When you keep a food log you double your chances of weight loss and will, on average, decrease your caloric intake by just under 400 calories per day. While both of those facts should in theory be enough motivation for people to keep a diary, many clients I see struggle with consistently keeping a food journal. In practice, keeping a food diary is simple and shouldn’t take more than about five minutes per day (it will probably take longer at the beginning as one is learning the ropes, but this is normal).
Some may have difficulty because tracking is a rather uneventful activity that may not offer an immediate reward. Here’s what I mean: after exercise class (which takes far more effort and time compared to tracking), you feel good. You’re sweating, out of breath and feel like you accomplished something – which of course, you did. You have an endorphin rush and feel like you’re on top of the world. You probably don’t get this by keeping a food journal.
After seeing many clients struggle with tracking, here are some suggestions on how to make it more sustainable and interesting:
- Record at least something every day (even if it’s a guess at the amount, calories or contains incomplete information). This will help you both build and then sustain the habit.
- Change the way you track. Record in advance (e.g. the night before), buy a new food diary or use an online tracking site or smart phone app.
- If you track online or via an app, trial a different site/app. You may find that a different interface and user options work better for you. Some of the best sites: myfitnesspal, loseit, mynetdiary, sparkpeople.
- Set goals and monitor them through tracking. For example, examine your liquid calorie intake and see if you can reduce, or set a time goal i.e. complete recording for two weeks straight.
It’s important to note that in order for something to become a habit it must be consistently practiced for up to a year and a half.
If you struggle with tracking and wish to comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark McGill, RD
Today's guest post is from fellow dietitian, Vanessa Perrone. Vanessa's website and blog: http://www.motivenutrition.com/ is definitely worth bookmarking in your browser and visiting often as it's goal is to “motivate you to eat well, love food and find your motive for better nutrition” through “tips, news and fresh, Italian-inspired recipes”. I've been following her site for some time now and it's a great resource for healthy living information.
You can also follow Vanessa on Twitter @VanPerrone
In my holiday newsletter this year, I shared the following, as my 2013 “mantra”:
Cook More, Order Less
Sweat More, Sit Less
Eat Real More, Eat Junk less
Smile More, Stress Less
Among the holiday wishes (tx!) and feedback I received, I did get a few comments from people wondering what changes they could make if they wanted to get the ball rolling this year, in each of these areas. So with that in mind, I put together a of changes for each focus area, that can serve as a starting point for you in the new year.
To Cook More, Order Less
1. Make a list of 5 recipes for crazy weeknights that you can prepare quickly & confidently. These are simple recipes that you can put together at the last minute should you be short on time. This is especially important on those hectic weeknights when nothing is prepared and you feel tempted to order in. Once you’ve chosen your top 5, always have your pantry stocked to have the necessary ingredients on hand.
2. Keep a shopping list. A well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer are essential to get you cooking more.
3. Prep ahead. Washing your salad, steaming your vegetables or cooking a batch of quinoa over the weekend are examples of prep work that can save you loads of time and effort in the kitchen.
4.Bring your own lunch. Oh I haven’t forgotten about this one. Back to school season may be a few months behind us, but packing your own lunch remains one of the simplest and most efficient ways to order less.
5. Have fun in the kitchen. You might need to feel confident before you can have fun, in which case you should treat yourself to a cooking class or new cook book. If you’re already confident, having fun might mean experimenting with new equipment, ingredients or new cuisines. Do whatever it takes for you to have more fun in the kitchen, as it will keep you cooking more.
To Sweat More, Sit Less
6. Always keep you exercise gear with you. Because stopping by the house might make-or-break that training session.
7. Park farther away. At work, at the mall or at the movie theatre. Bonus: This also relieves the anxiety associated with circling endlessly around a parking lot for a “good spot”.
8. Work your way to 150 minutes of activity per week. To achieve this number, break it up whichever way works best for you, doing the exercise you enjoy most: 5 x 30 minutes or 3 x 50 minutes.
