During the initial stages of this program, I strongly encourage you to keep a "Daily Nutrition Journal" in which you keep track of your calories and other important nutrition information. You'll find a sample page in the appendix. Feel free to make photocopies or set up a similar spreadsheet on your computer. Or, just keep your nutrition journal in a plain old spiral notebook.
If you're not familiar with calories, you should keep a detailed nutrition journal at least once for a period of one to three months. After you've done this exercise, you'll have gained a new perspective on calories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Get yourself a good food scale like the "Health-O Meter" (available in the Kitchen section of better department stores or at housewares stores) and get a complete set of measuring cups. For any packaged foods that you don't know the caloric value of by memory, read the "Nutrition Facts" panel on the label. For produce and natural foods that don't come with labels (Potatoes, yams, vegetables, fruits, etc), use your calorie book or chart to look up the food values.
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Studies show obesity may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death in America. Are you ready to drop those extra pounds you've been carrying around? Awesome. Let's start off with a couple positive don't. You don't need to jump on a diet craze and you don't need to start exercising for hours each day.