6 Food Journal Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Are one (or all) of these 6 common food journal mistakes the reason you're frustrated by your lack of weight loss? Let's find out.

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These common food journal mistakes could be the reason you’re frustrated by your lack of weight loss.

You’re making an effort to log everything you eat & drink into a tracking app…

You’re trying to hit a calorie and/or macro targets

You feel like you’re making all this effort but you’re not losing weight. Tracking calories/macros must just not be for you. It’s just not working.

Before you throw in the towel on the most useful tool you have to learn how to reach a healthy weight and maintain it for life, make sure you’re not making any of these common food journal mistakes.

Using measuring cups/spoons

Though convenient, cup/spoon measurements can be pretty ambiguous. Does 1 cup or tablespoon mean rounded? Flush with the edge? Below the edge? Packed down? Measurement errors like this can mean you’re racking up hundreds of calories that you’re not accounting for of up to a hundred calories or so!

Solution: Weigh to the gram/ounce. You’ll notice most labels have their serving sizes in 2 ways: cup/spoon and grams/ounces. Get a food scale and weigh out your servings, at least for a while.

This will help you get a better idea of what the serving should look like in the cup or spoon so that when/if you do go back to those, you’re measuring more accurately. For easy-to-overdo-it foods like nut butters, you might want to always measure to the gram, thanks to how quickly those calories can add up.

Logging retroactively

Do you even remember what you had for lunch yesterday? Let alone if you polished off a couple of your kid’s chicken nuggets?

If you are trying to recall yesterday’s meals – or even today’s breakfast – from memory, odds are you’re going to have a very hard time being accurate. You’re likely to remember the choices that align with your goals but conveniently forget the ones that aren’t. Add to that the frequency with which most of us eat mindlessly and might have no recollection of it later, trying to log retroactively is a recipe for a really inaccurate log.

Solution: In an ideal world, you’d plan your meals in advance, log them the night before, and then just stick to the plan. When that’s not an option, log as you go so that you don’t forget the handful of nuts, couple of Hershey kisses, grande latte, 2 bites of a muffin, and 1/4 quesadilla you had between meals.

When logging in-the-moment isn’t an option, snap a picture to trigger your memory when you are able to log it.

Forgetting the small stuff

You might be measuring accurately and logging in advance but forgetting about small things that can actually make a big difference.

I’m talking sauces, oils, condiments, sweeteners, cream, things of that nature.

This includes the tastes you have while you’re cooking dinner, the sips you take off your husband’s beer, the bites you take to finish off your kid’s plate, and other seemingly insignificant things that can add up to a lot of calories.

Solution: If it goes in your mouth, it gets counted. You likely already have your phone with you all day so it’s a matter of staying mindful when you’re doing these things, and accounting for them in your log. 

Guessing on a lot of restaurant meals

Going out to eat is an inevitable (and enjoyable!) part of life.

Part of the reason food at restaurants tastes so good, though, is because they cook with more oil/butter/salt than you would at home. As a result, meals out are likely a lot more calorie dense than you realize. In fact, a 2016 study found that the average American restaurant meal contained ~1,200 calories! Compare that to your daily calorie goal and you’ll see exactly why frequently going out to eat can be so detrimental to your weight loss goals!

The more often you eat out, the less accurate your log is going to be, since you’re going to have to guess on portion sizes and things like how much butter, oil, and sauces were used.

Solution: Cook as many of your own meals as possible so that you can control the ingredients and the quantities.

Of course, you want to be able to indulge sometimes when it’s worth it. But when you have weight loss goals, you’ll see better/faster results when meals out are kept to a minimum.

Choosing inaccurate entries

Unfortunately a lot of entries in food tracking apps are created by other users. It takes a discerning eye to know what to look for in an entry.

Solution: With some practice, this gets much easier. Make sure the entries you’re choosing have macros listed, not just calories, and pull up a few to make sure the one you’re choosing is within the realm of possibility.

Cross referencing Google is never a bad idea and working with an experienced coach, like in our Foundations program, can help you hone your skills.

Being inconsistent

You log religiously Monday-Friday, skip the weekend, and pick back up again on Monday. Then wonder why you feel like you’re spinning your wheels…
(hint: it probably has something to do with those missing days).

The point of tracking is two-fold: to help build the skills you need to maintain a healthy weight long-term without tracking and to collect data on your behaviors so that you can make the necessary changes to reach your weight loss goals.

Solution: If you’re only logging part-time, odds are the data you don’t have is where the problem lies. Commit to tracking 100% of the time, whether or not you want to face it, and I guarantee you’ll recognize really quickly exactly what’s been holding you back.

Remember the point

Even though it seems like each of these issues is relatively minor, they can add up to make your food log wildly inaccurate!

Remember that tracking what you’re eating & drinking is not something you have to – or should – do forever. It’s a tool to help you lose weight while learning exactly how to maintain it and still eat whatever foods you want.

If you’re going to go to the effort of keeping track, don’t let these food journal mistakes prevent you from seeing results and learning as much as you can in the process.

Want some help avoiding the “newbie mistakes” that hold most trackers back from getting the results they’re after? Check out our 6-week Foundations program

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