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Training for Baby: Food journals - torture or triumph?

Posted January 25, 2011
Updated January 28, 2011

“American Idol” finalist and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson credits some of her amazing weight loss to keeping a food journal, according to People magazine.

The idea of writing down everything I eat seemed like a logical way to keep myself on track to losing more weight before my husband and I try to get pregnant. That is…until Trainer Anthony asked me to do it.

The thought of telling him how much I exercise isn’t scary at all. I am at the gym all the time, so how could he have any complaints? (He did! But I will get to that a little later.)

The idea of writing down everything that I put into my mouth, on the other hand, was horrifying.

First, I was afraid he would judge me for occasionally snacking on a not so healthy treat. (Sometimes I share a half of a chocolate chip cookie with a friend. Is that a crime?)

Second, would he judge me for not cooking much? My schedule is busy and my husband (a picky eater) loves to get takeout. I opt for healthier options on the menu and if I do choose to indulge in the occasional cheeseburger, I eat half and order veggies instead of fries. But what would Anthony say about that?

For about 10 days, I wrote down everything I ate and how much gym time I was logging. Unfortunately, the week I was keeping the log was a snow week and my workout schedule was turned upside down and my eating habits were terrible because I was working super early hours and getting no sleep.

As far as my workouts, Anthony thought I wasn’t getting enough cardio. The mornings I’d spend at the gym doing yoga didn’t provide me with the two main components of what he wanted me to work out – cardio and strength or resistance training. So, my hour of yoga didn’t count on Anthony’s chart.

He wanted me to maintain three hours of cardio and three hours of weights/resistance/strength training. That means less yoga and more elliptical!

On my exercise log, I was a day short on cardio because I was opting for either an extra day of rest or yoga.

With the new schedule, I get one day off a week to rest my muscles.

Exercise changes are a quick fix for me. I’m already in my second week of Anthony’s formula. But my diet is going to take longer to change.

Anthony was shocked at how many times my husband and I get takeout. Even though, I typically go for healthier options – grilled salmon and turkey sandwiches – the week I was keeping the journal, I indulged in 2 ½ honey barbecue chicken tenders at Chili’s. Yep, I am a rebel. Anthony was worried because that is fried chicken with sauce – apparently a double whammy!

Another concern he had was my lack of breakfast before the gym. Usually I eat half a protein meal bar on the way to the gym. Anthony wants me to get up an hour early and eat a sensible breakfast of yogurt and fruit before I head to the gym. Since that would cut into my sleep time and I really can’t work out on a full stomach, I am opting to cut my breakfast in half - eating some of it before the workout and then the rest after. That way, we can both be happy.

Anthony also found fault with one of my favorite fast food items – the grilled chicken snack wrap at Wendy’s.

My argument: It’s small, grilled and low in calories. (I’ve checked the nutritional facts)

His argument: It’s fast food. The chicken has fat. It would be healthier if I made my own.

So, despite thinking that I was eating healthy, Anthony found ways I could be healthier. I think that is his job, right?

As a girl from south Louisiana, it is difficult to be told that I can’t eat fried food or have Popeye’s. But I will try to eat better, with the occasional “two-piece and a biscuit” as a special treat.

No one can be perfect, so I am incorporating his suggestions into my routine, but not completing giving up eating takeout. I’ll just make really good choices when I do eat out. Like salads, turkey, wheat bread and less red meat.

I don’t think I want to keep a food journal anymore. It helped me see how much and often I eat things, but it also made me enjoy food less because I was afraid of having to write things down. I don’t want to live like that forever.

Have you ever kept a food journal? Did it help you lose weight?

Kathy is a web producer, entertainment expert and concert photographer for WRAL.com. She has written a manuscript about her life as an entertainment reporter and pop culture. Learn more about Kathy on her website. On Wednesdays here on Go Ask Mom, she's chronicling her efforts to lose weight before she and her husband start a family.

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  • babbleon Jan 28, 2011

    A food journal helped a lot, but it drove me into repetitive, boring foods - I didn't have time to write down more. I took 30 lbs off, but gained it all back with pregnancy and haven't been able to get the time to do another journal.

    It works if you have the time, but if you have a *life*, time is short. And sleep is really important.

  • mamax2grls Jan 26, 2011

    I have lost 54 pounds in the last year and I credit most of that success to the website My Fitness Pal. I use the site to track everything I eat (you bite it, you write it), how much water I drink, and any exercise or physical activity for the day. It automatically calculates your calories for you. I've used the recipe calculator to cut down on calories/fat in my home cooked meals.

    I don't look at a food journal as making me enjoy my food less, I look at it as being held accountable for what I put into my body.

  • grannybam07 Jan 26, 2011

    I'm currently journaling, doing the Jennifer Hudson plan - Weight Watchers. 41 pounds off and still counting! Rather than looking at it as I don't enjoy food as much, I choose to think that my choices are making me feel better - physically, mentally, and emotionally. It's just a matter of perspective.

    Journaling will make you aware of what you are eating, even the 1/2 cookies, and I find myself looking for options that will keep me satisfied longer. If I don't make a lifestyle change this will never work.

    Good luck!