Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian
In the first article of the Healthy Weight. Healthy You. series we identified the main barriers preventing people from losing weight. Now, we will show you how to assess your current situation and identify which of the barriers are keeping you from achieving a healthier weight.
The biggest eye-opener and best way to assess yourself is to keep a food journal. Many people are surprised to see what their eating habits are really like when they write it down. To keep a food journal, start by grabbing a piece of paper and a pen, print one from our site or create a file on your computer. Next, write down the categories you want to track. These are some of the main categories you can track:
Meal (Breakfast, Lunch, Supper, Snack)
Amount of Food Consumed
Amount of Water Consumed
Activities (including physical activity & exercise)
After you have prepared your journal, it’s time to start writing things down. Dedicate at least 3 days, or preferably a full week, to food journaling. Write down every item you consume, including condiments, fluids, seasonings, and so on. Take the time to measure these items using measuring cups and spoons, or even use a food scale if you have one. This can be a bit tedious at the start, but it gets easier as you go. The more accurate your measurements, the easier it will be to assess yourself and pinpoint the issues in your diet. Some people even take pictures of their meals to review later on. You will also want to record your activities, including physical activity and exercise.
Keep this food journal throughout your weight loss journey to track the changes you make and see the differences in your diet from start to finish.
After you have recorded at least three days of food journaling, it’s time to assess yourself and identify the main issues preventing you from achieving your weight loss goal.
Self-assessment is the easiest, but also the most revealing part of this process. To start your assessment, quickly review the 5 barriers to achieving a healthy weight article (link). You will now assess yourself in each of these areas.
1. Food Choices
It is recommended that most adults consume at least 7 servings of fruits & vegetables per day. Count up the number of servings you ate on each day in your food journal.
1 serving = 1 fistful (about the size of your clenched fist)
How many days did you reach 7 servings? What is your average number of servings? Are you above or below the recommendation? What (if anything) is preventing you from reaching 7 servings per day?
Protein recommendations vary based on your weight (in kilograms*). You should be consuming at least 1.2 grams of lean protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Put more simply, you should have at least one lean, complete protein serving (such as chicken) with each meal.
To convert from pounds to kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 (ex. 150 lb/2.2 = 68 kg)
1 serving = 1 palm full (approximately 3 oz)
How many days did you reach the recommendations? Did you include a lean protein source with each meal? What (if anything) is preventing you from doing so?
2. Portion Control
Fruits & Vegetables should take up a big part of your plate (normally half). For the purposes of assessing yourself, it is recommended that you include 1–3 servings with each of your main meals (breakfast, lunch & supper). Count up the number of servings you included with each meal on each day.
How many meals included less than 1 serving of fruits & vegetables?
Starting your day with a well-balanced breakfast within an hour of waking up and following it up with snacks and meals every 2-3 hours is optimal. Count the number of days that you ate breakfast within 1 hour of waking. Next, count the number of times you went longer than 3 hours without eating.
How many days did you miss breakfast within 1 hour of waking? How many days did you go longer than 3 hours without eating (not including time asleep)?
While recommendations vary from person to person, drinking more than 1.5 litres (6 cups) of water per day is a healthy habit. Calculate the amount of water you drank on each day.
How many days were you below 1.5 litres of water?
The general recommendation for adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week (that’s 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week). Calculate the amount of exercise you engaged in each day.
How many days were you physically active? How many total minutes were you physically active over the course of the week?
Congratulations! You have done what most people have never done before. You’ve taken a good, hard critical look at your eating and exercise habits and determined exactly where you are having issues. Was it as bad as you thought? Or, does it seem like a manageable challenge going forward?
Add this high-protein meal to your menu and reap the benefits: Baked Spinach & Chicken Omelette
You are now ready to take the next step in your weight loss journey, which is making meaningful changes to your eating and exercise routine! That will be the subject of the next article in this series.
Note: If you need a helping hand, consult with a Dietitian