Fitness Journaling is one of the strongest tools you can have in your fitness arsenal (and how I have been able to maintain my weight loss)… but you may wonder just how big of a difference could it actually make? Join Sarah for her third post in her free fitness series (after battling an eating disorder and losing over 100 lbs), as she explains the how’s, and why it is so important for you to start fitness journaling today.
What is a fitness journal?
Many of you won’t believe this, but what if I told you that the answers to most of your weight related struggles were found within the pages of a book?
A book that you write YOURSELF!
That is what I have found when it comes to keeping a daily accounting of my basic fitness goals…because that is what a fitness journal is… it is just a book that is keeping track of those daily healthy goals…and as a former morbidly obese person that has overcome binge eating disorder and a life-long unhealthy relationship with food, that is saying A LOT!
Before I dive into all of my thoughts on fitness journaling, I want to share a little bit more about mental detoxing so that you too will be able to reach your fitness dreams/health goals.
In order to truly succeed in my fitness journey, I have actually had to detox my mind much more than I ever shared in the “how to overcome binge eating disorder post“… you see, for a long time I had a very abusive person in my life, and I was told that I could not reach my fitness goals, and each time I would try to set new goals, I was not only told that I couldn’t do it, but they also constantly reminded me of every single time that I had failed in my fitness endeavors up until that point…This person would even frequently point out other women that were my size and tell me how “dumpy” they looked (passive aggressive put downs are still put downs) it broke me down to the point that I absolutely LOATHED myself.
The mental abuse was actually so bad and so toxic that any time I asked this person “does this outfit make me look fat”… they would tell me “YES!” and laugh at me… I was beyond humiliated on a regular basis for a fair-sized chunk of my life (which triggered ALOT of binge eating because my self esteem was nonexistent and I literally felt like I was the ugliest woman on the planet) and it actually wasn’t until this person was finally legally gagged (on probation for crimes they had committed against me) that about a year after I was no longer being put down, screamed at, and emotionally abused… a lightbulb blinked in my head…
I finally realized that if about 90% of the things that this person said in general were works of pure fiction (whoppers of lies)…that there was a very good chance that all of the stuff they had said about me, and to me, was false too… and I was finally set free from that emotional torment because I no longer placed any value whatsoever in the things that person said.
I had to completely shut out all the negative crap I had been force-fed for so long, and look within myself, and know without a doubt that I could do it. I could reach my fitness goals because as far as any other aspect of my life were concerned… if I set my mind to something, there was no stopping me or holding me back. I just had to attack fitness with the same attitude that I had with any other hard thing in my life that I had accomplished.
The same should go for you! It’s hard enough to tell yourself that you can reach your goals, even without someone else telling you that you can’t do it. If you have anyone in your life that is putting you down, and telling you you can’t reach your goals…remember that that person is toxic and you will most likely be better off without them (or at least holding them at arms length). I am here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT!…but you have to start believing in yourself because no one else can do that part for you, but YOU!
Another type of mental detoxing that you should think about is to stop telling yourself “I want to lose X amount of pounds, by X day/date”… telling ourselves that we are only going to make healthy choices until a certain day (such as a wedding or other event that you want to look good for), is so toxic and it can actually set you up for more failure… you see, you have to want to take care of yourself on a daily basis…not just when it’s convenient, or when you want to look good for something. We should want to feel healthy and look good all of the time.
Also, I am totally guilty of this one… but for years I used the excuse “I have had four babies”…as a reason that I was fat and that I couldn’t get thin… which I now know was just a cop-out… I wasn’t willing to take the responsibility for my eating choices or lack of physical activity (obviously after I escaped the abuse and finished up therapy).
I had to completely shift my thinking and stop telling myself that I couldn’t do it for whatever reason. I mean think about it. If Michelle Duggar (the mom from 19 kids and counting) used that logic…she would weigh like a thousand pounds by now… but she clearly doesn’t use child birth as an excuse not to make an effort to take care of her body.
We just have to put away the excuses and figure out what little changes we need to make to succeed…and those answers are different for everyone.
I actually accidentally started fitness journaling.
That may sound a little crazy, but it’s totally true. When I set out to “finally figure out how to get fit” (because there was no stopping me this time…I was done being bullied and passed over for women that were more fit)…I basically just wracked my brain for every healthy habit that I had ever tried that was easy enough that I felt like I could do it every single day, and I started to do those things each day (which is what I suggest you do too…figure out what easy healthy changes work for you on an individual basis).
