Weight Loss Program, Part 4: Changing Eating Behavior & Setting Goals - Activities

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

ACTIVITY 1: Keep a food diary

You're going to begin keeping a food diary as your first of two exercises for Part Four. You will track the amount of food you eat, your hunger level, your mood, and when and where you eat. You will also begin to analyze and record any patterns you see that are destructive eating behaviors. After you pinpoint some problems to work on based on your food diary findings, you will then go to Exercise 2 and begin to set some goals to correct the problem areas you identified.

Step 1 - Create or print a Food Diary Journal

You can keep your food diary in whatever form you'd like. You might wish to buy a journal or keep it on sheets of loose-leaf paper in a binder. You can also print the online food diary form at The Diet Channel.

Be sure your diary has columns for the following sections:

  • Food
  • Amount
  • Hunger
  • Mood
  • Location
  • Time

Also create a section to record your daily exercise and activity. In addition, leave extra space on the bottom or on the back to record any problems you notice and some goals to work on the next day.

Remember to evaluate your hunger by the following scale:

  • 0= Stuffed/uncomfortably full
  • 1=Comfortable
  • 2=Slight hunger
  • 3=Moderate hunger
  • 4=Significant hunger
  • 5=Famished

Step 2 - What are your biggest problem areas stopping your reach your goal?

After several days of keeping a diary, look at your diary and identify your biggest problem areas that keep you from reaching your goals. These problems are going to be very specific to you, but to get an idea of what to look for, you might note some of the following examples:

  • Skipping meals
  • Snacking too often between meals when you're not hungry
  • Eating unconsciously while you read or watch TV
  • Eating in response to moods or emotions - which moods and emotions?
  • Eating when you are still full from your last meal
  • Waiting until you are famished before you have a meal and then you overeat
  • Binging on certain foods when you can't eat "just one"
  • Drinking too little water
  • Falling short on your exercise goals this week
  • Eating too many sweet snacks and not enough nutritious snacks
  • Eating more around a certain friend than when you're alone or vice versa
  • Picking at food while you're cooking

Step 3 - Go to Exercise 2 and set some goals

After keeping a food diary for several days, you've likely pinpointed some of your biggest problem areas. Now, go to exercise two below and set some short-term goals to make lasting changes.

ACTIVITY 2: Setting long-term and short-term goals

You can begin setting some goals after you keep a food diary for at least five days, and you identify the major obstacles that keep you from achieving your long-term aspirations. Follow the "Steps to Establishing Diet, Exercise and Behavior Goals" in this week's lesson and answer the following questions:

Step 1 - List your long-term or outcome goals

Exercise -

Diet -


Step 2 - List the major problem areas that you identified in your food diary that keep you from achieving these goals











Step 3 - Choose 2-3 problem areas to begin focusing on

Now list some very specific, measurable and reasonable short-term goals that will help you to conquer each problem effectively.

Exercise problem(s):

Short-term goals:

Diet problem(s):

Short-term goals:

Behavior problem(s):

Short-term goals:

Step 4 - Remember to take it slowly, pace yourself, and expect less than perfection

Stick with your plan even if you slip up here and there. Behavior takes a long time to change, and you must relearn new behaviors over time.

Step 5 - Once you master one of your short-term goals, reward yourself - but not with food!

List some rewards you'd like that don't involve food:

If I accomplish this goal:

This is my reward:

If I accomplish this goal:

This is my reward:

If I accomplish this goal:

This is my reward:

See your lesson for steps 6 and 7. You will have to complete these steps over time. You cannot take these steps this week. Remember that eventually you will need to reevaluate how you are doing with each goal, and you might need to find a new direction or new solutions if things aren't going well. If however, you've mastered your initial short-term goals with effective solutions, then you need to set some new short-term goals and restart the process (more on this in Part 8).

For Further Reading:

  • Ivillage.com - "Dear Diary"
    Learn more about the importance of keeping a food diary and what it can tell you.

  • NHLBI – Guide to Behavior Change
    This article underscores how to set goals and change behaviors that will help you to lose and maintain weight.
  • Weightfocus.com – Setting Reasonable Weight Loss Goals
    This article contains information on setting realistic expectations, and goals for weight loss. It also discusses the consequences of setting unrealistic goals, and how to change false

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