Starting a food journal is an easy way to uncover hidden eating patterns and to manage healthy eating. If you can’t remember what you ate last week or why you went on a double fudge ice cream binge, journaling will put you in touch with emotions that drive a lot of eating habits. You may be happy with your weight but wondering if you’re getting the right amounts of foods to fuel your busy life. These tips will guide you toward successful food journaling and mindful eating that’s key in managing your nutrition.
Take a notebook with you.
Writing entries consistently is essential in making your journaling a success. Get a compact, lightweight journal that you can drop in your bag and take along to work, the gym or on vacation. A big, beautiful heavy journal may be pretty, but you won’t be temped to lug it everywhere you go.
Try an app.
You may find an app an even more convenient way to journal. Research shows that a digital journal can boost efforts to lose weight. A recent Northwestern University study revealed dieters who tracked their eating on a mobile device were more successful with their nutrition vs those that hadn’t. There are many apps that pertain to nutrition. You can use them to document what, when, and how much you eat.
Stick to a schedule.
Bedtime is a good time to journal without distractions. Keeping your journal next to your bed is a great daily reminder to write down what you have eaten that day. Or, you may find that writing after every meal or snack in your notes on your phone then jotting it down at bedtime is easier than trying to recall the entire day at bedtime. Writing immediately after you’ve eaten may give you a more accurate record as well, especially if you are using these notes to record your mood at the time of the meal.
Rely on details.
Write down exactly what you eat and drink that day. Be specific about portion size, time of day, and environment. A small/medium tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread and a footlong cheese steak sub are both sandwiches but differ greatly in nutrition and calories. Writing that you “ate a sandwich” won’t help you at the end of the day. Specific details divulge a lot about eating patterns and total consumption.
Write your emotions.
Emotions dictate a lot of our eating patterns. We don’t always eat only when we are hungry. We eat also when we are stressed or bored. Often when we eat mindlessly out of habit, we don’t think about nutrition or calories. Keeping a record of how you feel before and after eating can reveal a lot about why and what you eat. If you recognize that you reach for a candy bar every time you face a stressful deadline at work, then next time you may think twice and substitute the chocolate for a sliced apple when things get tense.
Seeing is believing.
Add a weekly picture of yourself to your journal or digital log. Whether your goal is to gain weight, maintain a desired weight or shed pounds, pictures will tell the story and you’ll be able to see the results of your hard work. And by journaling your weekly nutrition, you’ll also be able to see what categories aren’t being filled—whether you need to add in more fruits/vegetables or lessen up on areas like diet soda and sweets.
Using my phone is best for me. Years ago I made a list after every meal and snack, and I changed my eating habits within 2 weeks. What I was really consuming was scary!