The problem with having several little goals that you’re trying to hit, you need some way to keep track of them. I started out just with a blank sheet of paper and I would write down my daily goals and after a while I would have a big pile of papers on the counter… it became a bit of a mess…so I decided it would be smart to invest in a nice notebook to keep track of everything… and so it began.
This little book of mine has become a great booster of self esteem and confidence. You see, when you set little goals, and check those off… it soon starts to become easier to believe that you can achieve your daily goals because you have written proof from prior days that you could do it… and of course, dorky ‘ol me with a vivid imagination likes to visualize that each day that I make some progress that that progress manifests itself on my body as “one less butt dimple” and now that I have hundreds of pages of success…that is a lot less butt dimples! Which definitely has made me more confident(insert goofy faced emoji here…lol).
Why should I start a fitness journal?
You may be shocked to hear that I actually blame the great depression, and the chain reaction that followed, for the majority of America’s current obesity epidemic. You see…back in the olden days, after the great depression hit, it left countless people in survival mode.
Many people started hoarding. Everything from old newspapers to random nonfunctioning appliances all started piling up everywhere in peoples homes and yards, and absolutely nothing went to waste… but there was also a panicked eating mindset that developed.
This mindset of “not knowing when your next meal was coming so you better eat every single crumb while there is food” started, so people began teaching their children to clear their plates (whether they were hungry or not)…essentially hoarding food (and storing it on our bodies).
I feel like this survival mindset essentially broke the switch that is instinctively inside us that tells us when we are full, that we don’t need to keep eating…the thing we all have hard wired into our bodies to naturally regulate our weight.
So here we are, a hundred-ish years later, after many generations of people that were taught to clear our plates, even though there has been a consistent abundance of food in this country for a very long time…and instead of listening to what our bodies actually need…our eating, and portion sizes, have become completely out of control.
Couple that with everything being overly processed for convenience, or being able to have fast food delivered, and we have become a people that is nearly completely fitness illiterate and that is absolutely alarming when you think about it.
I have found that the only way to rewire my brain from overeating and to develop a healthy relationship with food was to start keeping track of my calorie intake (this after getting my food binging emotional issues resolved, and learning how to understand fitness in general)…
I know, I know…counting calories… insert groans (and barf emoji) here… I felt the same way! I promise you… but I also promise that it really only takes you a couple of months to rewire your brain, develop some habits, and start listening to your body to truly get a firm grasp on how much you should be eating (& what portions sizes are appropriate for your body), and if you’re anything like me… I’m such a creature of habit that I eat mostly the same things much of the time, so I now know exactly how much “energy” or calories I am consuming without really giving it a second thought.
I like to imagine that when I’m fitness journaling I am basically taking care of a machine (my body)…and if I give that machine what it needs to run properly (through diet, exercise, supplements, and water), I am happier, my body feels better, and I rarely struggle with depression and anxiety the way that I used to.
Now I want you to imagine that your body is a car. In real life, when your actual car’s fuel tank is getting low there are indicators that tell you that fuel is running low within the car, and there is even a feature built in at the pump that does not allow you to overfill your tank …you give your car what it needs to run properly and you go about your business.
Our bodies are giving us similar indicators about the fuel (calories) we need… such as feeling weak or our tummies grumbling when we need fuel… but many of us have a broken indicator that tells us how much fuel is too much… don’t get me wrong, our tummies kinda hurt when we eat too much, but most American’s just blaze past that indicator and keep going until we feel like total garbage.
I feel like it’s important to start fitness journaling, because when we have been eating too much for so long, we are kinda clueless as to how much is an appropriate amount of fuel that we should be eating. Writing it all down, and filling our fuel tanks to an appropriate amount will naturally rewire our brains, and it will also fix that broken indicator that tells us when our tank is full.
Journaling teaches you balance as you start to make yourself, and your health, a priority. In my opinion, it is also one of the finest ways to consistently develop those healthy habits.
The best part about it is that there is NO WRONG WAY to fitness journal. It’s completely up to you to decide how you want to do it. What goals are right for you, and how you want to accomplish them are entirely in your own hands.
How to start fitness journaling:
Each morning, before the day starts to get out of hand, I pause what I’m doing and I think about my day. Every day is different, so some days my fitness goals are different too.
When I think about my day, this is my mental preparation, essentially I am planning how I will be able to space out my exercise and eating…because when I have a plan, I am setting myself up for success.
