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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Keeping a Food Diary - Getting Healthy Part 2

This is part 2 of a series on how I changed my lifestyle to become healthier.  You can read about the background here and part 1 here.

As part of my decision to reach a BMI of 22, I needed to learn more about my caloric intake in order to adjust it properly. I wanted to gradually lose weight to become healthier, not go on a crash diet and starve myself. I did some research about calories and burning calories. Here is what I found:

1. My daily caloric needs were ~1900 calories for my slightly active lifestyle
2. In general, one needs to burn 3500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat.
3. To lose 1 pound a week, I needed to reduce my caloric intake to ~1400 per day.

Now that I knew what I needed to do, I had to decide which tools I was going to use to track my progress. There are many online food logs/diaries, but I found they were often slow to load and a little cumbersome on the food entry. I wanted a basic log where I could keep track of what I eat, how many calories it has, and what type of exercise I did. I decided to create my own spreadsheet. I paired it with this site to find out how many calories are in various foods.
Once I had my tools, I was diligent about writing down everything I ate and assigning caloric values to each. As the days passed, I found that I would eat the same foods repeatedly. To make it easier to keep track, I kept a short list of the common foods with calories on the side of my log.
This process had an unexpected result. Not only did I keep track to how many calories I consumed, I also learned about portion sizes. I became aware that a small brownie had 250 calories, the same amount as in 1 cup lentil soup. I was gradually making healthier food choices based on the fact that I could eat more low-calorie foods instead of a small amount of high-calorie ones.

As I worked through the month of January, I continued to use the WiiFit to track my progress.  By the end of month, I had reached a BMI of 22.15 and had lost 3.7 more pounds.  I was on track with my plan to lose a pound a week.  I had made progress towards my goal, but wasn't there yet.


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