Why journal your food?

scrappy-appleSorry in advance for the lengthy introduction before I discuss the reasons for keeping a food log.

I wanted to write it simply because I’m so excited I’ve been able to create a new habit without struggle. 🙂

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I’ve now journaled my food for over 50 days. I’ve tried food journaling before, but I couldn’t make the habit stick. How did I make it work this time over?

I knew adopting a brand new habit isn’t easy, so I decided to make it very simple. You can make your food journal as complicated as you want, but I decided to start by jotting down my food and the time I eat. I use a notebook and pencil for that, not the online app I usually use.

When I had a break in food journaling during my last migraine but effortlessly went back to journaling my food after that, I decided I’m ready to step it to the next level: I started recording my hunger and satiation levels on Tuesday.

Why journal your food?

There are many uses to food journals. Registered dietitians and nutritionists use them to assess and diagnose problems in their clients’ diet. Food journaling is also used as a tool to help with weight loss, though not necessarily as a way to count calories.

Weight loss coach Brooke Castillo says:

Of all my clients who lost weight fast, 100 percent of them wrote down what they ate. It is an amazing tool because it forces you to pay attention and stay connected to what you are eating and what category you are eating in. If I am So Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight? (p. 61)

Food journaling is a powerful tool mainly because it forces you to become aware of what and how you eat. It’s very difficult to eat mindlessly when you know you have to record every bite you eat!

In addition to becoming aware of what and how you eat, food journaling can help you:

  1. learn to recognize your hunger/satiation levels
  2. learn to distinguish ”head hunger” from real hunger
  3. find out how different foods make you feel
  4. identify food sensitivities
  5. find out your triggers for emotional eating / stress eating

Another reason why I find food journaling interesting is that it seems to be a keystone habit for some people. A keystone habit – like exercising or keeping a food journal – is a habit that has the power to start a (positive) chain reaction that spreads into other areas of your life.

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I started food journaling in January because I wanted to focus on the small daily actions that bring results I want – rather than the outcome.

So far, I’ve kept a very bare-bones food diary. I wanted to focus on having regular meals and ensuring that I consume most of my calories before 4-5 pm (front-loading). I don’t usually track my calorie consumption but I occasionally check my eating with a web application so I think I have a negative calorie deficit on most days.

With regard to weight loss, the practice is obviously paying off because my belly is shrinking and my clothes feel looser. 🙂

I’ve noticed that I often eat rather automatically. If I paid more attention to my level of satiation, I’d stop eating earlier than I usually do. I’ve also learned that eating beans really helps keep my blood sugars stable.

And if I don’t eat regular meals during the day, I’ll overeat in the evening.

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The next post in the series will be on how to keep a food journal. I’m creating a detailed template for a food journal and I intend to share it with you.

Comments

  1. I’ve been journalling for Weight Watchers – so tracking what I eat. I actually had a fairly unhealthy past 4 days (away for a long weekend for my brother’s birthday). I didn’t eat chocolate or things like that, but went over my WW limit each day. I still tracked my consumption though because I’m only lying to myself otherwise. It made me realise that the journalling has to be for me and not for anyone else because that might cause me to ‘lie’ about what I’m having, but if it’s for my own benefit there’s no point.

    • Satu says:

      Congrats Deb! I think you made an important insight in realizing that food journaling is something you do for yourself, not anyone else.

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