For example, if it’s a regular ‘ol day working at home… I plan out how many steps I need to get, and how many calories I need to eat in order to create a calorie deficit (I went over this in my other post “How to understand fitness in general“).
However, on a different day, I may have a party in the evening…or a date…that I need to make sure I reserve enough space in my daily calories so that I don’t go over when I’m enjoying the evening (keep in mind that sometimes there is actually a lot of peer/familial pressure to eat a certain way or certain amounts, but when you have a plan you are much more likely to resist those temptations).
Also, if I know that I’m going out to dinner…I make sure to ask where we’re going so that I can look online at that restaurants menu and plan ahead what I am going to order, and how many calories it will be.
I make a plan to succeed and then I try my hardest to follow through… yes, some days I make it all the way until 7pm with fitness journaling perfection…and then stress and anxiety creep in and I fall on my face and overeat…so, I take a step back and think about what was causing that level of anxiety that would trigger me turning to food for comfort…and I do my best to solve the problem…whether it’s avoiding certain people or certain situations… I allow myself to feel the way that I do, take a break from whatever it is and basically get my footing/whits back about myself.
True fitness is about reshaping your thoughts first, planning ahead for success, being patient and loving with yourself, and the changes in your body will soon follow… if you decide that you love yourself enough to even try to hit your goals that is.
So, plan your day ahead to succeed… be gentle with yourself, and keep picking yourself back up… that is the best way to start journaling.
I will be breaking down all of the things that I keep track of in my journal, later in this fitness series, so make sure to watch for those future posts in my fitness section as well.
Are fitness journals worth the effort?
I’m sure that many of you are wondering how many pounds I lost within the pages of my first fitness journal…and the answer is around 60 pounds… I am just about done with my second fitness journal, and when I have it finished I will only have made about another 15-ish pounds of weight loss… but you see, I’m going slowly now because I’m actually at a low enough body fat percentage that, from a health standpoint, I don’t need to lose any more weight… I am slowly just making progress towards my dream body (which is about the size Christina Aguilera was in the movie Burlesque) and I am getting very close…yipee!
I will continue to fitness journal because it makes me feel good, it brings me peace of mind, and it makes me feel like I actually have control over one thing of my life.
Not to sound sacriligious… but I consider my fitness journal my fitness and self esteem Bible…It keeps me grounded…it keeps me sane. It breaks my goals down into tiny daily chunks so that I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT I CAN SUCCEED at anything that I set my mind to…and it also reminds me that taking care of my body is a choice that I make each and every day.
I focus on that one page, and I am proving to myself that I am worth the effort, I love myself enough to make my health a priority, and that I am enough!
YOU are enough too!
Take it a page/day at a time… set some simple goals, and be consistent… and eventually you will find that your fitness dreams will come true too.
What is the best notebook for a fitness journal?
Frankly, the best notebook to use for a fitness journal just depends on what all you are keeping track of. I keep track of my calorie, protein, vitamin, and water intake… as well as do my math for creating a calorie deficit. I also write down whether or not I hit my step goal for the day and if I hit my goal for intermittent fasting.
All of the things that I keep track of and why, will be covered later in this fitness series…but for now I just wanted to give you an example of what all I write about so that you would know what will fit on a page when I suggest my favorite kind of journal.
I find that a good hard-bound, medium-sized journaling notebook is the way to go so that it’s big enough to hold all the information I need to write about, but also not so big that I can’t just easily stick it in my purse. This is the one that I use and am actually sticking one in my my Amazon shopping cart right now as I’m getting ready to start my third journal!!!
That’s really all I had to share with you today about fitness journaling… but if my fitness series gains enough traction (views/shares) I may go into it a little further and actually show you how I break everything down and what not.
Anyway, thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for joining me in sharing this piece of my fitness puzzle. If you found it, or any other part of my fitness series helpful, please make sure to share this post via social media or even forward the direct link to whomever would love it too. Thanks again! ~Sarah
Here are direct links of the other posts in my fitness series:
Step 2: How to understand fitness in general:
For those of you that would like another option of a “pinnable image” for Pinterest, here you go. Thanks again so much for the support!
*Remember, I am no Dr or health specialist of any kind…I’m just a woman that has struggled with my relationship with food for a great many years and has finally figured it out. I may share pieces of my journey, but it is up to you (and possibly your health care provider) to know exactly what is right for you in your personal situation.
*Also, this post was originally published on this website on 11/18/2021 and will be updated as needed to remain current, and improve user experience.