EDITOR'S NOTE: Guest blogger Cynthia Parrott is a busy working woman who manages to find the time for fitness, diet and the writing of great advice for health-conscious women.
I know there all kinds of computerized gadgets to organize and simplify my life, but I insist on doing some things the old-fashioned way.
I keep a list of what I need to do in a faux leather-bound book. I frequently take out my felt-tip pen, and draw a perfect little check mark next to each task I complete.
If anyone was to peek inside this journal, they would know everything about me -- where I've been, where I am going, who I spoke with, books I wish to read, every penny I've spent (and on what), what I need or want to buy, and how often I plan to (but actually don't) fire up the vacuum to suck up the dirt my house.
I certainly don't expect anyone be this compulsive. However, one very successful tool I use -- and often suggest to my clients -- is a Food Journal.
I ask clients to write down what they eat and drink daily. They can keep this record in a book, on Post-It notes, on their computer, Blackberry or Palm Pilot. Heck, they can even record it by speaking into their smartphone to document later.
Keeping a journal like this gives you a complete look at what you are eating or drinking, how much, when, and why you are consuming too much to begin with.
If you have tried all kinds of diets and still haven't reached your desired weight -- or some or all of those extra pounds you lost are creeping back up on you -- a Food Journal can help.
You are eating more than you realize!
Three meals a day work for some folks; six smaller ones work best for others. Do what works best for you. Anything above and beyond that might be too much food and could be sabotaging your diet.
If you eat your dinner, and then pick at whatever your kids left behind on their plates, that counts... write it down. Same goes for all those taste tests while you are cooking. Or the several slices of Italian bread dunked into the sauce as it simmers on the stove.
Your cookies and milk routine before bedtime is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are not losing weight, you might need cut back to one or two cookies, switch to low-fat milk, eat a piece of fruit instead, or eliminate the habit altogether.
An appetizer before your meal counts. And so do the cheese and crackers or mozzarella sticks at happy hour.
Write it all down so you have an accurate account of everything you have eaten for an entire day.
You are consuming too many empty calories!
You might not consider cocktails, several glasses of wine, fruit juice, or those tall mocha lattes to be food. But, boy, do they add up. And these are the empty calories.
Just because you drink them doesn't mean they don't count. One or two lattes a day could completely destroy your weight-loss efforts. Several cocktails on a Friday night add up as well and could be the reason why you are packing on the extra pounds.
Write it all down. Once you see it in writing you will be able see where all those additional calories are coming from and you can cut back if you need to.
If you MUST have your mocha latte to get going every morning, then you must cut out something else. Keeping a Food Journal will help you to see exactly where and what you need to cut back on or eliminate.
You are not getting enough nutrient-rich foods!
When you look at your journal at the end of the day you'll be able to see what's lacking in your diet. If you only had eggs and bacon, turkey on white bread, a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and a brownie, you'll notice that you never ate a whole grain, a vegetable or a piece of fruit... all day.
Sometimes we don't realize we are not getting enough of these necessary foods. Seeing it in writing will cause you to make a mental note to add these to your diet the next day.
Lean protein, whole grains and plenty of fruit and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet. When you keep a journal of everything you eat, you will be able to see what foods are missing and come up with ways to incorporate them into your meals on a daily basis.
You are replacing your needs and desires with food!
Keeping a food journal will help you notice the times you reach for food and what types of foods your are reaching for. If your list of food for one day consists of yogurt, rice pudding, mac and cheese, and a big bowl of ice cream, well... then this is something that should be addressed.
Your body, mind and spirit are telling you that you are in need of comfort and you are satisfying that need with common comfort foods.
Take note of the types of foods you are eating and see if there is something else you really need instead. It is much more fun and less detrimental to your waistline to go hug your honey, spend time with your kids, or watch your favorite, sappy romantic movie.
You might also notice that you are eating more at one particular time of the day. Night snacking might be your downfall. If you write down what you eat during that time, you will recognize that you might be eating out of boredom. Find something to do, someone to talk to, go for a walk, or enroll in a class at your local library. You will be able to control that night snacking because you will be completely occupied with something else.
Try keeping a Food Journal for a week, a month, or even a year and see if it doesn't help you achieve your weight-loss goals.
You just might find this to be such an effective tool, that you will want do this for the rest of your life.
Write on, friends... and happy journaling!
About Cynthia: I am a Certified Holistic Health and Nutritional Counselor. My company is Metamorphosis Consulting and I have been in private practice for over 10 years. I believe we can completely transform our lives by nourishing our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It is my desire to help others achieve their health and nutritional goals, their personal goals, and to live the life they have always dreamed of. Learn more at www.truemetamorphosis.org and www.cyndaily.com.