What if the secret to weight loss was a pen and paper? According to experts, that might very well be the case. We’re not just talking about writing down just anything. Keeping a food journal is one of the simplest, easiest ways to learn more about your eating habits.
Also known as a food diary or log, a food journal is a record of your daily food intake. It’s one of the most common tools used by nutritionists, dietitians, and health coaches. In fact, if you meet one of these professionals, a food log will probably be on your to-do list. Yet, like all weight management methods, there’s a right way to do it. By learning how to properly create a food journal, you’ll have a better chance of reaching your goals.
Why Food Journaling Matters
A food log turns eating habits into words. This way, you can pinpoint good versus bad habits along with potential pockets of change. Learning about your progress is a great technique you need to master.
The Benefits Beyond Weight Loss
Even if you’re not trying to lose or manage weight, a food journal has many perks. You can find what meals make you tired or bloated. If certain factors trigger appetite, the log will show it. Think you have a new allergy or intolerance? Food journaling will help you find the culprit.
Of The Perfect Food Journal
Don’t just jot down meals and call it a day. In order to let a food diary work its magic, you need to record specific points. Here’s a breakdown of the basics.
Start with the time of day. This lets you compare food and its relationship with other factors, be it the timing of feelings or cravings. Duration can show a lot! It will also allow you to stick to a particular time to have your meals rather than eat at odd and inconsistent times. It will keep you accountable for that.
Track how much food or drink you consume. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you need to weigh every meal. Estimate each serving, such as 13 pretzel sticks or ¼ cup fruit. Remember that 3 ounces of cooked meat are about the size of a deck of cards. This is the easiest way to track your daily caloric intake – a key element for losing weight.
Whether it’s butter or ketchup, extras also include nutrients and calories, so they’re just as important. Include dressings or sauces that come with the actual meal. For example, was your egg salad made with mayonnaise or avocado? Be specific. This way you can track your calories for the day and cut down on certain condiments that are holding you back in terms of weight loss.
Write down where you eat the meal or snack. Were you in the car, office, or restaurant? If you were at home, was it on the sofa or dining room table? Recording location will show how surroundings influence food choices and portions.
Keep track of who you eat food with. Even if it’s alone, record that as well. You’ll be able to see how the company of others affects your habits, if at all.
Aside from snacking, what else were you doing? Maybe you were watching television or working on the computer. Studies show that distracted eating is linked to unhealthy choices, so it’s certainly worth noting.2
8. Physical Symptoms
Jot down how your body feels, even if it’s in between meals. Are you bloated or energetic? Sluggish or constipated? This is probably more important than the others if you’re trying to find out about a new allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity.
Example Food Journal Entry
- Time: 8 am
- Feeling: Sleepy and stressed!
- Servings: 1 cup black coffee, 1 granola bar, and ½ banana
- Condiments: None
- Location: In the car
- People: Alone
- Activity: Rushing to work
- Physical Symptoms: Grumbling stomach at 9 AM, constipated
All you need is a pen and paper. If you’re tech-savvy, download a food tracking app or create a document. You’d be surprised at how much words and lists can transform your health.
|↑1||Hollis, Jack F., Christina M. Gullion, Victor J. Stevens, Phillip J. Brantley, Lawrence J. Appel, Jamy D. Ard, Catherine M. Champagne et al. “Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial.” American journal of preventive medicine 35, no. 2 (2008): 118-126.|
|↑2||Warren, Janet M., Nicola Smith, and Margaret Ashwell. “A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms.” Nutrition Research Reviews (2017): 1-12.|