A recent Time Magazine article describes the power of journaling with weight loss. A study in the August 2008 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine describes a study where participants were encouraged to use weight-loss maintenance strategies including calorie restriction, weekly group sessions, and moderately intensive exercise. About half of the group was encouraged to keep a food diary. The lead researcher describes the results by saying, “hands down, the most successful weight-loss method was keeping a record of what you eat.” In a six-month study, participants who kept a food journal six or seven days a week lost an average of 18 lb (8 kg), compared with an average of 9 lb (4 kg) lost by non-diary keepers. The article goes on and describes the author’s personal experience with food journaling.
Here is what I find interesting about the article:
1. Writing down everything you eat will increase the results of your weight loss goals by a factor of 2 (3dB). WOW! I guess just writing it down makes you aware of how much junk is included in your diet. Once you become aware of it, you will at least have to rationalize to yourself (and your diary) why you need another Coke in the afternoon or why you put chips on your kid’s dinner plates instead of fresh vegetables.
2. Accountability will make this even more effective. The author shared his food journal with his wife. When another person is involved you now are not only justifying junk to yourself and your diary, you have to justify it to someone else. This someone else can look for trends that you want to ignore. “Wow, you are an entire carton of Oreos last week and another one this week. Are you stressed?”
What’s great is the practice of journaling extends to other areas of our lives-
Finance: My parents both encouraged me to journal. It all began with a Money Book. In order to get my allowance when I was young (age 8 and up) I had to present a money book that showed all of my income and expenses for the month. The money in my cigar box (my piggy bank) had to equal the balance of my money book for the month before I got my allowance. This was a very good practice for college. My parents made me, my brother and my sister sign contracts before attending college. The terms of the contract stated:
· Mom and dad would pay for 16 quarters of college (4 years).
· All of the money for each quarter was paid at the beginning of each quarter. We had to pay tuition, books, rent, food, entertainment, … If we ran out of money for the quarter, we could not ask mom and dad for any more money – we had to get a job.
· The amount they paid was fair. It was enough to have some fun, but not enough to really get into too much trouble.
· If we got a scholarship, the amount left over was ours to keep.
I still continue my financial journaling today. It took a while for my wife to see the value in it, but we both see the monthly budget as a tool to help us reach our financial goals in life. It also ties into food journaling in that I guarantee you will be amazed at how much you spend on fast-food when you integrate the cost over an entire month, quarter, year. Just like your diet, your spending can get out of whack, and it takes an objective look at it in entirety to put you in a position to start prioritizing again. This is a very healthy practice – highly recommended to start keeping a financial journal (budget).
Work: I keep a journal at work as well. I jot down daily activities. Sometimes they are detailed technical notes and sometimes they are a few words on what I accomplished for the day. It’s also a great place to store records and notes of phone calls with customers and other contacts. This really comes in handy when it’s time for an annual review. Flipping through the pages written over the past year helps pull out specific actions that are worth noting on the review.
Personal (public): For some reason I feel the need to publish my personal thoughts in a blog. Is it narcissistic? Maybe, but I like to dialog with others (my sister would say argue instead of dialog, but I think I have matured a little). Blogging is an outlet for me. I read a lot of different things, and if I don’t try to formulate my thoughts on a particular subject, it will be lost.
Personal (private): I also keep a personal private journal. I do not write in this journal too often. I usually carry it with me when I go on a big trip or if I am working through some important private issues. I find that it is comforting to work through the subject to the point where I can rationally put it on paper. Once it is on paper, I can work through different scenarios that ultimately help me make a decision.
Prayer: I need to work on this. Tony, the Youth Pastor, showed the youth group his prayer notebooks from college. I thought this was really cool. Tony said that ACTS prayers are a good way to start. ACTS is a template to help guide you through your prayer standing for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (or intercession). I currently don’t keep a prayer journal, but would like to start.
Do you journal?
Do you find it a nuisance or a comfort?
Share you journaling habits to help inspire us all to start/continue.