I usually have them write down everything they eat for about a week. I do this in the beginning and a couple of months later to see how many calories they’re taking in on average and whether any changes need to be made. If I see a pattern or weakness, I assess and offer suggestions. This keeps an open line of communication and doesn’t make the client feel stuck with a finite plan that they don’t want. It can be very eye-opening for a client and change their habits entirely.
If your clients are looking for weight loss or weight gain, I would recommend using a food log for long term. Most people underestimate the amount of calories they eat daily. Losing or gaining weight is directly related to calories in VS calories out. I like to go over food logs at least once a week with my clients. The food logs are a great way to keep your clients motivated to eat healthier.
That definitely depends on the goals of the client. As has been stated here, if weight loss is a goal, I definitely provide my client with a food log that’s in a user-friendly format because I know what a hassle it can be for most people to keep a food log. It’s difficult sometimes to get clients to understand that the research shows that people who keep food logs lose more weight on average and keep it off. I’ve found that most of the time, people will look at what their eating and if they’re sensible, they can look back and say… whoa… I’ve been eating terribly/well/whatever.
Sometimes you have to know when to cut your losses and try a different approach because some people just will NOT fill out a food log no matter how important or relevant you make it appear.
I have yet to have a client that didn’t completely fill out at least one food log within the first two weeks, which is a good track record in my opinion. Even if I only have one week to go off of, it’s usually enough to make a pretty good judgement about eating habits.
Most clients I will have keep one for only a week or two. Others may have to keep one for years. The client will help you to dictate this based on their results AND their questions. A good food log can help trainers spot flaws in diet, but only if the client is honest. A weeks worth of honesty isn’t hard; however, twelve weeks has led to some absent food entries time and time again. Its supposed to be a tool, not a punishment. Ask your client their thoughts along the way when having them keep one.