By: Rosemary Wisniewski           Posted on: 08.01.2016

When traveling on the road to a healthy lifestyle, it’s always a good idea to bring along a few tools. So, what’s in your healthy lifestyle toolbox? Maybe you have a Fitbit or similar electronic tracker, a sturdy pair of walking shoes, or a food scale. What about a notebook and pencil (or pen, or marker, or crayon)? Do you keep a weight loss and fitness journal?

If you don’t, you might want to start. When people decide they want to lose weight and get fit, they plan to eat better and exercise more. But not everyone knows where to start and/or how to stick with a healthy eating/exercise plan. A journal can help you with both.

I want to make a note here: Your journal can be as detailed or as general as you want it to be, and you can use it daily or once a week. You can use a notebook and pencil, or you can keep it electronically with a computer or on a phone with an app. Design a journal you will you use. The goal is to make your healthy lifestyle and weight loss journey less stressful, not to add more stress to it.

With that in mind, here are some ideas on starting and keeping a successful journal:

Start by writing down your weight loss and exercise goals

Writing down your goals will make you more accountable. Make sure they are attainable and use wording that makes them connect with you and makes you feel comfortable. If it makes your heart sing, it’s probably a goal you really want to reach. Remember to make a note when you reach your goals, especially the small ones. This will help you see how small changes can build to a big transformation.

What, when and how much you eat

Keeping a food log is one of most effective ways to lose weight. Noting when you eat can help you see what patterns might be affecting your weight loss. Recording portion size is also important, but how specific you are will depend on how precisely you’re tracking your calorie intake. Also, don’t forget to write down that handful of M&Ms or two you grabbed from the candy dish.

How often you exercise, as well as your times and distances

A fitness tracker is an easy way to track of how many steps you take and how far you go when you take a walk or a run. (It can also remind you to take a walk when you’ve been sitting too long, like mine just did.) It also allows for online journal keeping if you prefer that method over paper and pencil.

Water/liquid intake

To keep track of my water intake, once a week I take a sticky note and write the days of the week vertically down the left and then draw eight classes of water next to each day and put it in my Passion Planner, which is my catch-all journal. Then I color in each glass with a pencil, marker or crayon every time I drink eight ounces.

Results of periodic weigh-ins

Whether you weigh-in at a weight loss program, gym or just at home, write it down so you can track your progress. How often is up to you.

Your feelings when you eat

Noting how you feel when you eat can help you identify emotional eating patterns. Did you eat a whole bag of Goldfish crackers at work because you’re anxious about a project that’s due? Did you have a fight with your son about his homework right before dinner?

Include motivating ideas, quotes and images

Get out your colored pencils, markers and crayons and make an eye-catching, colorful a list of 10 things to do instead of eating out of boredom. Or sprinkle the pages with quotes like “Do not reward yourself with food. You are not a dog,” or “I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than yesterday.”

These are just a few ideas I came up with or found online. You could probably come up with some of your own. Talk to friends about what works for them. If your friends don’t keep a journal yet, at least now you have some ideas you can pass along to them.

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