The Five Pronged Approach: Step 1 – Write it Down

The last post promised five steps to help us on our journey to fitness. (And inner peace, right?) Here’s step one. This is harder than it sounds: Write down everything you eat.

It doesn’t matter what method you use. I personally like to log food into one of a variety of software programs that can make me pretty charts and graphs to demonstrate how most of my meals are comprised of fat and sugar, thus demonstrating graphically why my pants no longer fit. You may not be such a technophile and might prefer the old pen and paper method. That’s fine, as long as you’re accurate. (A couple to try —, or — this one is part of a “system” that I use — the BodyMedia GoWearFit. It’s the “body bug” that the contestants on The Biggest Loser wear, and it IS. AWESOME. But only if you’re a gadget geek and don’t mind wearing a somewhat unattractive device on your arm all the time. It clocks how many calories you burn based on like 3,000 calculations per minute. It counts steps, logs sleep time (versus time spent just laying down), and calculates your sleep efficiency. If you use the web based calorie logger, too, it can calculate the crucial “calories in versus calories out” equation, telling you how you’re doing. But expensive gadgets are not critical to success — as I have demonstrated in the past by being enormously unsuccessful despite having this gadget!)

The key is to track every calorie that you put in your mouth. Whether you lick the knife after you make your kids’ peanut butter sandwiches or just grab a few crumbs from the bottom of the doughnut box at the office — it counts. And you need to know what you’re taking in to understand what you need to put out to account for it. This is where most people fall woefully short by radically underestimating what they eat. Things that many people forget to log:

1. Drinks (creamer in your coffee? Milk in your tea?)
2. Condiments (ketchup, mayo, salad dressing?)
3. “non-meal” foods. One french fry here, a cookie or three cheerios there. It adds up. Log it.

Commit to logging your food for a week and see where you end up. If you aren’t sure how to account for calories, useful sites like can help. There is no one number that works for everyone, but for your average 145-165 pound woman, a healthy calorie range would be somewhere between 1800 and 2200 calories a day, depending on activity level. For me (at 5’9″ and 150), to drop fat, I need to keep calories below 1800 at my current activity level. We’ll talk more about activity in step 2 — Moving it Around.

Have questions about this? Feel free to ask!


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