As trainers, we know that our clients must improve their diet in order to reach their fitness goals. Cataloging food is one of the most powerful tools that we have for an effective transformation.
But in my experience, it is very challenging for clients to consistently record their food intake. Most people are generally willing to recall what they’ve eaten recently while they’re in a session with me, but it doesn’t seem to happen consistently between sessions.
I am really curious what works for other trainers. Please comment on this post with the food log method you have found most successful. Below, I have outlined the TOP 4 FOOD LOGGING METHODS I have tried with my clients:
TOOLS FOR CREATING A FOOD LOG HABIT
1 – “My Fitness Pal”– Many trainers use this app for clients to share their virtual food log. You enter your weight and your weightloss goal, and the app gives you a daily calorie quota. You manually input your food, and the app lets you know how many calories you have left for the day. I personally find this narrow-minded focus on calories to be off-putting and conducive to continued compulsive behavior around eating. I would love to hear some feedback about the experience you have had with this app and your clients in the comments.
2 – “Google Drive” – This is the method I use most often with my clients. I made a food/mood spreadsheet that asks clients to record what they ate and how they felt throughout the day. It is essentially a shared excel spreadsheet, so I have real-time access to the data and complete control over what questions I ask. This way I can always see what’s happening with my client’s food, but discourage obsessing over calories and weight. However, the interface is ugly and it is inconvenient to use on a mobile device.
3 – “Notes app”- The notepad app is provided on most smartphones. When I do my own personal food logging, I find this method to be the most convenient. The drawbacks are that there are no metrics or analysis available and a client’s entries are not automatically shared with the trainer.
4 – “Pen and paper” – Many of my clients have had success with this method. They just carry around a dedicated notebook and write their food down. It’s simple and the notebook provides a visual cue to stop and record the food. However, with this method, it is very challenging for the client to share the food log with the trainer between sessions.
I’m sure there are many other methods, and other apps out there. Fellow Fitness Pros – I am really curious to hear back from you!
What food logging method do you suggest?
What actually works for you?
Please comment below so we can all learn from each other.
I have them keep a 3 day food log. (pen to paper) In the past I would create a few different menus for them and suggest eating foods that have less than 2 ingredients. I also refer them to a dietician that works for me if necessary and depending on their goals.
Thanks Marlene! Do you have them send you the food log as they go, or just bring it in to the next session?
I recommend My Fitness Pal for food logging and ask them to begin by logging just 3-4 days a week, one of those days being a weekend day.
My clients receive a questionnaire from me that I ask them to do for seven days and it includes more than just food. I want to know sleeping patterns, why they ate, how they felt before they started eating and on a scale of 1-10 how hungry they were. Why did they chose the particular food. How was the food and how did they feel afterwards and how satisfied they were on a scale of 1-10. The client decides whatever form is convenient for them to keep track. They can deliver daily or all seven days together.
In my experience clients that are reluctant to do this do either not understand the importance of food intake towards their goal or feel uncomfortable or being judged by what they eat. In addition, I think there is the concern that the trainer will tell them they can’t have their favorite food anymore.
Evernote might be a good option as you can share a note with another person and is easily accessible.
As someone who goes on and off the wagon with food journaling myself, I love MyFitnessPal for metrics but I have to give it up at times to adjust for how I’m feeling and what’s going on.
This is a great debate for sure! I feel like most logging systems are loaded with too many options in the database but a vast database is needed for accurate logging.
However I may not be the best person for advice on this topic. For about 2 years now, I’ve decided to devote and specify my practice to movement and let the experts handle nutrition.
What I have found somewhat helpful is to have your client take baby steps. It’s not about what they eat, but about what they should not be eating.
I usually start with a 6 month process and start with a small change in their diet. We all know the big culprit is SUGAR!!! It is in everything.
So start with 10 days of no sweeteners, soda, coffee sweeteners, etc. If they can’t go 10 days, they start over until one little step is accomplishes. Once they tackle that, go on to another vice. you want them to eventually rid the sugar from their diet.
All foods containing sugar will raise their blood sugar level and only wanting their bodies to crave more. They will see changes, especially in energy level and belly fat. That will hopefully keep them going.
I agree with the pen & paper model. Ultimately, it’s up to the client. If they care about themselves, they’ll do it . . . and if they don’t care, then they won’t. I use some healthy guilt. Change is up to them, and how much effort they put into it. I can give them the tools, but if they have little self-motivation to change, then the training becomes a short-term band-aid and not a long-term investment.