How to Record Diet & Exercise for Healthy Habits

When you see people take photos of their meals or post about their workouts, they might be on to something – not a vain something, but a healthy one.

Why to record food and activity

Studies show writing down what you eat will likely help you make healthier eating choices. The act of recording it makes you take a couple minutes to reflect on your choices and feel accountable for them. It also helps put different foods you eat in perspective – maybe you tend to binge on a healthy food like nuts but didn’t realize how that added up nutritionally.

“Hands down, those that record their food intake in detail are far more successful than those who don’t. It shows a level of commitment, mindfulness, reflection, and honesty.” – Stephanie Middleberg, R.D.

Recording exercise can have the same benefits of considering choices more carefully and feeling more accountable. It will remind you tomorrow and the next day if today you skip your workout. It is also full of non-weight victories for a more balanced measure of success – maybe you were able to complete more reps or had better posture in a challenging exercise.

Exercise FormDiet and exercise logs also help you review where you may have gone off track. Maybe you tried to ramp up your exercise too quickly in one week and the next week you started eating less nutrient comfort food. You may blame it on your willpower, but you may have been burning yourself out and taking pleasure out of activity that you sought more pleasure in food.

Since it takes time to see effects in your body, it can be tempting to sneak an extra sugary treat or hide a skipped workout. But we know that long-term health is based on daily decisions – so breaking down achievements to the daily or weekly level is more effective than waiting to hold yourself accountable by the date you plan to reach your goal weight.

How to improve your health with photos and videos

Like many chronic dieters, I have a long history with tracking my food. Most of the time I end up back with MyFitnessPal. As far as food journals go, it is one of the quickest and most detailed. The concern there, though, is how obsessive calorie counting can become. That anxiety can take away from other healthy behaviours and trigger binge eating, giving up on exercise, and yo-yo dieting.

To avoid obsession, you may consider a less meticulous way of recording. For example, you might just take photos of your meals but not calculate the amounts of different foods and their nutritional profiles. It’s quicker and forces you to pause before eating, rather than remembering what you ate after the fact. Not only that, but research shows photographing food can make it taste better: due to ritual, anticipation, or just making healthy eating look more appealing.

“When you only have one data point for a pizza or donut, it’s easy to rationalise that away as a special occasion. But when you see a whole tiled grid of them, you have to say to yourself, ‘Wait, I don’t actually have that many special days.'” – Sean Munson, research author, University of Washington

Sharing the photos on social media with hashtags like #FoodDiary or #FoodJournal can add an extra level of accountability and social support. It will require diligence at first and during more challenging times to keep honest, so you will need to remind yourself of why you are improving your health and how this behaviour is helping you. Sharing goals and progress can help motivate you to achieve those goals.

Screenshot_InstaSimilarly, you may video record your home workouts instead of tracking length, speed, weight. Just hit record and go. You can also review for proper form and consistent technique to adjust for better performance next time. Recording your strength, flexibility, stamina, what your body can do is a more positive and more useful record than taking a photo or writing down some numbers.

Again, the caution is overdoing it. Social media #fitspiration can suck you into obsessing over other people’s posts and comparing yourself. If you feel pressured to look perfect, you may hide how you are really doing or engage in unhealthy behaviours to look a certain way, both of which are contrary to the intention of keeping accountable for healthy behaviours. One tip is to follow diverse accounts with messages that make you feel good and align with your goals.

You can use your own social media accounts if you want to share your records, or create new accounts on platforms you like. There are also apps designed for this, like See How You Eat or MealLogger.

In conclusion

Recording what you eat and how much you exercise helps you put things in perspective. You can look back on why you started and how far you’ve come. You look for what seems to work the best for you and adjust for a more sustainable, healthier approach long-term.

Overall, research and experience shows the best way to be healthy is find healthy behaviours you enjoy. There will be times you have to push yourself, but recording diet and exercise will only help if it makes you feel good. Increased anxiety or tendency toward eating disorder are signs this is not the technique for you.

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Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Strength and Stretch Exercises

Like many people who sit a whole lot, I have an anterior pelvic tilt: my lower back arches so much it’s stiff and pained no matter how much I try to “draw-in” the abdominal wall. anterior-pelvic-tilt-anatomyBasically, my paraspinal muscles are likely too short and stiff while my rectus abdominis is too long and weak. I’ve been stretching tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors, but apparently those may be symptoms of this tilt and not its cause. Even strengthening abs and glutes can backfire if my body is used to relying on my lower back and hip flexors to execute those movements.

In order to correct this biomechanical imbalance, I need to strengthen my abs, glutes, and hamstrings, plus stretch hip flexors. The key is to avoid relying on the hip flexors when strengthening the upper and the lower abdomen; and separately, stretch the hip flexors while strengthening the glutes.

