Back on Track

Keeping a food journal - the old-fashioned way (photo credit diabetes.net)

The holidays are over…the toys are just starting to collect dust…the lights are stored away…the tree is gone….but the food is still hanging around on your waist.

Christmas may be over for you but it just arrived for the weight loss industry.  Dieters will be stocking up on Lean Cuisines, signing up for gym memberships, and buying treadmills that will eventually begin to double as clothes hangers.  Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem have rolled out the celebrities to inspire and motivate average people like you and me.  They’ve even signed up footballer Terry Bradshaw and basket baller Charles Barkley with a “loose like a man” campaign.

Whether you are inspired by Janet Jackson or by a pair of pants that no longer fit, it’s going to take some work to lose the weight.  There are no magic pills or creams…and surgery may be too scary or expensive for most to even consider.  The best way to lose weight is to change your mind-set, change your eating habits and change your activity level.

In the past, doctors and dietary experts suggest keeping track of food consumption by writing everything down.  But now, with technology, you no longer have to document every morsel of food by pen and paper.  There are many websites out there allowing you to journal not only your food but also exercise, water consumption, and current weight.  They range from free to charging a monthly or yearly fee.  The good news is many of the free websites offer a wide range of services including “Facebook” like social networking.

I’m going to share with you three of the websites I’ve tried.  All are good but each one has its own little quirks.  The beauty of all of these websites is they allow you to see in precise information how well you are doing with your food choices…how well you are doing with your exercise schedule…and how you are doing with your weight loss in general.

Note: click on the screen shots to get a better view.  Then click the back button on your browser to return to the blog post. 

Calorie Count Dashboard (photo credit - Carlton Logan)

The first website I started using was Calorie Count.  It is part of the about.com website.  Like most of the websites, it allows you to track your weight, food intake, water consumption and exercise.  There’s one stand out trait differentiating this journal from the other two I’ve tried.

The Calorie Count food journal grades food items.

When you conduct a search for a food item, a list pops up with anywhere from 10 to 137 choices.  Most of the choices have been assigned a grade.  So you find out immediately if you are making unhealthy food choices.  This could also be helpful in planning food choices ahead of time.  And at the end of the day, the analysis lets you know if you failed..or passed.

Calorie Count Activity Log shows your calories burned. (photo credit - Carlton Logan)

Analysis breaks down calories into nutrients consumed.

The more green in the analysis, the healthier your diet. And you get a final grade on your menu choices.

Like most of the websites, if you choose favorite or frequent food items, it makes it easier for you to record your meals.  Calorie Count has a “click” method.  When you’ve chosen which meal you’re recording, it loads any favorites…you click to add it.   It’s also relatively easy to change portion sizes if need be.

The new Camp page

Calorie Count also added a new Camp page allowing you to view info on other members.  You can then encourage or befriend them to offer encouragement.

The WebMD Food and Fitness Planner (photo credit - Carlton Logan)

The second site I’ve used is a good one.  If you are not familiar with the WebMD website, you should check it out.  This is the one my doctor requested I use to journal.  The great plus with this website is the medical information.  There’s a ton of it here, which makes it a great resource for keeping track of food choices and monitoring exercise.  There’s even a pet section!

Food Log breakdown

Another great thing about this site is addressing specific chronic ailments.  During setup, it allows you to indicate any health issues such as heart conditions, high blood pressure or cholesterol and diabetes.  As each food is recorded in the log, the breakdown indicates if dietary needs are being met.

Drag and drop from the favorite list saves time

Food journaling can be a time-consuming task.  On this site, if you have saved favorite foods and meals, it’s very simple to drag them from the list over to the breakfast or any other section.

The fitness log has lots of options including Wii boxing, sports and run.

A former co-worker introduced me to the last website I’ll share with you.  Actually, as much as I like the WebMD journal, I’m starting to like this one even more.

Sparkpeople has a lot of bells and whistles

With all of the motivational incentives supplied by Sparkpeople, there is no reason why anyone should have problems losing weight.  Here, if you don’t require any support, you are free to go it alone.  If you require self-motivation as well as encouragement from others, you can find it here too.  There are lots of trackers (food, activity, etc.) in addition to advice, networking, FAQs, health info, etc.

Choose from a suggested menu or enter your own choices.

Another great thing about this food tracker is you can print out a shopping list for the week as well as the meal plan.  It also has a section with restaurant meals – you can search for, say Applebee’s, see the suggested meal choices, click on one and it’s added to your meal plan.

Planning ahead saves a lot of time.

The fitness tracker is broken down into strength and cardio.  And yes, it does list Wii exercises!  But you can also print out exercises or play videos to make sure you are doing them right.  Another benefit of this site is that it does a lot of the hard work for you.  Which makes it easier for you in terms of time.

A couple of things to note about these websites:

  • There are many more health journaling sites out there.  Most of the major names in the weight loss biz have them but they may not be free.  Olympic cyclist Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong even has a health journal section on their website.  The one’s I’ve mentioned here are not the best or worst…simply the one’s I’ve tried.  I’m not recommending one over any other…just providing some information for you to make an informed decision.  If you are trying to lose weight, get into shape or deal with a chronic health issue, one of these websites could be very helpful to you.  Before you do sign up, I would recommend seeing a doctor for a physical to determine your current health status.
  • Journaling is not an easy task.  It takes some time to record this information.  But it may be worth it in terms of helping you determine if you are eating properly, exercising sufficiently or addressing your health conditions correctly.  Your options would be to take time out of each day to record or plan for the week.  If you feel comfortable planning out your whole week because you have a pretty normal schedule, do it.  It will be just like keeping track of your appointments.  If your schedule changes from day-to-day, then you may want to plan at night for the next day or a couple of days out.  For some people, they may only need to utilize a health journal for a short period of time.  Once they’ve lost the weight or gotten a health issue under control, a health journal may not be needed any longer.
  • I’m sharing this information with you because these websites have been very helpful for me as I address my health issues.  And I know I’m not the only one.  I recently found out more about my family medical history.  No wonder my body is in bad shape.  Heredity passed down some health traits I really didn’t need or want.  But they are here and I have to address them.  You or someone you know may have health issues.  One of these websites could be the tool to get past all the failed diets and attempts to lose weight.  Or the tool that helps someone get their blood pressure or cholesterol under control.

Try one of these websites.  If you don’t like it, try another.  Keep trying until you find one you like.  If you have made a 2012 resolution to get into shape or lose weight, you’ll need some help to address your particular concerns and resolve them.

Good luck

Carlton

http://www.caloriecount.about.com

http://www.webmd.com

http://www.sparkpeople.com

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