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Exercise & Food Journals

by Katie Leigh

An exercise and food journal is a popular tool for those who are trying to lose weight. Recording your food intake and physical activity on paper allows you to see exactly what you're taking in and burning off each day. "The Positive Portions Food and Fitness Journal" says the type of self-accountability that exercise and food journals promote is key to effective and permanent weight loss.

Using the Journal

An exercise and food journal is mainly used by those who are tying to lose weight, though they can also be beneficial for athletes and those who are trying to maintain or gain weight. However, an exercise and food journal will only work if you're honest when using it. "The Positive Portions Food and Fitness Journal" recommends keeping an exact record of everything you eat and do throughout the day for the best results.

Seeing the Benefits

Those who are trying to lose weight often get the greatest benefit from a food and exercise journal. A 2008 study published in the "American Journal of Preventative Medicine" found that those who kept a record such as a food journal while dieting lost twice as much weight as those who did not. The study, which followed 1,700 overweight or obese adults, revealed that the dieters who kept an exercise and food journal lost an average of 18 pounds in six months. Dieters who did not keep a diary lost an average of nine pounds.

Starting the Journal

Creating an exercise and food journal requires little more than a notebook. Write the date at the top of the page, and create columns for the type of food, the amount, the meal or time and the total calories. At the bottom of the page, box off a section to keep track of the day's activities. That area should have columns for the type of exercise, the amount of time and the distance (if applicable). You should also reserve a section just above the exercise section to record any feelings or unusual occurrences throughout the day.

Keeping Track

Write down every bit of food you consume throughout the day, including beverages with calories such as soda, milk and juice. You can find the calories for these items on the back of the packaging. If you tend to consume whole or homemade foods that don't come pre-packaged, it would help to purchase a comprehensive calorie guide. In the exercise section, record all of the physical activity you participated in throughout the day. In the notes section, record any unusual activity. For example, if you were sick, ate to the point of being overly full, attended a special event or skipped any meals, write it down. This will help you identify and correct any problem behaviors.

Expert Insight

Jack Hollis, the lead author of the study published in the "American Journal of Preventative Medicine," says that keeping an exercise and food journal encourages accountability. In this way, it's an effective way to stay on track as you embark on a weight-loss regimen. Additionally, Victor Stevens, the senior investigator on the study, said that the journal also works because it allows people to identify and correct bad habits.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.