Sample Workout

  1. High knee march warm-up
  2. Planks while tucking glutes in
  3. Side planks, optionally with one leg raised
  4. Stand holding ball at chest and rotate the trunk in each direction
  5. Modified sprinter lunge
  6. Bridge or single leg hip thrust
  7. Child’s pose

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How Not to Die By Dr. Greger – Plant-based nutrition book summary

I have long been a fan of NutritionFacts.org. Funded only by donations from individual visitors, Dr. Michael Greger and his team read every English-language journal article on nutrition every year and share their critical analysis free of charge. When it can feel like everyone is trying to manipulate and profit off of others, sources like these stand out as much more credible to me.

After a long wait from the library, I have finally read Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die. Again, all proceeds go directly to fund his free educational website – he takes no compensation. For most books I discuss on here, I provide a comprehensive summary of the key takeaways as I see them. For this one, though, you can just go directly to NutritionFacts.org and search for any and all the information that interests you. If you’d still prefer a summary, check out the one done by Chewfo or the video published by Dr. Greger himself.

Instead, I’d like to share with you the little notes I took for myself to give you an idea of what the book offers.


First up, probably the most controversial: a whole foods, plant-based diet recommendation. This blog demonstrates how open I am to considering all different ways of eating and I still believe that there is no one right way – not only because we are individuals with different needs and different reactions to foods, but also because a good diet I can incorporate into my life is heaps better than a great diet I can’t keep up. All that said, this book devotes the first half to explaining exactly why a whole foods, plant-based diet is best for optimal health and avoiding the 15 leading causes of death.

One of those causes is depression. I’m aware that with the exception of the most severely depressed, anti-depressant medication has not been proven to be more effective than the placebo effect. If capable of exercise, 30 minutes of walking is at least as effective as those drugs without the negative side effects. And interestingly, certain foods are naturally beneficial for mood-enhancing neurotransmitters: apples, grapes, onions, green tea, cinnamon, and sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.

Plus, an intriguing theory was presented: since consuming a lot of manufactured highly-palatable foods can make a person less sensitive to the dopamine it continually spikes, which often leads people to overeat those foods trying to reach the original “high,” some people then find it harder to achieve their usual “reward” feelings from other sources in their lives – this can lead to the common symptoms of low motivation and reduced interest towards things enjoyed before depression. By eating mainly whole foods, not only will you soon better appreciate their tastes but you can also better appreciate the joys of life.

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Weight Science from Linda Bacon’s Body Respect – HAES Book Summary

We are constantly warned about the dangers of obesity and urged to manage our weight. These messages come from all directions, including authorities we trust and peers who judge us. But consider for a moment that our accepted assumptions may not represent fully what we know from scientific evidence.

To begin with, the following facts are from Body Respect by Linda Bacon, and you can confirm them in the peer-reviewed article at http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

  • People who are categorized as overweight or moderately obese have shown time and time again to live as long as or longer than people with weight in the normal category (confirmed even by the CDC)
  • BMI standards were written by the pharmaceutical industry to increase weight loss drug profits, ignoring that health decrement hasn’t shown to occur until a BMI of 40 (they funded the international obesity task force that determined the WHO’s standards and therefore the U.S. standards)
  • Larger people are more likely to develop several diseases but fatness is not the cause – there are many confounding factors like fitness, stress from discrimination, and inflammation from calorie-restriction dieting and weight cycling – “blaming fatness for heart disease is a lot like blaming yellow teeth for lung cancer”
  • “There has never been a research study that has demonstrated long-term maintenance of weight loss from lifestyle change for any but a small minority” – the rare person who does maintain weight loss is as lucky as the smoker who lives to be ninety
  • Health can improve when diet and/or exercise improve – not as a result of weight loss – yet at the same time, health behaviours account for less than 1/4 of differences in health outcomes, while social differences (i.e. poverty and discrimination) are the main determinants (again confirmed by the CDC)

If you’re like me, you’re probably tempted to object to the above sample of facts because we fear fat so strongly. However, ignorance has hurt us through lifetime yo-yo dieting, obsession with food and body, disordered eating, weight discrimination, and even poor health, the very thing we think we’re helping by stigmatizing fatness.

Honestly, though… even if I can be healthy at my current weight, I still deep down really want to look the way I did when I was slimmer. In the past I was able to lose weight by manipulating calories – if only I’d just tried harder and longer! Mind you, I’m still stuck with these feelings years after I learned exactly why the belief that I can just force a caloric deficit long-term is, well, unfounded. So let’s forgive each other for not being without bias and just open ourselves up a little more to the possibility that there may be a better way than constantly forcing an attempt to lose weight.

Weight-Loss

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Entitlement for Progress? Ask Gen Y HR

At this year’s Canada’s Top 100 Employers summit, one of the speakers made a comment that stuck with me in the weeks since. A senior executive, laughing like we’re all think the same thing, stated how “interesting” it is that Gen Y employees expect their employers to take some responsibility for their health and well-being – and yet they’re the generation known for not staying long in one place! He all but said the word I hear all too often regarding my generation: entitled.

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