9. Move more in your daily activities. Take the stairs, practice yoga poses during commercial breaks, take phone calls standing up rather than sitting down, tidy-up at home, take walking breaks at the office, really scrub those dishes. Every little bit counts.
10. Treat training sessions like medical appointments; don’t skip them. Schedule it and you’re more likely to stick to it.
To Eat Real More, Eat Junk Less
11. Read the ingredient list first. Most processed foods contain ingredients that deceivingly ameliorate the nutritional facts panel. For instance, adding isolated fiber to a product can certainly boost those numbers but more often than not, it distracts us from the whopping amount of sugar it also contains. But by reading the ingredient list first, it becomes easier to judge the quality of your product. Look for lists that are short, easy to understand and exempt of partially hydrogenated oils, refined carbohydrates, refined or artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors.
12. Make friends with fruits & veggies. Enjoy vegetables in salad, soups, raw or cooked and work your way up to half your plate of produce at each meal.
14. Keep whole food snacks on you at all times. Having a container of raw unsalted nuts, fresh or dried fruit or popcorn will avoid the purchase of snack foods or vending machine runs.
15. Make water your beverage of choice.
To Smile More, Stress Less
16. Smile. That’s right, simply working those facial muscles may produce the same effect on your mood as experiencing the emotion itself. Try it at your computer, in the car or even at the grocery store (just maybe not standing in line behind someone at the grocery store…).
17. Disconnect and do something you love, every single day. Read a book, paint or play your favourite album.
18. Give yoga a try or find consistency in your practice.
19. Write down 5 things you’re thankful for. A little gratitude and some perspective can go a long way.
20. Don’t worry so much …”I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened .” – Mark Twain
Will you be focusing on any of these changes this year? Which areas (cooking, activity, stress, food quality) do you give the most and least attention to?
Not but four months ago I was living the bachelor lifestyle. I had only myself and a modest one bedroom apartment to maintain. My morning routine was well ingrained and took me around thirty minutes to complete. Yep...things were like clockwork around my place and I was quite content.
Then in mid-August I moved in with my girlfriend and my entire routine changed. Immediately I went from only worrying about getting myself ready to having to consider her as well. She also has pets. A lot of pets. We're talking multiple dogs (pictured) and two cats. My morning routine now includes letting the dogs out and helping to prepare breakfast for them along with the cats. I also inject one of the cats with insulin as it has diabetes. At the very beginning all of this was a huge change and there were definitely times when it got the better of me. While it has become easier there are still days when it is a challenge.
The same can be said for any change, for example measuring and recording your food. It's never easy at the beginning and even after you've been at it for a while there are still times when it can be stressful. But if you stick with it, eventually it will become routine. When I first began tracking it did take effort and was challenging. Today, overall, I don't think twice about doing it. I've been consistent with it so it's a well-established part of my daily routine. And I'm confident that after a period of time the daily morning event that is feeding our animals will also become set.
So if you're struggling with weighing and tracking your food remember that anything (even feeding a herd of animals and giving a cat insulin) can become routine if given enough time, effort and consistency.
Mark McGill, RD
I was never a runner. I was never an early riser on weekends. The 2K run at the end of my first Try-A-Tri was all I thought I’d ever do. With a little practice I managed to do the Super Sprint which had a 5K at the end. That was far!!! Little did I know……
I started to run with some of my friends I met at BMI. We would run before or after classes and I managed to get my way up to 5 minute run and 1 minute walk. The Run for the Cure was a 5K and I wanted to feel good for that. I had a great run that day. We kept at it. We got together on weekends for training runs. It was nice having the support of friends who were experienced runners and could encourage me every day. In the New Year I set a goal of running the Ottawa Race Weekend 10K in May. I wasn’t sure if I could do it and a half marathon was not even in the cards for me. The mild winter was a great opportunity for some longer runs on the weekends. We kept at it and I did manage to run 10K along the Rideau Canal in March!! I outdid my expectations and what a great feeling that was. I think I was ready to begin this running journey. This could get serious! The ORW 10K was a fantastic experience….great way to introduce yourself to the concept of crowds at a race. I couldn’t believe the amount of people. I also found out that running a longer distance later in the day is a whole new feeling. This race was actually great training for the half marathon…..I just didn’t know it at the time.
