The Food Diary: Your Best Tool to Minimize Weight Gain During the Holidays

The holidays are notorious for high-calorie, sugary snacks and, for those of us in El Paso, many, many tamales. Also, those of you working in an office environment, temptations often run aplenty because we all have that coworker that loves bringing in brownies or holiday-themed cookies, and leaving them in by the copier or in the conference room for everybody to enjoy. Or, you might have a good friend or nice neighbor dropping by with a pecan pie just for you.

Instead of resenting the well-meaning coworkers and neighbors, remember that they might just like doing nice things for loved ones this time of year, even if it means high-calorie snacks that may interrupt your weight loss or weight maintenance progress. Be grateful that these good folks in your life.

One of the easiest ways to keep from letting your weight get out of hand is to keep a food diary. This simple tool will help keep you accountable, as well as remaining cognizant of how many holiday snacks you can eat without gaining unwanted pounds.


When I was in college, I liked to treat myself with a White Chocolate Mocha in a venti at Starbucks whenever I kicked butt in an exam, term paper and after finishing my last finals exam. While the drink is absolutely delicious, it was Starbucks posting the caloric amount in each of the drinks on their menu that has turned me off. While I was aware that the White Chocolate Mocha had to be high in calories, I never thought that having the drink in the 20-ounce cup amounted to nearly 500 calories!

Like most college students, I did not worry too much about making healthy food choices, especially since I was competing in rowing because I easily burned off about 1,000 calories each day at practice (sometimes more). Things changed graduating and no longer rowing because it meant that I had to make grown-up decisions and be smarter about eating habits.

While this was enough for me to kick the high-calorie coffee by the wayside, this might not be the same for the rest. Using a food diary app, such as FatSecret, Fooducate or MyFitnessPal, a person’s estimated recommended amount of calories to consume each day to is calculated by his height, weight, age and activity level (I use the word “estimated” because several factors can increase or decrease this number, such as hormones, sleep, stress, etc.). Oftentimes, this estimate is adjusted per the individual’s goal, such as losing, gaining or maintaining weight.

By logging in every meal, snack and drink that the user consumes in a given day, he will instantly notice how his food choices affect his caloric intake. Most Americans judge whether they have eaten enough (or too much) by how full they feel. This is not a good way to ensure you’re eating the right amount, especially if you are someone who struggles with overeating. Moreover, sugary drinks, like sodas and White Chocolate Mochas, are high in calories, but they will not make you feel full, which makes it easy to consume in excess.


Calories equal energy.

In case you have never heard the phrase “Calories In, Calories Out”, it refers to the calories you’re taking in from food and drinks, and the calories expended through activity (i.e. exercise) or normal body functions. The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the estimated amount of calories that one’s body burns in a given day with the minimal amount of exercise, similar to a person in a coma. A small, thin female in her 80s will have a much lower BMR than a 340 lb rookie in the NFL. However, since we are not in a coma, consuming the amount of calories that makes up the estimated BMR would be a bad idea, especially if you intend to exercise and live an active lifestyle. In short, the BMR is the minimum amount of calories your body needs for it to stay alive. Consuming fewer calories than the BMR will not kill you, but it will lead it to find other sources of calories if it is not getting enough food, which is usually from body fat or muscles.

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