I’ve always had a passion for writing, especially journaling. I religiously kept a journal from my freshman year of high school all the way through college! I still journal today but not nearly as often. I have about 8 old journals tucked away that are filled with nostalgic memories and pages filled with the depths of my soul. What does this have to do with a food journal? Well, I think journaling in general is very enlightening and eye opening, whether you are journaling your thoughts, your day, your prayers, or your food. Journaling helps us tap into the deeper part of ourselves that oftentimes stays tucked away. Keeping a food journal can help you detect why you eat what you eat and what feelings those foods give you.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS A FOOD JOURNAL AND WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?
A food journal is simply writing down and keeping track of what you eat and drink throughout the day. Keeping a food journal is one of the most powerful ways to change your habits. You may be intimidated to start a food journal because it seems time consuming and tedious, but there are several ways to make it easy and convenient, plus the benefit that can come from doing it far outweighs the time it takes to complete it each day. I’ll share those easy and convenient ways to food journal a little later on in this post.
Using a food journal can be helpful not only for those looking to lose weight, but also for those who are trying to figure out food sensitivities or allergies. Keeping a food journal can help individuals figure out their gastrointestinal triggers, especially individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which can sometimes be very elusive and hard to figure out it’s culprits. A food journal can also be incredibly helpful for diabetics who need to track their sugar intake.
Evidence says that keeping track of your daily food and calorie intake is the most effective way to change your behavior. Why is this? Well, I believe it is because it is an enlightening experience that will not only help you be more aware of what you are eating, but also why you are eating what you are eating and how you are feeling when you are eating. Food journals have been proven to raise our consciousness of what we are putting in our mouth. If someone has a tendency to emotionally eat, I encourage them to write down how they are feeling when they crave something or when they eat a certain food. Being aware of our emotions that are attached to our eating habits can be incredibly eye opening and powerful.
- Find a unique journal that you will enjoy writing in if you want to do it the old-fashioned pen and paper way. I always found I wrote in my journal more often when I thought it was pretty!
- Don’t change what you typically eat for the sake of the journal. Don’t change your habits. This defeats the purpose of the journal. The goal is to record your daily food intake, even if it isn’t good- that’s how we bring awareness to our diets.
- Record what you eat or drink immediately. This will help you not to forget at the end of the day as you try and remember what all you ate/drank that day.
- Write out what you plan to eat before you actually eat it (or put it in MyFitness Pal). This can help deter you from straying from those decisions and keep you on track. A plan always helps in those moments of weakness and temptation.
- Break out the measuring cups! Oftentimes we have no idea how much of something we are actually eating and what the serving size means and looks like. Instead of eyeballing what 4 oz. is or a 1/2 cup, measure it out. This will help you learn portion sizes going forward as well and how you look at the amount of food you are consuming.
- Record beverages including water. Recording how much water you are consuming in a day is also very important and enlightening. Along with that, track the other beverages you are consuming and their calories. You may be surprised how many liquid calories you are consuming in one day. Do you drink a latte for breakfast and then a soda at lunch? That right there can easily be several hundred calories and a lot of sugar.
- Tell the truth! The only way keeping a food journal will really benefit you and help you reach your goals is if you tell the truth. Do it for yourself.
- Record your mood while eating, are you eating with someone or alone, where are you eating, and if you are doing an activity or at an activity while eating. Noting all of these things will bring more awareness and help you analyze your food eating behaviors to an even deeper level.
DO FOOD JOURNAL’S ACTUALLY WORK?
“In a study published in 2008 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, found that among 1,700 individuals in a weight-loss program , those who kept daily food journals lost twice as much as weight as those who didn’t.”
The key to a successful food journal is consistency and accuracy. You will not have as much success or data to work with and analyze if you only track for a few days. People find they can see real results when tracking for several weeks. It has been shown as well that food journals are less effective for those who eat out at restaurants a lot because it is hard to find the correct nutritional data for those foods, especially if you are just “guessing” how many calories were in your burrito or on your plate.
USING MYFITNESS PAL
According the The Wall Street Journal, “MyFitnessPal, an app with 100 million-plus members who can track their eating and exercise and connect with friends, has found users who come within 5% of their stated weight goals have longer streaks of logging data—with an average 6 consecutive days versus 3 days for other users, according to a spokeswoman for Under Armour, the sports-apparel company that owns the app. They also eat nearly 30% more fiber on average. Overall, 88% of members who logged meals for an average of seven days lost weight, she said.”
I have been using MyFitness Pal for years! It is my favorite food tracking app. One thing I love about it is that not only can you track your calories, but you can also see your nutritional breakdown- how many carbohydrates, fat, and protein grams you are eating each day. You can customize your goals as to how much of each of those macronutrients you want to eat in a day as well depending on your goals. At the end of the day, you can see your macronutrient breakdown and a nice little pie chart. I love the nutritional analysis aspect to MyFitness Pal because it isn’t just about the number of calories you are consuming, but also the nutrients you are getting as far as macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) but also your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
MyFitness Pal is a free app and is very easy to use and has a large database of food from grocery stores but also from certain restaurants, helping you to track as accurately as possible!
FOOD JOURNAL OPTIONS:
- MyFitnessPal App. Other Apps Include: LoseIt!, MyPlate Calorie Tracker, MyNet Diary, and others.
- Weight Watchers- Point System
- An actual journal and keep track by writing everything down. Pinterest has several food journal printables that you can print depending what format works best for you.
HERE ARE A FEW FOOD JOURNAL’S THAT YOU CAN CHECK OUT AND SEE IF THEY WOULD FIT YOUR LIFESTYLE.