One of the first suggestions veteran losers give to newbies is to journal. It is often met with much resistance and understandably so. It can be tedious and boring but it also gives you that one more thing to do a day that might leave you feeling overwhelmed.
I get it. Journaling is tough stuff. For it to be effective, you need to be aware and honest with yourself, sometimes for the first time in your life, about what you are putting into your body and about how you are moving. For some, it is a huge wake-up call. It can be uncomfortable as you see those calories adding up.
I get it. I really do. That is why I want to share a different perspective about why journaling is crucial.
Back in the fall of 2002 when I first started getting serious about learning to lose weight the healthy way I joined the diet community at WebMD. Through this great resource I learned about Fitday.com, a fitness tracking software program. When I first started using it, there weren’t even half 1 million members and now I believe it’s around 5 ½ million. I’ve been using that program off and on ever since but mostly on. While it has given me a fairly easy way to find and record the nutritional information for the food I eat and find and record the calorie burn for activities I do it is also helped me spot trends in my own body.
One of the big secrets of the diet industry is: any person can lose weight on any plan but not every plan works for every person. For example, someone like me who has PCOS-polycystic ovarian syndrome- could follow many popular diet plans and not lose weight because what those plans won’t tell me is with PCOS my body is going to be most successful with a low-carb, high-protein plan. Some of the high-protein plans may mention they are good for someone like me but it’s usually not one of the first things you hear. This is where journaling becomes very important.
If I am following XYZ plan and not losing weight, then there’s a problem with my body. The plan can be just fine and completely wrong for my personal chemistry. Journaling helps to uncover what works and what doesn’t. Let me just caution: a non-working-for-you-program does not work from the beginning or progress stops for more than 30 days because one of the things most plans do not stress enough is stalls aka plateaus are absolutely normal.
A great journal program, like Fitday.com, also provides the opportunity to record body measurements. Body measurements are important because there are times especially later in your journey when your weight loss might appear to stop. If you’re in the habit of taking measurements weekly you may notice the tape measure moving significantly even though the scale is stubbornly stuck. A stuck scale doesn’t mean your program has stopped working it just means your body’s holding on and figuring things out. Another benefit to measuring is the tape measure rarely lies about your progress. It is possible to draw the tape too tight and recording inaccurate results but with practice you can learn to keep the tension steady. If the weekly measurement session does not show a shrinking body then perhaps it is time to take a look at the calories in, calories out equation again.
This is probably a good time to explain one of the partial truths that you will hear on your journey — “muscle weighs more than fat.” Let me explain why that’s a partial truth. A pound of muscle and a pound of fat is still a pound. However a pound of muscle is more dense and compact than a pound of fat and it is possible to gain a pound of muscle even if you do not lose a pound of fat. As your as a body fat percentage decreases and muscle mass is revealed and/or increases the appearance of your body is smaller. That is why the tape measure moves. This is also why you can have results on the tape measure that do not appear on the scale. The other part of the truth is you may even gain a pound of muscle. This is a good thing.
Wait? How can gaining weight when you are supposed to be losing be a good thing?
The reason is because 1 pound of muscle burns more calories than 1 pound of fact while you are sleeping, at rest, and especially while you are active. Which means when you are driving, sitting at your desk, taking a Sunday afternoon nap or watching TV; that pound of muscle tissue you gained is burning calories at a faster rate than any of your fat tissue. Muscle mass is “metabolically active.” Muscle mass, even for women, is the best defense against weight regain. Ladies do not worry too much about bulking up because we just do not have the right hormones for that. Besides changing the composition of your body is the point.
A good journaling program or even rocking it old-school with paper and pen will help you keep track of your progress and illuminate trends in your own body. Whatever diet plan you are following, do not let your success be measured by that plan. Get to know your body. Get to know your own definition of success. As much as I want to be ballerina, willowy my truth is I am one of these girls who tends to get bulky think powerful gymnast bulky. Journaling helped me really come to accept the way my body was designed.
Yes in the beginning journaling can be time-consuming but in the end it is absolutely worth it.
Be your own Nike commercial — Just Do It!