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How Keeping a Food Journal Makes Me Feel Much More Energetic

How Keeping a Food Journal Makes Me Feel Much More Energetic

Can you remember what you ate for breakfast this morning? How about what you ate for dinner last night? Chances are, you’ll be able to remember what you ate in the last 24 hours.

If I asked you what you ate three days ago, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell me. You’re not alone in this — most people wouldn’t be able to recall what they ate.

Life today revolves around data collection. We have records for how many steps we walk, the amount of time we spend on tasks, and how we spend our money. But very few of us have a system for keeping track of what we eat, though what we eat affects how we feel every second.  We are what we eat, after all.  Health isn’t like money, which we can recoup if we lose it.  Once our health is gone, there is no guarantee that we can recover it.  Why not pay better attention to our health by writing down what we eat?

I never paid attention to what I ate

If you saw a photo of me from a few years ago and compared it to what I look like today, you wouldn’t recognize me. I used to be overweight, and I didn’t keep track of my food intake.

I wanted to be healthy, and I worked to lose weight.  I am happy to say that I was successful in this endeavor, but maintaining my weight-loss wasn’t easy.  Instead of keeping track of my actual caloric intake, I simply told myself to eat small portions all the time.  I restricted what I ate for every meal and snack.

I may have looked healthier than when I was overweight, but I felt terrible.  I was lethargic all the time, and I used to feel light-headed after exerting very little effort.  I felt cheated.  I was supposed to be more energetic than when I was overweight, but I spent most days feeling like I was recovering from a case of the flu.

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In an effort to maintain my weight-loss, I was actually eating too little.  My lack of energy and bouts of dizziness were my body’s way of saying that it wasn’t getting what it needed.  Blindly restricting the amount of food you eat isn’t going to make you healthy or happy.  It took this unhealthy relationship with my meals to make me realize that there’s a better way to honor my weight loss efforts.

Human tend to eat more than their bodies require

A combination of clever marketing and lack of knowledge about nutrition leads us to make all kinds of assumptions about what we eat.  Most of us learned how much to eat from our families, who may not always understand what an appropriate portion size is.

Restaurants distort our idea of how much should be on our plates. Food companies package multiple servings into a single package, and if we don’t measure what we eat, we can easily overeat. We have no idea how much food we should be eating, and we don’t know how many calories are in each serving.

On top of all this learned eating behavior, modern humans are biologically programmed to stuff themselves with calorie-laden food. Our ancient ancestors didn’t have the luxury of visiting fast food restaurants and grocery stores whenever they wanted.[1] They had to eat as much as they could when they could. “Feast or famine” was their reality.

To make eating properly even more challenging, some foods that seem healthy to us are loaded with calories. For example, lemon-honey water seems like it would be a healthy drink choice — especially compared to soda or juice. Lemon-honey water contains 3 tablespoons of honey, which is roughly 300 calories. That’s nearly the calorie content of a light meal! We drink our calories, and we don’t even realize it.

Our brains try to help us figure out how many calories something has, but you can’t tell just by looking. We naturally perceive that smaller foods have fewer calories, which isn’t always the case. One cup of nuts can have nearly 1,000 calories in it. How many times have you chowed down on nuts at a party thinking you were making a healthy choice?

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Calories are only one part of the equation

Calories are the easiest way to talk about a food’s merits, but they aren’t the only thing you should look at when deciding what to eat. W hen we don’t know what we’re eating, we have no way to tell if we’re getting enough nutrients.

Obesity is an obvious sign that someone isn’t eating a healthy diet, but people can also suffer from malnutrition without recognizing it. You can be obese and not take in adequate nutrients, you can be underweight and malnourished, or you can be skinny-fat, a condition in which you appear to be healthy, but you are metabolically obese.[2]

An unhealthy person may take in a surplus of fat, calories, and carbohydrates, but their diets may be lacking in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You could eat only the daily recommended amount of calories by consuming nothing but chocolate chip cookies, but that doesn’t mean you are going to be well. Healthy eating is more than calorie restriction.

