Last updated on March 11th, 2019
If you are truly serious about making positive changes to your diet, be it in an effort to lose weight, identify a food intolerance, or simply to improve your general health, you may want to seriously consider keeping a food journal.
At it’s most simple, a food journal is simply a log of the things that you eat each day.
However, a more detailed record will provide you with a greater level of support by providing you with all the information required to identify poor food choices, eating triggers, and other issues that may be holding you back and preventing you from reaching your personal goals.
Food Journal Tips
The American Cancer Society suggests using a food journal that allows you to record everything you eat and drink throughout the day, including portion sizes, number of helpings, and the amount of calories involved.
When accurate information is not available, it’s permissible to estimate the calorie count, but if you are serious about making changes to your diet you should be aiming to monitor your calorie intake as accurately as possible.
The American Cancer Society also suggests making a note of the time of day the food was eaten, the location (home, cafe, work, etc.), if you were alone, and your emotional state at the time of eating.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of creating your own food journal, there’s a useful food journal template on the American Cancer Society website.
Keeping a Food Journal for Weight Loss
If used in an honest and diligent way, your food journal will help you to identify the unhealthy food choices and eating habits that are holding you back and interfering with your attempts to lose weight.
When you know you must record every can of coke, piece of chocolate, and gumdrop that goes into your mouth it will make you less likely to reach out and indulge.
Your food journal will also help you give greater consideration to portion sizes at mealtimes and may be especially useful when you are eating away from home.
Many restaurants and cafes have enormous plates and are more generous with their helpings than you may be at home.
Knowing you have to be accountable, will help you to avoid the places that serve large plates of food or only offer unhealthy food options that are unusually high in fat and carbs.
Failing that, if you find you suddenly gain weight, looking back through your journal entries will allow you to examine where your calories have come from and could give you the wake-up call you need.
It’s quite possible your food journal may also allow you to identify emotional triggers and other issues you were previously unaware of and some of the truths revealed could be quite surprising.
Many people nibble on snacks too much during the day, others get a lot of extra calories while winding down with a drink after work or by socializing with colleagues.
People who work in stressful environments often give in to cravings for sugary food.
Stressful relationships can have a similar effect and even good friends and close family members may prove to be a negative influence by always insisting you stay for one last drink or offering an extra cake or biscuit along with the assurance, “Go on. You’ll soon burn it off.”
Using a Food Journal to Detect Food Intolerance
Food journals can also be a valuable aid to people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or any other kind of food intolerance or allergy.
Sometimes a negative reaction to food can take a number of hours to before it becomes apparent.
When you have the opportunity to examine a log of all the food you have eaten it makes it easier to find where the problem lies.
For instance, someone who is suffering from bloating may still remember what they ate a few hours earlier but will find it much harder to recall what they ate the last time the problem occurred, especially if it was a number of weeks ago.
They may even find they are blaming the wrong food, stating “It’s the fish!” and then see in their food log they had also snacked on peanuts on both days.
Further study of the logs may reveal many days when they had eaten fish without experiencing any problems, but other instances when their bloating occurred on days they had eaten peanuts or something that contains them, such as a Snickers bar.
The reasons why you are trying to change your eating habits are not important.
Regardless of your motivation, keeping a food journal and recording every meal, tiny snack, or sip of soft drink you consume throughout the day will make you accountable to yourself.
As well as helping you keep track of what you are putting into your mouth it will also reveal why you are doing it.
There’s a lot of truth to that old saying “Knowledge is power.” By using the information you have logged in your food journal you will be able to better identify the mistakes you are making and any problems you must face.
A food diary can also help you keep track of your failings and success.
Better still, it can be an excellent confidence booster when you look back through the log, see the changes you have made, and realize how well you have done.