Joel Peterson, Personal Trainer

Record Keeping: The Most Important Step in Weight Management

Joel Peterson – Level 5 Personal Trainer Apple Athletic Club

During the last several weeks we have been exploring the proven mechanics of weight loss and weight maintenance. If you have missed the last four issues please go back to Is your scale making you crazy? and bring yourself up to date. This week in our last installment we are going to explore in more detail the most important aspect of weight management: Record keeping. I have worked with hundreds of people trying to lose weight and believe me, those who keep records had spectacular results. Those who did not struggled until most gave up. When your head hits the pillow tonight do you know for certain if you lost weight, gained weight or stayed the same? If you can’t answer that question, you will almost certainly be gaining weight. Empower yourself! Know for certain!

Record Keeping. As cited in last week’s article and you still might be surprised to learn that people without a history of dieting underestimate their food intake by about 20%, while dieters underestimate it by 40 to 50%, or more. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that research shows that people who keep food and activity records are more successful at changing eating patterns, maintaining exercise habits, and successfully managing their weight.


Record keeping

This week we will show you how to accurately track calories and energy expenditure to insure your weight loss goals are met. It’s simple physics folks. You do your part and physics does the rest.

First, let’s review and understand the basic premise. A calorie is simply a unit of energy we take in by eating food. In a nutshell, if your take in more calories than you burn your body will store it as fat. If you take in less calories than you burn your body will use the fat storage for energy. So, that being true, to lose body fat we must make sure that we are burning more than we take in by our diet. How do we do this? RECORD KEEPING. This may seem cumbersome and time consuming but it’s not as difficult as you may think. How many times do you have to look up an egg or carrot before you know its caloric content? Let’s take a look at the mechanics involved.


  1. Get a calorie guide to common foods. You can also go online to find this information.
  2. Use a tracking form. You can make your own. Use a binder to keep them together. Have one column with the date, one with your BMR, one showing your daily caloric intake, one showing your energy expenditure and one for your end day caloric deficit (or overage). The example below will explain how to calculate this.
  3. Find your Basal Metabolism Rate, or BMR. You can do this by going to a Health Club such as the Apple Athletic Club and request a metabolic analysis. This will cost about $50 but is very accurate. You will know how many calories you burn in a day in mostly a resting state. If you believe you have a normal metabolism you can use the following formula to determine your calorie expenditure. Man: 12 calories per pound of body weight. Woman: 11 calories per pound of body weight. Example: Man who weighs 200 pounds will burn 2400 calories a day at rest. Woman who weighs 200 pounds will burn 2200 calories a day at rest. This means that during a normal day with no physical exertion these calories will keep your weight at status quo. No gain – no loss.
  4. Get a Calories Burning Guide showing how many calories are burned in various activities. Again, you can find them online for free. Example: One hour of shoveling snow = 500 calories. Thirty minutes aerobic exercise = 340 calories.

Now you are ready to empower yourself to know absolutely that you are losing body fat.

Here is an example of a 200 pound man using this system: Remember his basal metabolism is 2400 calories.

Monday: Calories consumed: 1900. (deficit of 500 calories from BMR of 2400 calories)
Calories burned: 2400 BMR + 300 exercise + 200 cleaning garage = 2900.
LESS BMR: 2400
EQUALS: -500 calories
PLUS DEFICIT FROM BMR: -500 calories

Now, using the above example, if that person did the same for seven days, he would have a weekly deficit of 7000 calories. One pound of fat is 3500 calories. Therefore this person will have lost two pounds of body fat that week. No guess work.

NOTE: The opposite is true for those of you who are looking to gain weight. An overage will be added in weight gain. Caution: if you are gaining weight be sure to do weight bearing exercises to insure you are gaining muscle and not fat.

When I was doing this I kept my daily food log on scratch paper just to keep track of accumulating calories. I wasn’t as concerned about what I was eating as how many calories I was ingesting. We do want to eat healthy and we have many previous posts helping you along this route, but for now let’s just concentrate on weight loss. One thing at a time.

Don’t get crazy over the scale. If your records show you should have lost two pounds and your scale doesn’t agree the scale owes you two pounds. Probable water weight, etc. If your records are accurate the scale will tell the tale the next week.

Make sure you watch portions on caloric counting. If the guide shows 100 calories for a six ounce glass of orange juice and you pour twelve be sure to track 200 calories.

Don’t look for perfection your first couple of weeks. You’re learning the skills. Be patient. If you do these things correctly you will have the results you want that have eluded you for a long time.

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