It is only when we keep track of what we eat that we can understand the nutritional content of the foods we eat. For example, you may not realize that eggplant is rich in protein or that bread is high in fat just by looking at them. When you track your food, you can understand your nutritional deficits and make better choices. Technology has made this easier than ever.

The app I fell in love with

There’s an app for almost anything, and meal tracking is no exception. There are many options that save you the trouble of manually calculating caloric and nutritional intake. My favorite app for tracking my meals is MyfitnessPal.

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    MyfitnessPal is great because it has a massive database that allows you to look up most kinds of foods and their nutritional value. You can even scan the barcodes of packaged foods to pull up their nutrition sheets. If you are tracking something that isn’t packaged, like a piece of fruit, or you’re eating out, you can also type the name of the item into the database to get the nutrition facts.

    Two main things to keep track of when using MyfitnessPal

    There are two kinds of information that you should consider whenever you are tracking your meals: calories and macro-nutrients. When you’re thinking about calories, you should base the number of calories you consume on whether you are trying to lose, gain, or maintain weight. It never hurts to do some research, or talk to a nutritionist, dietitian, or health professional about the best caloric intake target for you.[3]

      After you know what your caloric target will be, you simply enter your meals, snacks, and beverages into your app. Throughout the day, you can see how many calories you have consumed and how many you have left.

        For macronutrients, you can easily check your recommended intake by looking a the graphs supplied on the app and choosing foods that contain the nutrients you lack.

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        Meal tracking challenges

        Estimating portion size can be difficult for newbie food trackers, but there are a few tricks that you can use that don’t involve carrying a set of measuring cups and spoons with you at all times.

        For example, a serving of protein such as beef or chicken should be about three ounces. Most of us don’t know what three ounces look like, but if I told you that it is roughly the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of playing cards, you would understand.

        A proper serving of carbohydrates is approximately 1/2 cup of rice, grains, pasta, or potatoes. Most of the time, we overestimate what this actually looks like, but if you know that 1/2 cup is approximately how much rice or pasta you could fit in a cupped hand, you can make an informed guess.

        Adjusting your portion size is not the only challenge that you will face along the way. Friends and family members may not understand why you are going to so much trouble to record your food intake. Remember that your health is at stake. After they see your positive results, they may try tracking meals for themselves. Until that point, don’t be shamed out of doing something that will make your life better.

        Food journals don’t tell you what you can and can’t eat

        Unlike a diet, there are no food categories that are off limits when you are tracking your meals. You can have anything in moderation. Using a meal tracker enables you to enjoy your food, eat a balanced diet, and make decisions about food that will help you nourish your body and feel your best.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Jolie Choi

        Having experienced her own extreme transformation process, Jolie strongly believes that staying healthy takes determined and consistent action.

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        Last Updated on November 18, 2020

        50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

        50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

        If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

        That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

        Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

        1. Believe It to See It

        Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

        2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

        While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

        3. Keep Looking for Solutions

        Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

        4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

        Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

        5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

        There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

        6. Always Ask Productive Questions

        It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

        7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

        Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

        8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

        Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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        9. Maximize Your Strengths

        Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

        10. Be in It to Win It

        Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

        11. Know That Success Attracts Success

        People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

        12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

        Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

        13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

        You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

        14. Be a One-Off Original

        Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

        15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

        Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

        16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

        Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

        17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

        Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

        18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

        We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

        19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

        Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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        20. Accept Challenge All the Time

        Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

        21. Make Your Own Luck

        In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

        22. Ignite Your Initiative

        While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

        23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

        Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

        24. Champion in Communication

        Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

        25. Plan Your Life Strategically

        Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

        26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

        To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

        27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

        While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

        28. Live by Core Values

        Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

        29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

        Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

        30. Don’t Get Carried Away

        Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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        31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

        Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

        32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

        Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

        33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

        Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

        34. Change Opens New Doors

        People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

        35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

        It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

        36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

        Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

        37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

        When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

        38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

        How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

        39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

        If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

        40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

        Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

        41. Swim Against the Tide

        Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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        42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

        More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

        43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

        Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

        44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

        While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

        45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

        Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

        46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

        Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

        47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

        While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

        48. Follow Through

        Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

        49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

        We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

        50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

        To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

        So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

        Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

        More About Success

        Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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