If one of your health goals right now is to get healthy, have more energy or lose weight, you should read this post. And not because Thanksgiving was this week or because Christmas is fast on its heels, but because I’m going to recommend and explain an easy tool to help you stay in shape or otherwise work toward your health goals and it does not in any way involve weird diets, calorie counting or food restrictions. Thank goodness!
It’s so simple it’s often overlooked as a useful tool in our weight loss and health goals.
It’s called a food journal or a food diary and the premise is simple: you use a template (like the ones I’ve provided) to record every morsel of food or every sip of liquid that goes in your mouth. That’s it! Really.
There’s no judgment, no restriction, just a simple recording of what you’re eating and if you choose, how you’re feeling. You don’t have to worry that someone’s going to judge you on that extra piece of chocolate cake you ate, the extra large bowl of ice cream you gobbled down in less than a minute (guilty as charged!), or even whether all you had for dinner was a bowl of cereal. No one but you will see it.
A food diary or food journal can help us reach our health goals by:
- Increasing our awareness of what we are eating and drinking. The simple act of writing a food journal or food diary helps us become much more mindful and conscious of what we actually ate and how we actually felt after eating it.
- Providing valuable insights about how certain foods make us feel on a regular basis (if we also track how we are feeling when we eat or drink them).
- Offering an accurate and honest snapshot of our weekly snacks, meals and beverages that we can keep for our own records or share with a health practitioner. This is important because many of us often say “we eat healthy” but then have trouble recalling specific meals or describing food quality or quantity. A food journal helps us recognize our own patterns and can even help identify any issues we might have with food related to emotional eating (e.g. eating more or the wrong kinds of foods when we’re stressed, anxious, tired or angry).
The best part about a food diary or food journal is that you don’t have to do anything with the information. You can simply keep it for your own knowledge or if you’re seeking professional support, share it with your nutritionist, dietician or other health care professional. They can then use this information to provide customized meal plans or food recommendations that can help you reach any and all of your personal health goals.
Although there is no right or wrong way to record your food/drink intake, here are two helpful tips: be honest (remember no one is going to read this!) and do it right away. If you wait until the end of the day or worse the end of the week, you’ll likely forget some food or drink along the way. As much as possible, try to write it down soon after eating.
To help you, I’ve created two free templates: one is a basic version and one is a more detailed version that includes the question “How did you feel?” after each meal or snack. This is an easy way to record your emotional and physical symptoms so you can start thinking about how specific foods can help us or hinder us from reaching whatever goals we may have for ourselves as we work toward optimal health.
In a future post, I’ll give you some tips for interpreting your own results.
Now my question for you: Have you ever used a food journal? Did you find it helped you track your progress toward achieving your health goals? I would love to hear about your experience below.
Life is a plate… Eat up!