I am a huge fan of food diaries when you are trying to eat well. No, scratch that. I am a huge fan of food diaries, period. I believe that everyone who eats food should keep some kind of journal for four very powerful reasons.
1 - If you are tracking symptoms - let's say digestive problems or headaches - keeping a journal or diary may help you spot a common thread. Ate chocolate, got a headache. Had pasta, IBS symptoms flared up. Do you see?
2 - Want to know how good you are at being 'healthy'? No matter how well you think you’re eating, a food tracker of some description will illuminate those little weaknesses everyone has. It may be that the biscuits will show up if you had some but also that you can spot areas where your diet looks weak - not enough veg or maybe even not enough food. With the actual data rather than what you suppose is the case, you can choose to keep some habits or change them.
3 - Writing down what you eat warts and all (because what would be the point otherwise), you have no choice but to be 100% responsible for the food you have eaten. And it's not that you should feel bad about what is there or not there but be curious. "Ah, what was happening today such that I had that whole packet of biscuits?" When you don't keep a record, you will never get these valuable insights into why you eat.
4 - As an added bonus, if you want to lose weight, it’s worth knowing that people who keep food diaries lose more weight than those who don’t. Yes, they lose twice as much weight. Worth it for that alone maybe… Check this out here if you need the proof.
I know you’re probably thinking, ‘does she not know how busy I am?’
I get it. Really I do.
I know, the downside to keeping a food diary is it’s another thing to do (even when you know there’s a real potential WIN for you). There are apps for that. Tonnes of them. Or there's good old paper and pen.
Tips for keeping a food journal
It doesn’t really matter when you have an actual paper book (I know, fancy that in the twenty-first century) or use an app like My Fitness Pal, there are few rules to abide by.
1 - You’ve got to be honest. Not writing it down is just denial.
2 - Get to grips with portion sizes. What actually IS a portion of chicken, and what does 40g oats look like, etc? A small amount of weighing and measuring to start with will make keeping track more accurate and also help you quickly throw together meals without overthinking things.
3 - It’s not all about the calories so don’t fixate on this. It’s too much to go into right now but ‘eat less and move more’ has never been ‘the way’ you lose weight – however much your personal trainer might tell you! Some food journals will allow you to enter things like mood, sleep, energy fluctuations or sugar intake. Even if you want to lose weight, the non-scale victories like how fabulous you’re feeling, how energised, and how well you are sleeping are really worth noting. No sense being skinny but miserable. This is about your whole, actual life.
My favourite food journals
Me? I’m a fan of pen and paper for so much in my life. Literally, any notepad will work. You don’t have to get all fancy, although I must confess to a love of stationery, which means all my notebooks and journals are pretty.
My pick of some of the best food journals includes this one https://amzn.to/35votoR, which is my all-time fave as it focuses on the many dimensions of tracking your health. It’s pricey, though. My next favourite (and I’ve seen a few!) is from Box Clever https://amzn.to/3mfWNLj
I do not want to be noting down the exact number of calories or grammes of fat and carbs. A general guide is good enough. And empty columns make me feel uneasy.
You? Maybe electronic is the way to go.
The only way to know which approach suits you best is to try…