Eileen, one of the other BMI clients, emailed me and figured that we should work towards completing a half marathon….I seem to remember something about a “bucket list”! My initial feeling was NO!! We talked a lot and with her “encouragement” we signed up. Our initial goal was to finish. Then we signed up to complete in 3 hours or less. We were going to do this together, train together, support each other and cross the finish line together. We got a basic half marathon training schedule, Eileen made us a fancy calendar to keep records and then we were off to the races!!! We did two short training runs weekly and long runs on the weekends. The long runs increased each weekend except for rest weeks. When we actually ran a 20K we knew that we were so ready for this. I couldn’t believe how far I had come as a runner in less than a year. It was such a long hot summer and this training consumed a lot of time. I found out that rest time was just as important as training….and there was a lot of training. When you’re training on a hot day, a good mental attitude sure helps you visualize that you can actually do this. Being surrounded by other runners sure helps a lot too. My “peeps” sure encouraged me a lot. We managed to stay injury free during training. It was also helpful to have the assistance of a massage therapist and an athletic therapist who kept us in tip-top shape the whole time!!! During this journey, I learned about listening to your body, following a smart schedule, parking meters can hurt (sorry Eileen), proper clothing, comfortable shoes and even socks, the importance of hydrating, the value of an ice cold chocolate milk after a long hot run (RD note: while chocolate milk may have value for elite athletes, for everyone else, simply having something to eat that contains carbohydrates and protein post run will suffice. Chocolate milk is not recommended for the everyday athlete as it is extremely high in sugar), keeping track of what you had for breakfast before a long run and how that made you feel, the importance of stretching after a run, and having a bad training run is actually a good thing. It was also nice to know the routes that had available washroom facilities! I also learned that the white stuff stuck to your face after a long run really is salt!!!
Sept 23rd was a great day. The original rainy forecast had changed to our benefit although it was cooler than what we were used to training in and windier also. These are things that can have an effect on your time. We all went downtown together as usual. The Army Run is really an amazing event with a very unique atmosphere. We were all there to honor all the men and women who serve this great country of ours. We had our watches set to run 10 minutes and walk 1 minute for the entire 21.1K. I was actually quite calm at the start. It must be a reflection of the successful training. We made it a point to not start out too fast because that can hurt your race time. Once we started, we were very excited. When we reached the 7K mark, we felt awesome and actually thought we would break the third goal time we made (2:40). There were quite a few on-lookers out on the course cheering on the runners and I think I actually drew some energy and excitement from them. Every km was marked. The water/Gatorade stations were plentiful and full of so many much-appreciated volunteers who also encouraged us as we passed. We had friends with posters waiting for us and we were able to hand off some extra clothing to them. We stuck together as planned and when we saw the 21K sign, I think I had a huge smile on my face even though I had slowed down a bit at the end. I had such a wide range of emotions crossing that finish line. I was proud and so thankful that I had finished running a half marathon at the tender age of 52. I did it!!! I had the support of friends and family and the best running buddies a girl could ever ask for. One of them even waited for us at the end to take pictures of us crossing the finish line. I had friends up on the bridge holding up a huge sign and taking more pictures. We were given chocolate milk and cookies. My family was there with a poster and cameras. My parents said the last time they saw me look that proud was when I got out of my crib for the first time and came in their room when I was a little girl. I remember how proud I was when I made the final cut of the gymnastics team in high school. Finishing this half marathon is my proudest moment ever. The woman who started training for this race is not the same woman who finished the race. My muscles are a bit more toned and I know my endurance has improved. Taking the next day off work and enjoying Le Nordik Spa and lunch with friends was an added bonus for sure. We have already talked about what our goal will be for the next one. We have lasting memories of all the emotions we experienced in the last six months – fear, expectation, excitement, denial, encouragement, disappointment, pain, pride, friendship, satisfaction, sheer joy, fulfillment and immense gratitude. What a journey. Yes, we will do it again.
