After I signed up for the weight loss course with my Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor,  one of the first things she gave me was a chart for recording my food intake, daily weight, and number of bowel movements. I’ve made my own digital version, available for download here.

Across the top, you fill in the date: 7 days at a time. Then going down each column: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. I was asked to write down literally everything I ate.  Then each week I brought this chart to her and she’d take her red pen and cross out what I should try to avoid the following week.  As the weeks went on she got stricter (but that’s a separate post). It became a challenge in itself to see how little red pen I could have on my chart each week.  After about 2 months she was satisfied I understood what I could and shouldn’t eat and therefore I didn’t need to do the chart any more.

At the bottom of each column, I was supposed to write the number of bowel movements per day, my weight, and then in the last box, I usually wrote what exercise I did or made some notes about how I felt that day.  Now, I can imagine you freaking out a bit at this point; I know I was rather uncomfortable.  Telling someone else how many bowel movements I had each day?!  And my daily weight fluctuations?!  Uhhh… Can we say TMI (too much information)? Well, that’s not the worst of it. As anyone who’s been to a TCM doctor knows, the doctor start asking the consistency, color, content, and anything else they thing is relevant about your bowel movements. The number per day hardly seems too personal after many more details have been revealed.

And then we get to the daily weight recording, which people have mixed feelings about. Some people say you shouldn’t weight yourself everyday because your weight fluctuates so much its not relevant, or because you become too obsessed with the number on the scale, or whatever other reason. Other people, including my mom, advise weighing yourself nearly everyday so you’re conscious of which way the number is going and you adjust your consumption or exercise accordingly.  And let me tell you, when you start having someone check those numbers every week, and then they start asking you about your cycle (for women), it definitely, at least for me, gets a bit uncomfortable.  Do I really need someone commenting on how my hormones are causing weight fluctuations?

All that being said, using a food chart like this is great way to track your progress across a week. You can see what you ate in the week, how that affected your weight, and your number of bowel movements.  If you find you gained 3 pounds in a week, look back and see how many days you had ice cream or that second helping of pasta. Or if you went 2 days with no bowel movement, did you get enough fiber, fruit, and vegetables during those days? Even if you’re not showing it to someone, a food chart is still a good overview of the week, a reminder, and a starting point for reflection.  When I was turning in my chart every week, it certainly made me think: is it worth it to eat this if I’m going to have to write this on my chart? When you record everything you eat, you’re far more conscientious of it.  Less mindless eating.

Even now, while I have no one to check my food chart, when I feel my discipline slipping or my weight creeping, I print another 2-sided blank copy and start recording. And I love the easy visual format for seeing the whole week. At the end of the week, I go back over it with a red pen and I mark with a big X everything the doctor would tell me not to eat. I don’t obsess per day, but I do want to review the week and compare it to the previous week and whether I’m trending healthier or less so.

Charting your food intake, bowel movements, and daily weight is a great complement to any weight management program.  The clear format and the forced conscientiousness and reflection can make a huge impact on unrealized habits like emotional eating, TV watching-snacking, mindless eating, quick bites, snacks on the run, and especially liquid or other hidden calories we may not realize we’re consuming. Some people prefer to take photos of anything before they put it in their mouth as a way to reflect before eating. Both can work, but for me writing something down takes longer and therefore requires more thought processing.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight, try adding the food chart to your regimen for 2-3 weeks and see what it does for your progress.  Download it here (Right click, then select Save As, to save the Word doc to your computer).

Next post in the series for TCM weight loss: Drinking Water ->

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