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Make 2017 the Year of You

I really dislike any iteration of the concept that anyone should lose weight or exercise to become a "whole new" person. If I gained weight or adopted unhealthy habits I would never want to be a "whole new me." I like me. Instead I would work to become a version of me who loves myself enough to exercise and consume healthy food.

This year instead of hoping to be a "whole new you," decide to become a version of yourself who exercises and eats well. You are enough. You are worthy. Your body is not a garbage can, so don't put garbage food into it. Your health is important, so prioritize daily movement.

To do this, make sure to make fitness goals not fitness wishes. Instead of saying "I will get fit" - which is more of a wish - figure out your exact goals, as well as the when, where and how you will actually follow through. Basically, come up with a detailed plan.

One way to follow through on the goal of improved eating is through keeping a food journal.

There is often a disconnect between the health choices we think we are making and the choices we actually make. We don't consciously quantify how many times we hit snooze on our alarm, watch TV instead of working out, or indulge in a treat. We delude ourselves into thinking these types of choices are exceptions, when they are often more normal than we want to admit.

A journal can help to highlight these disconnects; recording nutrition data can foster a degree of nutritional mindfulness and provide useful data.

The Basic Journal

Record food choices and portions, as well as alcohol and water consumption. There are many apps and weight-loss programs that offer food-tracking options. Or be old fashioned and simply write everything down.

The problem is that too often when one journals or uses a weight-loss app one is primarily concerned with tracking calories.

Our eating habits are inextricably linked to our emotions, our lifestyle and habits, and our childhood eating patterns. Until you tackle your emotional connection to food, focusing on your food choices is relatively useless. You can stress-eat or binge-eat out of loneliness on any diet – lots of people overeat gluten-free cake and paleo treats. If you don't become aware of the what, why and how of your eating patterns, your personal food habits will simply follow you from nutrition program to program.

Do you eat when you are sad, angry, bored, tired, thirsty or uncomfortable? Are you a social eater or a closet eater? Only when you know your habits and your triggers can you can work to establish a detailed and tailored plan of attack.

Here are two iterations on the basic journal that can help you figure out the "WWH" of eating: Why you eat, when you eat, as well as how much and how you eat.

The 'X vs. O' Journal

Draw five circles on each page of a journal. Each page represents one day, and the five circles represent three meals and two snacks. After every meal ask yourself, "Did I stop eating when I was full and did I generally make healthy choices?" If the answer is yes, you don't have to write down what you ate; simply put an X through the circle.

If you made food choices that you were not happy with, write down what you ate, as well as how and why you ate the food. Were you tired or depressed? Did you grab food mindlessly off your co-worker's desk or eat as you cooked?

At the end of one week, look over your food journal. Hopefully, your week will be full of Xs. If not, figure out when and why you made your unhealthy choices. Decide how you can make better choices next time.

The 'Hunger vs. Want' Journal

Write down what you ate, but also note your hunger and degree of fullness before and after each meal. Write down if you ate when you were ravenous, hungry, full or stuffed, and if you stopped eating when you were pleasantly satisfied, full or stuffed. Use this data to learn in what situations you overeat. Do you mostly eat because you are hungry (a biological need)? Or do you eat when you are still full because you "want" food? Wanting food is more of an emotional response to food.

Remember, the point of keeping a journal is not simply to get the data, but to actually use it. Analyze your journal and learn from it. For example, if you noted that you often eat when full, make your goal to stop eating before you are stuffed. If you realize you always eat before you feel hungry, aim to eat only when you are starting to feel peckish.