If youíre new to The Skinny Daily Post, you may wonder why Journaling is rated right up there with exercising and eating as a concern for people who are working to lose weight and keep it off.
And the answer is simple: because it worked for me. Though everyone knows that writing, logging, charting are great and supportive tools in the process of managing a massive weight loss, few people do it. Or they start but stop. Something gets in the way. I live to push back and keep pushing.
I really hated writing this stuff down. But now I know Iíll never stop. I used to live in fear that someone would find what I wrote, and if I wasnít successful in losing weight, the reading would seem pathetic. Or if I failed and then read my own journal later, Iíd find myself pathetic. Iím not sure which fear was worse.
But while working with diet counselors, who browbeat me into trying again, I stuck with it long enough to discover the magic. The real magic of keeping a body log comes after keeping it for good long while, when it becomes a record of the many changes your body and mind make as you manage this work.
Tracking your food helps you to avoid overeating, and undereating, as a friend just wrote to remind me.
Tracking your exercise helps you see when too many days have slipped by without movement.
Tracking your exercise performance helps you see what a radical difference a couple of months of movement can make to your level of fitness.
Tracking your symptoms helps you get help from your medical team.
Tracking your moods and feelings while dieting helps you pinpoint any work you need to do on emotional eating or forming better habits.
Tracking your medical stats gives you a solid measurement of your internal recovery.
Tracking your weight and measurements give you a record of your more visible achievements.
Tracking all the small changes, renewed abilities, interesting responses, startling reactions, makes a great motivator for keeping you on track over time.
Setting and achieving new goals keeps you reaching for interesting new things.
Hereís a way in: You get a notebook. My favorite is by Miquelrius. Itís plain and handsome, faux leather, and though itís unexciting, I like it because itís filled with graph paper. And Iím a girl who likes a graph. Find these online at thedailyplanner.com. You can get big ones and small ones. I use the big, fat ones.
Now you get those clever little sticky flags, a pack with four different flag colors. Take one of each, and paste them in the front of your book. Next to the colors write one category for each color: Symptoms, Mind, Rewards, Goals. Now grab two regular sticky notes, and use them to make tabs toward the very back of your book. Call one Measurements. Allow 10 pages or so for that section. Call the other Prizes. Allow 5 or 6 pages for that section.
Okay. Now start at the Measurements section, and draw lines in your grid paper to form nine columns for date, weight, chest, waist, hips, thighs, and upper arm measurements, blood pressure, and resting heart rate. Write in todayís date, and take all of those measurements. Figure on taking all of these measurements every week or two, or as often as you like, but with enough regularity that you can watch the change. Donít be afraid to write down measurements that donít go anywhere or go up sometimes. All information is good information. The data is there to teach you about how your body reacts to everything. I usually weighed myself every day or two, but measured myself only when I hit plateaus that bothered me.
Now move to the Prizes section. Here you can plan little rewards for achieving goals you set for yourself. Did you give up soda for a whole month? Might be worth a pedicure? Try new vegetables twice this week? A CD for you. Finish your first half-mile swim? Good grief, Gary. Take yourself to Bermuda. Plan as far ahead as you like for things that matter and are meaningful to you. But do plan to reward yourself for your good work. Itís hard work, and you deserve it.
Back to the front of the book. Write the dayís date at the top of the page, and for each day plan to write down what youíve eaten and how youíve exercised. Thatís all you really need to try to track every day.
If you have extra time, include how you felt about your body work this day, what things you need to work on, what things are bugging you, what makes you happy, what went very well today, what youíre happy about, what medical issues have surfaced, what you want to discuss with your doctor, what hurdles you had to jump, and how you plan to get over them next time, and importantly, to set new and farther goals for yourself as you go.
If you canít figure out what to write, use the columns under the ďJournalingĒ link above to page back through all the journaling exercises (there are dozens) for writing assignments designed to help you nail down your determination, cement new behaviors.
Go back after what youíve written, and use your post-it flags to mark your work by subject heading so you can easily find your Symptoms, for instance, when you go to see your doc. And you can find your Goals and Rewards, a year from now, when youíve reached your goal weight, and want to remember what youíve accomplished. And if itís been a long time since youíve written a Mind post, the color tabs will nudge you to work on that again some time soon.
Consider pasting in Polaroids every once in awhile as you whittle away at yourself. Go wild with gold stars. Stickers are good. Drawings help you remember stuff. Write down wayward thoughts. Interesting URLs, titles of books that helped.
Force yourself to write in this book three times per day. Every time you eat, and once more before you go to bed. Donít punish yourself if you canít. But get right back to it as soon as you can. Give yourself two months to see what, if anything it does for you. If you get nothing from it after two months of regular effort, then okay. You tried.
Me? I think itís pure magic. Very Harriet the Spy. Very Captain Kirk Shipís Log. Of course, you donít need paper, a book, and sticky flags. You can track all of these things in any way that makes you comfortable, online, using a spreadsheet, word processing software, letters to yourself, letters to someone else, as a blog, in your diary, in your day planner. But do try it. Really.