Skinny Daily Post


A goal that isn’t measured isn’t achieved. So say the business strategy gurus. Number crunchers. Bean counters. If you count it, you can track it. You can understand it, see trends, watch relationships, identify causes and effects.

That’s what they say.

Here’s what I say: When I write down my exercise goals, commit to a plan, when I write down what I put into my mouth each day, I am able to lose weight. And when I don’t, I don’t.

There are other ways to lose weight: Let somebody else tell you what to eat and when, or try a whole new way or system of eating designed to reduce your hunger, confuse you out of complacency. Both of these work for me for a little while, until I get bored. Until I forget to pack the right kind of food. Until I just get so hungry I could gnaw off my arm. (Unlimited servings of arm are okay on Atkins and South Beach, by the way.)

Some people can just make tiny changes to their regular habits and the weight melts off over time.

But me? If I ate what I wanted when I wanted, I would balloon up within the year. I have to watch it. It’s sad, but true. So I count. I measure, I weigh.

And when, as now, I find my weight has crept up a few pounds after a spell of Not Counting, I pull out my spreadsheets, software, tape measures, spoons, scales, and cups, and get back at it.

*I weigh myself each day, and don’t worry about minor fluctuations.

*I track measurements of my waist, hips, thighs.

*I track minutes, time of day, performance and duration in my workouts.

*I track my blood pressure and resting heart rate. These don’t vary much any more, but are so much better than they used to be, I just like looking at them.

*I track water consumed.

*I note whether I took all my vitamins and ate my big pile of leafy greens for the day.

*I track body fat measures.

*I track pushups and squats.

*I log any difficulty I’m having with hunger. What time of day? What did I last eat?

*I log any other stuff going on with my bod that may be worthwhile noting.

This kind of thing does not come naturally to me. I have the worst possible disposition for accounting of anyone you could meet. I force myself to do this thing, and I don’t like it, and I don’t want to, and I pout about it.

But I suck it up and do it anyway. Because that’s life as a grownup. It’s just full of having to do stuff you don’t wanna. I throw myself a tiny pity party, while taking a walk, get over myself, then log my walking minutes.

I look over these logs three times in the day, to catch up, monitor my progress. After breakfast, after lunch, after dinner. That way I’m sure to catch up and plan for contingencies, give myself a proper butt kicking if I’m falling behind anywhere. For instance, right this minute I’m behind on water.

(See, there, I stopped, and finished the old glass and poured a new one.)

Some people can set a goal and keep it top of mind all day every day. Others need to write it down and hold it out in front of them to remain accountable to it. I am an astonishingly distracted, feeble-minded, attention-deficited, person with no short-term memory at all. Dory does a better job of keeping track of her day. Diet accounting is for fish like me. It’s a matter of keeping the ledgers, the books, the logs, so I can keep track. Ledgers help me develop mindfulness about my body, take care of myself while juggling every other thing.

I like diet accounting, because I can eat anything I want, even my arm, so long as I keep within my limits. Diet accounting works for me. It has worked for hundreds of thousands of people before me. It may work for you too. I can’t recommend trying it enough.

Good accounting software: Balancelog by Healthetech

Free accounting website:

It Pays to Keep Track, says American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

iVillage on writing it down

4 thoughts on “Diet Accounting

  1. Elizabeth Nakajima says:

    Dear Julie, I read your column here as an expat in Japan every day. It is my favorite diet blog -the tone is so encouraging, and the information so helpful, plus I love the humor and descriptions of your local scene. Thanks for your writing. Elizabeth

  2. JuJu says:

    Hi Elizabeth. I haven’t been to Japan in a very long time (1969? 1970?), but will return some day. It’s nice to know you’re there and reading. Thanks so much! Have some tea for me today, and I will for you.


  3. Brenda says:

    I need this. Thanks so much for these columns and for keeping it up in 2004. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Did I say thank you?

  4. Tom in Pittsburgh says:

    Hello Julie,
    Sending this to you ends my day and visiting your site reminds me of things to do for my health. I will be visiting your site more often this year. From the world of PITT sports Tom

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