keeping a food diary is the best way to keep track of your calorie intake

Well I’m fresh off a health coaching session with one of my clients and I’m feeling like sharing some grade-A advice with you guys! This client has been struggling with losing the infamous and dreaded last 10 pounds. (Oh that pesky last 10!) I reviewed all the in’s and out’s of her routine including exercise and eating. In order for me to get a truly accurate picture of what may be holding up her progress, I asked her to start recording her food diary once again.

With this in mind, I always ask my clients to keep a food diary (especially at the beginning). It doesn’t have to be an old fashioned diary with a lock and key, it can be an online resource like or (both sites also have apps for your smart phone.) Both of these apps and sites are really great and they allow me access so I can log in and see just exactly what’s going on! This tool is great for beginners who need their diet cleaned up by me just when things are getting started AND for people like the client I mentioned who potentially has something hiding in the shadows.

Even if you’re going at this without me as your personal health coach (it’s ok, I’m not offended…well maybe just a little) keeping a food diary is the best way to keep track of your calorie intake. It just may surprise you how much or how little you are actually eating. I urge you to keep a detailed running tally. You can create a free account and start tracking today!

For my upcoming book (Lose Weight, Find Yourself! 6 Steps to Having a Healthy Relationship with Food…Bite by Bite and Pound by Pound.) I teamed up with a well-known and trusted nutritionist named Dr. Lorraine Mongiello, DrPH, RD, CDE, BC-ADM. In my book, Dr. Lorraine and I cover many topics including hidden calories lurking in common foods that can cause you problems.

Monitor your calories in, subtract your calories out, and keep a close eye on your diet. See below for an easy to use calculation to figure out your daily calorie requirements:

The number of calories you need daily is based primarily on your current weight, your activity, and your age. You will need to have a calorie goal, which should be the level at which you lose one to two pounds each week. Estimating the amount of calories you require to lose weight is relatively simple. Just follow the steps below:

  •  Step 1: Divide your weight by 2.2 to determine your weight in kilograms.
  •  Step 2: Pick you activity factor from the chart below.
  •  Step 3: Multiply your weight in kilograms (step 1) by your activity factor.
  •  Step 4: Subtract 100 for every 10 years above the age of 30.
  •  Step 5: Subtract 500 from step 4 for weight loss.


Activity Level Description Activity Factor 
No Activity Minimal movement, mainly sitting/lying down. Activities include: watching television, reading, and computer work. 20
Light Activity Office work, sitting. Activities include: walking slowly, laundry, golf, and house cleaning. 25
Moderate Activity Light manual labor. Activities include: walking, carrying a load, cycling, tennis, dancing, and gardening. 30
Heavy Activity Full-time athletes, agricultural laborers, active military duty personnel, and hard laborers. Activities include: walking with a load or uphill, sports, climbing, or rowing. 35
Exceptional Activity Very active job such as heavy-construction workers, coal miners, lumberjacks, and athletes with daily strenuous training. 40


A 51-year-old woman who is sedentary and weighs 190 pounds would need to decrease her calories to 1,450 in order to lose weight.

  •  Step 1: 190/2.2 = 86
  • Step 2: activity level is “light,” activity factor is 25
  • Step 3: 86 x 25 = 2,150
  • Step 4: 2,150 – 200 (21 years above age 30) = 1,950*
  • Step 5: 1,950 – 500 = 1,450

* This is the approximate number of calories required to maintain your current weight.

Now, put it to the test. Record your calorie intake at each meal and snack. At the end of two weeks, see how much weight you have lost and then adjust your calories accordingly. If you have met your calorie goal, but did not lose the expected weight, you will likely need to decrease your calories further or increase your exercise. Dr. Lorraine and I do not advise dropping calories below 1,200 per day as it is very difficult to get all essential nutrients in so little food. It is important to have a medical physical and check with your health care provider before making significant changes. It’s also great to have a benchmark so you can see how your health improves as you lose weight.

Check back to my previous blog entry titled “The PA will see you now” for information about visiting your healthcare professional prior to starting your diet, and what routine blood work that I suggest you receive.

You’re awesome and I believe in you!

Lose Weight, Find Yourself™