So I guess I’m now a runner. And I’ll gladly get up early to join some of the best running buddies ever. I could not have done this without them.
AIM HIGH – The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. Michelangelo
If you told me six months ago that I’d complete a triathlon I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, when Kelly asked me during my January fitness assessment if I’d ever done one, I almost fell off the treadmill. I thought she was joking. But it was no joke, so I thought what do I have to lose? The training would help build my strength and endurance, and I didn’t have to take part in the actual event. So, I signed up … and then wondered what I’d done!
Before long, questions started to pop into my head, and then more questions and even some doubts: Would I be allowed to swim, even if I couldn’t do the “front crawl”? Did I need a “racing” bike? I certainly couldn’t run, would I be allowed to walk the 2km? Where would my bike be while I was swimming and what would happen to it during the run? Could I really do this? I certainly wasn’t fit enough right there and then; how could I possibly finish a 100 meter swim, 12 km bike ride and a 2 km run - all in the same day? But soon my questions were answered, and my doubts were eased.
BMI kept all the Try a Tri trainees updated with periodic emails, and they organized a Try a Tri Information Night. Previous participants told us about their experience at last year’s event and Ottawa Triathlon Club’s president Geordie McConnell explained how the event would unfold, and gave us tips and pointers. He encouraged us to enjoy the event and to be thankful at the end that we had the health and ability to participate. It was a very upbeat evening and I learned several things such as: many people had doubts at first; training would help prepare us; will mattered just as much as skill. It was a very exciting evening with enthusiasm to spare and lots of team spirit. I left feeling pumped.
Next came swimming lessons, and spinning class, and learning to run. I was lucky to be able to take part in all three. They all helped build skill and endurance – and knowledge. Swim strokes, kicking techniques, hill climbs, cycling cadence, breathing, running posture. Training was hard work, but even more, training was fun. There was lots of laughter, support and encouragement at each session. And it felt wonderful to witness fellow BMI’ers improve their speed, run a little further, and survive another hill climb on the spinning bikes. There is a certain kind of joy being able to applaud your fellow trainees as they break their own records, and reach their personal goals. I have to confess, it was sad to see the training sessions end and I’ll miss seeing my fellow trainees every week.
So, on May 19th, equipped with the proper training, the support of BMIs terrific team, and the encouragement of my friends & family and fellow triathlon trainees, I made my way to Carleton University. At the tender age of 57, I began the first real athletic event of my life: the Colonel By Classic - Early Bird Triathlon Try a Tri.
I think all my nervousness kicked in as we gathered on the pool deck. I’d trained. I’d even practiced a few times in that very pool so I’d know what to expect. But now I was nervous. The 100m swim took more out of me than I’d expected. Knowing what lay ahead, I decided to follow the advice Geordie gave us back at the info night. I eased into a less taxing breast stroke for the last quarter of my swim. Then it was out of the pool and down the stairs to put on my socks, shoes & sunscreen and make my way to the “transition zone” to get my bike.
T-shirt and helmet on, I walked my bike towards the mounting line where volunteers encouraged me and pointed the way towards Pretoria Bridge. The bike ride was beautiful; sunny skies with just a few clouds. Trees, flowers, the Rideau Canal and singing birds surrounded the 12km route. But about half way from Pretoria Bridge back to Hogs Back, doubts set in, and my legs started to feel tired. I had serious misgivings about being able to finish. After all, the swim had been tougher than I’d expected, and the run was still ahead of me, plus I was a novice. But I told myself to put that thought out of my mind and just peddle; one foot, then the other, just peddle. It worked! I was quickly back on track and heading into the last leg of the ride. Soon I could hear the crowd at the dismount line, and then I could see BMI trainer Cheryl and heard her encouragement; I’d completed the bicycle segment! Then it was on to the run.
