One of the toughest parts of making changes is sticking with them. The first week or even month can often be “easy”. You’re pumped up, excited to make changes, to seize the day, to kick bad habits once and for all. But then, then the obstacles that led you astray in the first place start popping back up. All the reasons you weren’t exercising or eating healthy before continue to rear their ugly heads. And that initial rush of “taking on the world” adrenaline has died down and the realities of your busy life set back in.

One of the best ways to make changes and stick with them, beyond starting slow and building up, is finding a way to hold yourself accountable. Make workout dates with a friend. Schedule weekly check-ins with your trainer. Sign up for a race or other challenge. And when it comes to nutrition, consider a diary. I’m not a fan of calorie counting, for numerous reasons, the top ones being that it’s super time-consuming and that added responsibility itself can make you less likely to succeed, and also because it makes you focus on calories, not QUALITY of food and your hunger and satiety cues.

However, a food diary can be really helpful. Instead of fixating on exact portion, calories, brand, etc., just jot down what you ate and when. That’s it. What’s the point, you might ask? If you’re not tracking exactly how much you’re eating, why track at all, right? Well, first, as I said, it holds you accountable. Are you going to go back for that second piece of pie if you have to write it down? Will you choose the almonds or the chocolate bar for a snack to report in your journal? It’s easy to mindlessly eat; if you force yourself to actually think about it, to look at it, to see your day consisted mostly of carbs, or sweets, or maybe veggies and protein, eating and nutrition becomes a more conscious process (which it should be!). You’re CHOOSING to eat well for your body, your health, your mental wellness. It can also help you get a better picture of how you ARE actually eating. Maybe you thought you were doing a pretty good job, but now realize you’re only eating one piece of fruit a day and barely any healthy fats. It can also help you see how things change over time. Are you on a roll with good breakfasts? Were things going well and now starting to return to your old ways? Have you been able to eat all your fruit and veggie servings for 3 days in a row? It’s easier to recognize patterns and your progress when you have a clear record of it.

Next week, I’ll give you some guidance for how to really step up your food journal game so that you’re setting yourself up for success without having to spend hours logging things in!

Aubrey Phelps MS RDN