As you know, I am a huge fan of all things Bright Line Eating®. It has allowed me to lose over 140lbs and it is no exaggeration to say that it has changed my life (See my story here). However, I do have a bit of a Bright Line Eating® food journal confession to make.
I don’t food journal – at least not in the official sense.
If you’ve read the book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free®, you know that keeping a food journal is one of the key strategies discussed in the book. In fact, other than the four bright lines themselves, I don’t think there is another strategy recommended more strongly for weight loss success.
The Official Food Journal Practice
Now keeping a food journal is a pretty standard practice in most weight loss programs. However, what makes Bright Line Eating® unique is that you write down the food in your food journal the night before you actually eat it. You don’t record what you ended up eating or how many calories you consumed.
Instead, the recommended practice is that after dinner you write down in your food journal the food you are planning to eat the next day. You then make a commitment to yourself and perhaps others that the next day you will eat only what is written in your food diary – no more, no less. By writing down the food in your food journal the day before and committing to eating only that, you significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to your bright lines.
What I Did Instead
And while I did keep a food journal for the first few weeks of my Bright Line Eating® journey, I no longer do so. I found for me that it was too challenging to maintain the food journaling practice and also do everything else I need to do to stick to my food plan. I have never liked journaling and I was just feeling bad every night that I didn’t fill in my food journal for the next day.
However, you need to know that I didn’t just ignore this practice altogether. Rather, I replaced it with some alternatives that work just as well in my particular case. So before you dismiss the food journal as an important strategy in your Bright Line Eating® success, please understand that I didn’t ditch the practice so much as modify it for my situation.
So what did I replace it with? Well the first think I replaced it with was…
Repetition & Preparation
After a few weeks into Bright Line Eating®, I had settled into eating the same breakfast every morning with virtually no exception. Every morning I have oatmeal with ground flax seed, blueberries, banana slices, walnuts, peanuts, cinnamon and ground cloves. It is very nutritious breakfast and I find it delicious so I see no reason to make any changes at this point.
Since I have committed to eat the same thing every morning, I do not take the time to write this down in a food diary. I still weigh out every ingredient each morning so I’m sticking to my bright line around portion sizes. And, my oatmeal is prepared the night before in our Instant Pot and set on a timer so that it is ready to eat when I wake up every morning.
This repetition as well as the preparations I make to get my breakfast ready for the next morning have served as my own method of committing my food ahead of time. It’s just that I let my behavior the night before rather that my words the night before set me up for success the next day.
A Caring and Cooking Spouse
The other way I’ve replaced my written food diary is with a caring and cooking spouse. I am very blessed to have a wife who does most of the cooking and who has switched to preparing and eating Bright Line Eating® friendly meals.
In our case, my wife uses a meal planning program called Plan to Eat. She has used Plan to Eat to do our meal planning and grocery shopping for many years now. So when we started doing Bright Line Eating®, Plan to Eat was a tool we naturally turned to for help.
Each week she plans our dinners ahead of time using the Plan to Eat website/smart phone app. In planning for the week, my wife selects each night’s dinner from our list of favorite recipes. Plan to Eat then creates the shopping list for us and everyone in the family with a smart phone or tablet can looked up what’s for dinner. We can also all add items to the shopping list as we notice we’re running low.
Since this plan is for the entire family it does not have my specific portion sizes listed in the app, but it still tells me ahead of time what I’ll be eating for dinner each night. All I need to do is weigh out my individual portions once dinner is ready.
My commitment is to eat what my wife prepares each night and to weigh out my proper portion sizes. My wife’s commitment is to prepare what is scheduled in Plan to Eat and then to weigh out her portion sizes.
So whether you are a spoiled non-cooking spouse like myself or the family cook, a program like Plan to Eat can serve as a great electronic food diary alternative. And as a bonus, it will allow you to easily snag recipes from your favorite websites and prepare your shopping list as well.
The Food Template Approach
The third way I’ve replaced the food diary is with a food template. If fact, that is really what Bright Line Eating® teaches you. It teaches you a food template that you can use to help lose and then maintain your ideal weight.
And because we use Plan to Eat to plan our dinners, I can use this food template approach to plan my lunches. When I go to pack my lunch for work I take leftovers from refrigerator. They may be leftovers from dinner last night or a night or two ago. And because we have followed The Five Secrets to a Successful Bright Line Eating® Kitchen I don’t have to worry about finding a fridge full of food I can’t eat.
So because I don’t keep a food diary, I don’t always know when I wake up in the morning what I’ll be eating for lunch. But most mornings I’ll choose between two or three options that are in the refrigerator. This allows me to choose what sounds the best, but it still restricts me to the right food options. I then weigh out the proper portion sizes, throw in an acceptable drink option and pack everything in a bag to take to work.
Why It Works
Even though I do not keep a food diary, I have still managed to lose a substantial amount of weight on Bright Line Eating® and I have also managed to not break my bright lines. I believe that these alternate approaches have worked well for two reasons.
First, you’ll notice that in each alternative I use to the food diary there is still a level of commitment that I am making ahead of time around each meal. I have committed to myself, my wife and my family to follow the processes we have in place around meal times. Without this level of commitment I don’t think I would be able to maintain my bright lines.
Second, you’ll also notice that in every case I am still making my food decisions at least one meal ahead of time. I never show up at a meal and then decide what I’m going to eat. That would be a disaster. If its meal time and you’re hungry and trying to decide then what to eat, odds are you’ll have a very difficult time sticking to your food plan.
So as you can see it is possible to successfully do Bright Line Eating® without a proper food journal. However, before trying any alternatives I would recommend to anyone who is just starting out to stick with the food journal practices as outlined in the book or boot camp. For most people has been the most effective method to weight loss success.
However, if you can maintain your bright lines for a while and you want to try not doing the food journal, proceed careful. Rather than just setting your journal aside altogether, find alternative strategies that will still support you in sticking to your bright lines. These alternatives should still involve deep levels of commitment on your part and should prevent you from ever making wide open meal time decisions about what you are going to eat. By maintaining some flexibility while still keeping your behaviors in check, you’ll be in a great position to make Bright Line Eating® your own.