Running with rubbery legs is tricky. I’d experienced rubbery legs the previous week, when BMI Try a Tri trainees did a “dry run” of the bike and run portions. But we hadn’t done the swim portion and that seemed to be making a difference now. Already fatigued, with nerves tingling and adrenaline pumping, my legs were really rubbery. There’s something though, about knowing you are in the last segment. Feeling so close to the end and remembering some good advice about how to cope with rubbery legs, I began to jog. I was tired, but I kept telling myself that I’d run 2km before in training so I could do it again.
It’s hard to describe the feeling as the Finish line comes into view. It was very emotional … all I could think was “I did it. I actually did it!” Nine months ago I made a decision to focus on me for a while, to improve my health and fitness, and I joined BMI. Five months later I decided to give the Try a Tri a shot. I’d attended the training sessions and I’d taken in all the advice of our coaches and mentors and now it was paying off. I was about to cross the Finish line. It was hard to fight back the tears when I saw my daughter’s face smiling up at me from the Finish line and she called out “you did good Mom”.
I did do good. I felt proud, and I felt thankful – for the health and ability to participate in a triathlon, for the hard work and commitment of the coaches and trainers; for the support and encouragement of my friends & family, of the BMI team, and of my fellow triathlon trainees. Taking on the Try a Tri was hard work, but every single minute of it was worthwhile.
There will be another Try a Tri next year. If anyone out there has even the slightest inkling of curiosity, wondering if you could possibly do it, go for it! I highly recommend it.
Joanne Kurtz, RD
The day of the marathon started at 5:30 am with a quick breakfast and goodbyes to my family as I got on the hotel shuttle heading to downtown Boston. I’ve never seen so many school buses as I saw lined up along Copley square, or so many people waiting to shove their way onto them! I finally boarded my bus around 7am and tried to relax while we made our way to the small town of Hopkinton. The 55 minute ride felt long, especially when I thought about the fact that I had to RUN back! The next two hours were a mix of lying in the shade, waiting in the porta-potties line-ups, eating and hydrating.
As I made my way to the start line of the Boston Marathon, I felt a little like I was in a herd of sheep. With 9000 people in the second wave with me, it took at least 20 minutes to walk to the start line.
After hours of waiting, it was finally go time! I started running and the first mile was mostly downhill. The first uphill came quickly and spectators were blaring the Rocky theme song, which was my favourite part of the whole race! I continued running and the crowds of runners never let up. The first 15km went by and I felt pretty good, but it all went downhill from there – or up many hills rather. I would love to say that the race flew by but I’d be lying. It crept by. I would swear it had been 20 minutes and my watch would remind me it had only been three. The many downhills were shredding my quads into little pieces, and the uphills kept coming. I kept asking mysef “is this heartbreak hill?.... Is this heartbreak hill?” At mile 20 I ran by a clock that also displayed the temperature and it read 87F. The heat was by far the greatest challenge: I was dumping water on my head at each water stop, but couldn’t manage to cool off for longer than 30 seconds. There was no wind and no shade, only blazing sun. People around me were stopping to walk, and some were stopping altogether. The spectators with their garden hoses, sprinklers and ice cubes were a godsend.
After the half way mark, my goal became ‘just don’t stop running’. This was by far the most challenging race I’ve ever done. Slowly, the mile markers went by and I saw ‘26’. I have never been so happy to see the finish line!
After drinking water, sports drink and collecting my belongings I met up with my husband and burst into tears. It was an emotional experience and I was just so happy that it was over!
Now, almost 10 days after the race, I look back on that day a little more fondly. The positive moments burn a little brighter in my memory. I am grateful for the opportunity to run a race with 27,000 other dedicated runners. I am especially grateful for my supportive family (parents, sister, parents-in-law, grandmother-in-law and husband) who all followed me to Boston to cheer me on in the heat and for all my coworkers and friends who supported me back home.
Even though my thoughts during the race were along the lines of “i’m never running again” and “DO NOT ever sign up for an Ironman,” now I am thinking “which race can I do next?!”