By Tina HaupertFor most of my life, calories never crossed my mind—and counting calories was an even more foreign concept to me! Of course, I knew that I was eating fattening foods (my clothes were snug!), but I didn't realize just how quickly all of those calories added up. Before I knew it, more than 20 pounds piled on to my small frame. I wanted to lose weight once and for all, so I bucked up, took some responsibility, and picked up my pen. I quickly learned, though, that it wasn't that easy!
Keep a food journalI halfheartedly kept a paper-and-pen food journal, but I never lasted more than a few days at a time. It was time-consuming and inconvenient to continuously calculate all of those calories, so hundreds of them often went unaccounted for each day. Plus I wasn't completely honest with myself, but just because I wasn’t writing down the 10 Hershey Kisses I ate didn’t mean they weren’t eventually going to show up on my hips.
I had pretty much given up all hope on keeping a food journal to lose weight until a friend told me about Fitday.com, a free online weight-loss journal that tracks calories, exercise, goals, and progress. It made food journaling easy; the program did all of the math work, so there were fewer excuses for me not to use it—and fewer ways to fudge the numbers. I still had to make the effort to account for those Hershey’s kisses even though I didn’t want to, though.
Tracking what I ate every day changed my thinking about what I was putting into my mouth—and how it was affecting my hunger later. Eventually I started making better choices. For instance, I realized that calorie-wise, my breakfasts were much too small, which often lead me to overeat at lunch and sometimes dinner too. Filling out my serving estimates on Fitday also helped me realize that I underestimated my portion sizes. Even though I was eating mostly nutritious foods, I was serving myself way too much. So I began using measuring cups at home to learn how to identify a healthy portion size.
Make sure you have supportKeeping a food diary mostly kept me accountable, but sometimes it wasn't enough. Weight loss was challenging for me, and just like anything in life, I needed support from people who understood what I was going through. I participated in online weight-loss communities by posting messages and updating about my weight-loss progress. Community members replied with feedback, praise, and encouragement, which motivated me and made me accountable. Now I check in regularly on the Feel Great Weight forum to help encourage other dieters—and of course I still occasionally need advice too!
Start a blogAfter finding my Feel Great Weight, I started my blog, Carrots 'N' Cake, to keep me accountable during the months leading up to my wedding. Starting with my first post, I announced to my readers what I wanted to accomplish. Logging my food intake in Fitday made me accountable to myself, but displaying it on the Internet made me accountable to my family, friends, and even strangers. My readers provided support and motivation—and they're still a virtual support group whenever I need it! Although I never intended on having thousands of people across the world read and comment on my blog, it keeps me on track every day.
Think lifestyle Being accountable was important to losing and maintaining my weight, but finding a "diet" that fit my lifestyle was the most important part. I stopped consistently counting calories a couple of years ago, but if my weight starts creeping up on me, I will check in with Fitday and record my calories for a week, which usually gets me back on track. With my personal commitment, and with my family, friends, and blog readers holding me to it, I have all the motivation I need to keep myself accountable.