Nearly half of all US adults attempt to lose weight every year, but only a small percentage are successful. The weight loss journey is often long and frustrating, and that’s because there are many factors that contribute to how our bodies regulate weight.
Having spent more than 20 years as a registered dietitian, I’ve guided countless numbers of clients along their weight loss journeys. Those who have been most successful share some common characteristics: they are willing to change their daily habits, they are open to experimenting with new strategies, they are committed to working through challenges, and they are extremely self-aware.
The Weight Loss Journey
Weight loss is a journey. The various seasons of life bring with them competing priorities for our time and energy. Sometimes we don’t eat well. Sometimes we don’t exercise for long stretches of time. And sometimes we neglect our own well-being because we’re raising kids or taking care of a family.
The journey can feel frustrating, disappointing, and discouraging. But it can also feel satisfying, motivating, and empowering.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has been associated with a number of health benefits like these ones:
· Reduced risks for developing chronic diseases
· Better control of existing medical conditions
· Improvements in mobility and pain management
· Overall improved quality of life
While it’s true that weight isn’t the only determinant of health and well-being, strong evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy weight offers protection from chronic diseases like diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and certain cancers. In fact, if you’re overweight, even just a 5% reduction in weight can lead to significant health improvements.
While there are many successful approaches to achieving weight loss, journaling is one of the simplest and easiest strategies to implement.
Your Journal as a Weight Loss Tool
Personal journaling has been shown to offer a number of health benefits, from improving mental and emotional well-being to navigating difficult relationships. Healthcare professionals who specialize in weight loss often recommend food journals because they improve self-awareness, and being self-aware is essential when it comes to establishing healthier habits.
But the weight loss journey isn’t only about food. There are many other factors that influence weight. Your thoughts, beliefs, choices, social influences, and personal motivators all play a role as well.
Documenting Your Weight Loss Journey
If weight loss is one of your goals, here are several ways your journaling practice can help you achieve better results:
Journaling keeps you connected to your goals. Using your journal to create a vivid mental picture of the life you are creating will give you a boost of motivation to keep moving forward.
Likewise, journaling offers an additional layer of accountability, which can be critical when you experience high levels of stress or face negative social pressures. Being accountable means being honest with yourself about whether you did what you said you would do. And journaling can help with that.
Your journal can also help you make better decisions, whether it’s related to food choices, fitness routines, or how you spend your free time. Keeping a journal helps you weight the pros and cons before deciding on a course of action.
Let’s face it: weight loss can be elusive. Different strategies work for different people, and that means you might need to experiment with a few approaches before you begin to see results. Using your journal to assess the outcomes of your efforts can help you determine what’s working and what isn’t. This kind of troubleshooting is necessary for most goals, not just weight loss.
Documenting Your Weight Loss Journey
Documenting your weight loss journey can dramatically improve your outcomes. Here are some things to consider including in your journaling practice:
It’s natural to experience a wide range of emotions throughout the weight loss journey. From joy to disappointment, the highs and lows can lead to choices that either strengthen or derail
your previous efforts. Understanding how your feelings are linked to your behaviors is the key to getting results. By journaling about your feelings and emotions, you’ll be able to see more clearly how they influence your daily choices. And that can help you identify alternatives or avoid certain situations altogether.
Journal Prompts: Feelings
Describe the emotions you experienced today.
What happened as a result of your emotions?
What patterns have you noticed between your emotions and choices?
Repetitive choices eventually become habits. And your habits have a direct impact on your goals. That’s why it’s important to reflect on your habits periodically, so you can make adjustments and stay on course.
Journal Prompts: Habits
How do you feel about the choices you made today?
Which of your daily habits are having a negative impact on your weight loss goals?
Which of your daily habits are having a positive impact on your weight loss goals?
Taking note of your unique challenges is critical to achieve successful weight loss. Journaling offers space to brainstorm solutions and map out strategies to overcome setbacks.
Journal Prompts: Challenges
What, if anything, has gotten in the way of achieving your goals?
What has been the most challenging aspect of your weight loss journey so far?
What needs to happen right now to get back on track?
Most people know that food choices have a direct impact on weight, but exercise is another important factor that can help with weight loss efforts as well. Recording the amount of physical activity that you accumulate each day can help you be more consistent with your exercise routines. Whether you choose to track minutes or steps, there are a number of apps and devices that make the process easy.
Journal Prompts: Exercise
How does it feel when you move your body?
Which types of physical activity do you enjoy the most?
When are you the most consistent with your exercise goals?
One of the most powerful things you can do to move closer to any goal is to envision your life as if you’ve already achieved it. Picture in your mind what your life will be like when you’re finally living that vision. Imagine your life as if you’ve already reached your goal, and then journal about how your life will be different. Envisioning is a powerful motivator.
Journal Prompts: Future Vision
How will your life be different when you reach your goal?
What will it feel like when you achieve your goal?
What will you be able to do then that you can’t do now?
An often-overlooked step in the weight loss journey is to celebrate your milestones along the way. Be sure to take time to acknowledge your efforts and celebrate the progress you’ve made. This will help you continue to build confidence and motivation, so you can continue pushing toward your goals.
Journal Prompts: Celebration
What progress have you made in reaching your goals?
What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved so far?
What have you learned about yourself during this process?
Journaling throughout your weight loss journey can help increase your confidence, motivation, and accountability—all of which are key determinants of success. Whenever you feel like giving up on your goals, open your journal and reconnect with your vision of the life you’re creating.
Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as providing or replacing medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Author bio: STACY FISHER, RDN, LD, CDCES is the founder of LivingUpp™, a lifestyle design company that teaches women how to use a self-care planning system to create more ease and better health. She is a registered dietitian and lifestyle coach with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, where she’s worked with large companies such as Dell, Boeing and Nike. Stacy is the author of Go: One Woman. One Van. A New Beginning and The Lifestyle Design Planner, a flexible life organizer for high-achievers who value self-care and simplicity.