journaling DOES work… that’s why it’s a cornerstone in the Weight Watchers program. Now if only WW would stop promoting light/reduced calorie carbs over complex carbs (i.e. 35 calorie per slice light wheat > 100% whole wheat bread) in their program, that’d be all that much better.

        Posted by Kate | February 14, 2012, 11:50 pm
  2. I agree with you! When I log in MyFitnessPal every morning it reminds me of my goals and keeps me on track, if I would only log in at nigh to write what I already eaten it wouldn’t work the same way.

    Posted by towardshealthylife | December 19, 2011, 2:23 pm
  3. I think you are doing a superior job here thanks so much for the solid information.

    Posted by Steve | December 20, 2011, 4:00 pm
  4. what does a weight l oss journal look like — I’m in need of a format

    Posted by Carol Elliott | April 19, 2012, 9:05 am
    • I use Lose It! an app for iPhone and Android. But a piece of paper works just fine!

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | April 19, 2012, 4:36 pm
      • One of the docs in the MFM office where I work showed me your recent article in OBG Management about the Lose It! app–he knows I’ve been using it to journal food & exercise, and based on my success with it (111 lbs lost in the last 14 months) has suggested it to several of our patients. I really appreciated your basic rundown of the pros & cons of the app–it’s a great assessment! Thanks!

        Posted by lizzy | May 17, 2012, 4:30 pm
  5. Can I just say what a comfort to discover a person that really knows what they’re discussing on the internet. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people really need to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular given that you definitely have the gift.

    Posted by weightloss | August 15, 2012, 3:29 pm
  6. The quick red wolf jumped over the lazy dog

    Posted by ZEE | October 22, 2012, 11:05 am
  7. Eating a healthy diet is of key importance to weight loss success. The same can be said for a regular exercise program

    Posted by ZEE | October 22, 2012, 11:09 am
  8. The quick red fox jumped over the lazy pet

    Posted by ZEE | October 24, 2012, 1:01 pm
  9. I will be a regular visitor for a really long time.

    Posted by weight loss | November 21, 2012, 5:29 pm
  10. There is certainly a great deal to know about this topic. I really like all of the points you made.

    Posted by Start With Your Mind | November 24, 2012, 5:03 pm
  11. Good luck and good health.

    Posted by diet nutrition weight loss | February 13, 2013, 11:05 pm
  12. It’s great that calorie counting has worked for you but I don’t agree with the blanket statement that it will help EVERYONE. With people that have any trace of disordered eating, calorie counting can lead to a whole host of problems. I used to use my fitness pal to lose the pregnancy pounds but it led to a shame spiral and to eating way less than I needed for my activity level and for nursing which burns a lot. Now I don’t count but I just make conscious decisions to eat well. I move my body because it feels good to be strong and fast and without the midset that I need to exercise to burn the extra calories I consumed. Also I cook almost everything from scratch so typing every recipe in to the app was a huge time suck because I may never make it the same again (e.g. whole wheat bread/tortillas which may need different amounts of flour depending on the climate etc at the time) or I may add different veg/protein depending on what I have.

    I do think calorie counting works for some and whatever works for you then stick with it. I just know it did not work for me.
    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m judging or bashing calorie counters out there btw.
    Good morning from Jordan.

    Posted by Admin | May 6, 2016, 11:01 pm
    • Just to add that I realize myfitnesspal changes calorie goals depending on level of activity but my preferred exercise is HIIT and i don’t have a heart rate monitor to track calories burnt so the accuracy of input/output was not, well very accurate.

      Posted by Admin | May 6, 2016, 11:11 pm


  1. Pingback: Count Calories By Writing Them Down and Keeping to Your Goal | AZ LapBand Blog - December 19, 2011

  2. Pingback: On the 8th day before the New Year… « 355 Days - December 22, 2011

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