Runners know the miles they log on the pavement, trails, and the treadmill are great for keeping them fit and healthy. High on the list of the sport’s many virtues? It is an amazing tool for weight control. But weight loss is a different story. Because you run, you may think you can eat whatever you want and still drop pounds. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Running is only half of the equation. You have to look hard at what and how you eat, too.
Writing down everything you eat may sound tedious, but it pays off: Studies have shown that people who log their food intake regularly keep more weight off than those who don’t take notes. Bonci recommends recording everything you eat for at least one week (and then doing so again every few weeks after that), making sure to include important details, such as when, where, why, and how much you eat. “Reviewing these details will help you glean important information about your habits,” says Bonci, “and highlight ways you can make healthier choices.”Make It Work
“My clients have different systems for keeping a food log,” says Bonci. A notebook will do the trick, as will an Excel sheet, or storing details in your iPhone. Bonci suggests recording whether or not you’re hungry when you eat and grading the day from 1 to 5 (“1” is a day with unhealthy food, and “5” is a superhealthy day). “This can be a reality check,” says Bonci, “like, I’m not doing so badly after all, or My diet is worse than I thought.“
To get an idea of what your log might reveal, review the entries below from test panelist DORENE HELTON. She recorded the first at the program’s outset and the second after making changes that added up to a 20-pound weight loss in 12 weeks.
7:30 a.m., In front of computer
• Bowl of Special K with 1% milk (173 calories)
• 2 cups of coffee with 1/4 cup 1% milk (31)
11:45, Kitchen table
• Tuna sandwich with mayo, relish, 1 slice cheese, 2 slices wheat bread (470)
• 1 glass 1% milk (105)
2:30 p.m., In car
• Starbucks medium caramel latte with whipped cream (420)
3:30, Kitchen table
• 1/2 apple and water (47)
7:00, Kitchen table
• 8-ounce steak, 1/2 cup mushrooms, 6 asparagus spears (452)
• 6 strawberries (23)
• 1 glass 1% milk (105)
9:00, In front of TV
• 5 crackers (88)
Total: 1,914 calories
Helton used to get a caffeine fix from sugary drinks. Now she has coffee for a fraction of the calories.
Helton realized she was mindlessly eating (and taking in unnecessary calories) watching the tube.
7:30 a.m., Kitchen table
• Kashi Go Lean Crunch with blueberries (200)
• Cup of coffee with fat-free milk (14)
10:00, Kitchen table
• Medium coffee with fat-free milk (28)
12:30 p.m., Kitchen table
• Turkey sandwich with 2 oz turkey, thin layer of mayo, 1 slice cheese, 2 slices whole-wheat bread (380)
• 4 celery sticks, 4 cherry tomatoes (21)
• 1 banana (105)
4:15, Kitchen table
• Balance Bar and apple (295)
8:45, Kitchen table
• 6-inch Subway sweet onion chicken teriyaki sandwich with lettuce, onion, and sweet peppers (380)
• 1 cup fat-free milk (91)
Total: 1,514 calories
Helton adds antioxidant-rich blueberries to her filling, high-fiber cereal.
On days she doesn’t get home until late, she has a high-protein afternoon snack so she doesn’t overeat at dinner.
RULE 2: MEASURE WHAT YOU EAT
Get out a cereal bowl. Fill it as you normally would with your favorite brand. Read the label to find out the serving size and the calories per serving. Look at what’s in your bowl. Is it more than a serving? Less? Chances are it’s more than you think. Pour it into a measuring cup to find out.
“We measure with our eyes,” says Bonci, “and our eyes are terrible judges of portions.” Case in point: A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found people serve themselves up to 53 percent more ice cream when simply given a larger scooper and bowl. And since research shows people eat about 92 percent of whatever is in front of them, it pays to know what an appropriate serving should look like. The only way to know that is to measure what you’re eating.
Make It Work
While it may seem like a hassle at first, measuring out food can quickly become part of your daily routine. And after a few weeks of practice, you’ll begin to train your eyes and brain to recognize what a serving should look like without having to actually measure. But first, you need the right tools to get started.
KEEP EQUIPMENT HANDY
Leave a set of measuring cups and spoons on your kitchen counter so you remember to use them.
Put a collapsible measuring cup in your favorite breakfast cereal so it’s easy to measure during your morning rush.
Read the label on snack foods, and divide cookies, crackers, pretzels, and chips into individual servings. Store each in an airtight bag or container.
MAKE YOUR MARK
Read the label on block cheese to find out how many servings are in the package, then score the cheese appropriately.