My online coaching program is 12 months long. If you don’t start the program in January, chances are you might be asked to practice a habit at a somewhat inconvenient time. So it happened when this week one of my clients was prompted to start recording her intake with a food journal.
Can you imagine tracking everything you eat on Thanksgiving day?
Once or twice a year, I encourage all my clients to track their food. They can do this any way they like: using a calorie tracking app, sending me photos and text descriptions of everything they put in their mouths or writing it all out longhand. A food journal can take many forms and is valuable as long as it documents everything you consume.
Why? Because it is an excellent way to assess whether what you think you are eating and doing matches what is actually happening in your real life. Are you getting enough protein? Eating 5-10 servings of vegetables throughout the day? Focusing on healthy carbs and fats or letting that slide? Have you let portion sizes grow over time? Is your sweet tooth getting the best of you? Food journals don’ t lie.
It’s easy to think you’re doing everything right (I hear this a lot!), but if the scale doesn’t budge, or it goes the ‘wrong’ way, tracking tells you why. Tracking also works with fitness – are you moving as much as you think? Are you increasing the loads? Is your heart rate getting high enough for long enough?
As one of my mentors taught me (and shared in this blog post on financial planning): It’s easy to feel good about your self and believe in your approach when things are going well. What happens when life gets challenging, like, during the holidays?
If your fitness and nutrition plan can withstand the feasting, imbibing, travel, family stressors, and the general overload of gatherings, you’re exceptionally rare. Most people gain weight this time of year and never lose it – despite their most sincere new year’s resolutions.
If you want to get through the holidays without feeling like you need a cleanse, detox, or other quick fixes on January 1, you need a plan that acknowledges where your particular challenges are. A food journal identifies exactly what your particular challenges are. These are your blind spots.
Your blind spot might be as simple as knowing you can’t control yourself around pistachios (yep, me) and parking yourself far away from the bowl. For others, it’s drinking too much when stressed and needing to find other ways to unwind, including not accepting every party invitation. Sometimes it’s not knowing how to say no when a host insists you take more food.
During the holidays fear of missing out (FOMO) is a major blind spot: the peppermint bark, egg nog, pumpkin-spiced everything…there seems to be a society-wide need to maximize eating these treats now before they ‘go away ‘ for another year. To which I can only say, chocolate peppermint crinkle cookies and gingerbread can be made and enjoyed year-round, right??
So my challenge to you is this: sometime during the holiday season, maybe even on a feast day, keep a food journal and record your intake. This is an important touchstone for everyone. It’s a tool to take out once or twice a year as a gauge so that you can check your blindspots. Your nutrition plan needs to be able to withstand the challenges of life, not just the easy times.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy pumpkin pie or turkey with all the trimmings… please, PLEASE, enjoy the time with family and all the yummy foods associated with celebrations, just perhaps a little more mindfully this year.
- What’s one small thing you can do to set yourself up for success this holiday season?
- What’s one thing you can do to get yourself back on track if your plan goes sideways?
- If you tried recording your intake, what key insight did you discover?
Want more tips and discussion on surviving the holidays? Come over and join the Healthy Habits Practice Community at https://eat-well-move-well.mn.co
If you’re ready to get started working with a coach – or even explore the idea of working with a coach – let’s hop on a call to figure out the first steps you need to take.