Our health is our most precious asset and should be zealously guarded. But as we go through the daily grind, we often neglect to think about how our food and routine may be taking a toll on our well-being.
Keeping a food journal has been found in various studies to be one of the most effective ways of developing good eating habits. It’s especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.
By writing down what you eat and other related information, you become aware of what, how much and why you eat. This helps to reveal your eating patterns, identify where changes can be made on your diet, and uncover the factors that may be triggering eating binges.
Here are some pointers on how to make a food journal work for you.
- Choose the format that you’re most comfortable with. You can carry a notepad around with you, use a mobile app, or maintain a digital journal. Even sticky notes will work if you find them convenient. You can also decide on how often to update your journal. Experts recommend recording your activities at least 5 days a week, but if you can’t commit to this, even minimal entries can help you keep track of your eating habits.
- Include basic information, such as what you ate, what time, the serving portions or amount, and how hungry you were when you ate. Other details, such as your weight, any exercise you did for the day, and the amount and quality of sleep that you got, are very helpful in tracking your progress and habits.
- Be accurate with food portions. This can greatly help you if you want to be precise in monitoring your food intake. As you become aware of what a normal serving is for you, you can create a better menu plan with more accurate input on calories, fat content, and others.
- Include the extras. These can be the mayonnaise-based sauce for your fish entree, the chocolate spread you layered on your bread, or the mint candy you took after dinner – all the little things that can be significant when added up. Keep in mind that a mere 150 extra calories a day can mean a 15 pound increase on your weight in a year.
- Write about your emotional state. Include your mood before, during and after a meal, or during the day. Add any other detail that may have an effect on your wellness. For example, “Stuck in traffic and late for a meeting. Stressed!” or “Happy to get that promotion!”
- Be aware of your health. Write down any health concern or discomfort you may be feeling. At the same time, include the days when you feel perfectly healthy. These often go unnoticed, so noting your “fine” days may prove helpful in evaluating how far you’ve come on the road to fitness.
- Note down the nutrition plan that works for you, and consider what changes you need to take in your routine to stick to this plan. For example, do you need to wake up earlier to have a good breakfast? Do you have to prepare food everyday to take to the office for lunch?
- Review your eating habits. Your nutritional needs may have changed, or you may have a new work routine that can affect your diet. Your journal will be valuable in helping a nutrition expert come up with a new plan for you.