Should You Keep A Food Journal?
When it comes to your goal to improve your eating, awareness is your superpower.
Keeping a food journal can be an empowering tool. By shining a light on what and how you eat on a regular basis you gain insight into habits and patterns which is key to changing your behaviors.
But keep in mind that tracking your food is not a “Gotcha” meant to induce shame, perfectionism or obsessiveness of any kind. A food journal is simply meant to dispel any gap between our perception of our eating habits and genuine reality.
If you know you have a tendency toward obsessive eating patterns; have a history of disordered eating; or if for any reason at all tracking your food triggers feelings of guilt, shame, or fear, then food journaling is NOT for you.
Like all parts of the behavior change process, it’s essential to approach using a food journal with non judgmental curiosity. Food journaling is supposed to be a helpul mindfulness tool; it’s never used to make you feel bad about yourself.
What Information Should You Include In a Food Journal?
What are you eating? Be as specific as you can, but no need for mathematical precision; keep it general. eg. 2 scrambled eggs, a few slices of avocado, a slice of sprouted toast and a large cup of coffee with oat milk and Make sure to include ALL beverages you consume throughout your day.
When are you eating? Jot down the time; gathering information on your meal timing and spacing is important.
Where are you eating? eg. at home watching TV, sitting down with family, at a restaurant with friends, alone, driving in my car, at my desk checking email.
How’s your mood and energy level when you’re eating? – Stressed, calm, sleepy, sad, bored?
How’s your appetite? – When you eat, how hungry are you on a scale of 1-10 (10 being super “hangry”)?
How’s your satisfaction level? – How do you feel after you’ve finished eating?
Try it for a fulll 7 day week to get a good picture of your routine and be sure to log your details in real time for accuracy. Don’t try to do it all at the end of the day.
At the end of the week here are a few things to observe:
1) How much do I eat on the go?
2) What percentage of my meals are home prepared food?
3) How’s my vegetable intake? Do I eat protein and healthy fat at each meal?
4) Do I eat consistently at the same times? Do I plan my meals?
5) Which meal is the most substantial meal of the day?
6) How much snacking or grazing do I do?
7) How do my moods affect my eating habits?
8) How much do I routinely rely on caffeine, sugary drinks or alcohol?
9) How much water am I drinking in a day?
Give it a try if this feels like a good way to support yourself. After you’ve observed your habits, you can better identify a specific individualized goal or area to improve. Regardless, you’re guaranteed to learn a few new things about yourself.