There are days when I reflect on my 13-year journey in holistic nutrition and integrative and lifestyle medicine. During one such musing, I went back to roughly 10 years ago. At the time, we did not use social media extensively. We did not have WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom, or other fancy chatting or international calling apps. I remember using BlackBerry Messenger where you could message one another. Mostly, we used SMS and email. Why am I speaking about this? Read on to find out.
It is no news that fat loss continues to be one of the most googled health trends.
How do you burn fat? How do you shed that extra weight?
Was it a concern a decade ago? Absolutely. I believe I had a fair amount of success in helping people globally with weight management cases back then, too. I had clients in New York. We had a massive market in Belgium, especially the diamond community of India who lived there, and Indian expats in Australia, Thailand, Singapore, and parts of London.
How did I keep in touch with them? Over emails. Our access to many phone calls or international calling apps was limited. But there was one activity that all of my most successful patients did (even without much interaction as we have today) that I want to share with you.
A simple exercise that we did every week.
It was maintaining a food log or a lifestyle diary.
Do you maintain a food log? Representational photo credits: Freepik
What does a food log or lifestyle diary entail?
Every day, my clients would share an email at the end of their day. It contained the details of every single food they ate that day. Some would send it weekly. I would go through each of these in depth. If they cheated, they would put that down too.
When we had our weekly reviews, if they were feeling better, their energy levels soared, their constipation or gut issues were under control, or they were losing weight – we would review those seven days and find out what went well for them based on the logs they filled.
On some days, we found that they ate well, increased their protein, avoided constant snacking, were well hydrated, exercised, and so on. We would take the best commonalities of those seven days that then work on making them consistent.
These food logs were an excellent mirror of what was going wrong too. For instance, if they were not losing weight or not achieving their health goals – we would assess the seven-day food log and try to break down what went wrong. Did they overeat on a particular date? Were their meal gaps too long? Were they sedentary for long hours with barely any movement? Did they have a late-night meal that made them wake up acidic?
The mere act of documenting their food and lifestyle data helped us have very constructive reviews. In many cases, the clients would review their own logs and make potent observations. One would say, “Hey Luke, I went wrong over here. And that’s why I feel sluggish and lethargic.”
If they struggled to achieve their goals, we would review the log and find new ways to correct what was going wrong.
It is such a simple process. But unfortunately, most people are too lazy to maintain their own journals. I do not mean this disrespectfully. It is just a bitter truth.
Reflect on this.
- How long does it take to write down:
- What was the first thing you ate in the morning?
- How much did you eat?
- After you consume it, how did it make you feel?
Why does it matter?
For instance, if you feel energetic and alert, that food is working for you. But if you are unaware that you are gluten or lactose intolerant and you had it, there is a good chance you would feel miserable after that meal. You would experience gas, smelly flatulence, or bloating. So when you maintain a food log, try to be as specific as you can. And you can expect specific observations and results.
What is the point of this?
While we have everything at the click of a button and AI does everything (which is great) we cannot and must never forget the fundamentals of simplicity.
I have a message for each of you reading this. If you have a problem with your weight, you don’t necessarily need to be on a program right away or even book a consultation. But what you can start with is – one week of logging every meal and reviewing it at the end of the day.
- How did I feel after this meal?
- Am I not feeling food?
- Have I been eating wrong?
- Is it because I missed my workout?
- Or did I overdo my workout?
Ask yourself questions.
Your food log could contain the foods that you ate, your water intake, the kind of exercise you did, the hours of sleep the previous night, how you woke up feeling, and your emotional wellness.
Here’s another simple reflective exercise that everyone should do at the end of their day.
- Do I feel good?
- If I don’t feel good, let me reflect on my day.
- Find out why, who, and what made you feel not so good.
This will help you correct it and not become a victim of the situation.
The simple process of logging your lifestyle and reviewing will give you immensely powerful data at the end of seven days on what you have been doing right and where there’s scope for improvement.
If you can’t correct it yourself, need motivation or inspiration, or are facing a particularly complicated roadblock, always reach out to an expert. Our integrative experts are here to help you find a way. Other than that, most of you will find your solutions with this simple exercise.
Want to go a step further? You can break this down into verticals.
Let’s say you have poor emotional health right now. The human mind likes to construct stories out of nothing. Fear and illusions that may not even be true. Our worries become problems that may not even be true. Yet it keeps us up all night.
Some people even break down emotions. For instance, I may have felt horrible, sad, or humiliated today. The next step is to figure out why I feel like this. When did I start feeling this? Was it at 5 PM? Where was I? What was the situation I was in? Who was I surrounded by?
The whole idea is to arrive at the root cause of the problem. In most cases, you will identify and fix the problem. But if you don’t know the root cause of the problem, your mind will be cluttered with the same emotions all day. You will not know how to find the solution until you have nailed down what the problem was in the first place.
If you have emotional issues, start maintaining an emotion log or diary. Is your sleep a problem? Maintain a sleep diary. Is exercise a pain point? Maintain an exercise diary.
Maintain your lifestyle diary in any way you can.
It is a beautiful practice. It only takes a couple of minutes to reflect and write down. No matter what part of the world you are in, if you feel stuck with your health, weight, relationship, or career goals, stop and write it down. Maintain the data. Document what you can. And you will find the answers you are looking for. Practice this with discipline and consistency. Try this for the next week and share it with me. I would love to read about your experiences.
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