What you eat affects how you are. And it’s not your weight alone. Food affects mood, health, and other lifestyle factors.
A food log/diary/journal can be a good tool to learn about the foods you eat that help your body feel and perform at its best. Keeping a food log can help you understand your eating habits and patterns, and help you identify the foods — good and not-so-good — you eat on a regular basis. Research shows that for people interested in losing weight, keeping a journal can be a very effective tool to help change behavior.
Keep in mind, the goal of a food log is to help establish habits that you’ll maintain even when you are done food logging. Because who wants to log their food for life? No one. The goal is to use this as a tool to make positive changes in your daily nutrition and become more in tune with how certain foods make you feel.
What are your goals?
If you have weight loss goals you may be more interested in calories in/calories out.
If you want to follow a ‘low carb’ lifestyle, this can help you figure out where your daily carbohydrate count is at and what you want to eliminate/reduce.
If you are focusing on toning up and muscle gain you could be paying more attention to your macro ratio of protein:fat:carbs.
If you feel like your eating is out of control, food logging can help identify emotional and physical triggers that lead to emotional or compulsive eating.
If you aren’t eating enough in the day, food logging can help keep you more accountable.
HOW to do it…
It’s easier than ever to figure out your daily calories and macros. Do you have a smart phone? There are a zillion apps (many of them free) out there to help keep track of your food intake. Finding the right one for you may take some trial and error, but here are a few of the more popular apps: MyFitnessPal (this is the one we use here at Wild), Lose It, MyNetDiary and See How You Eat.
Don’t forget to hydrate! There are apps for water consumption, like Daily Water Balance Tracker, that will keep you on track there too!
What should you include in your food log?
Most experts agree that the secret to successful food logging is accuracy and consistency. So, what should you record? Everything.
A basic food diary should include the following:
- What are you eating? Write down the specific food and beverage consumed and how it is prepared (baked, broiled, fried, etc.). Do not forget to track all the little extras; coffee creamer and sugar, condiments, candies from your coworker’s junk food drawer, leftover mac & cheese off your child’s plate, etc. You may be shocked to find out how quickly these little things add up.
- How much are you eating? List the amount in household measures (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons) or in ounces, or even in physical comparison (a palm-size portion)
- When are you eating?This can help identify potentially problematic times, such as late-night snacking.
Jotting down where you’re eating, what else you’re doing while you’re eating, and how you’re feeling while eating can help you understand some of your habits and offer additional insight.
- Where are you eating? Whether it’s at the kitchen table, in your bedroom, in the car, walking down the street, at a restaurant, or at a friend’s home.
- What else are you doing while eating? Are you on the computer, watching TV, or talking with a family member or a friend?
- Who are you eating with? Are you eating with your spouse, children, friend, or a colleague, or are you alone?
- How are you feeling as you’re eating? Are you happy, sad, stressed, anxious, lonely, bored, tired?
You’ve kept a food log. Now what?
After the first week, step back and look at what you’ve recorded. Search for any trends, patterns, or habits. For example:
- Am I mindlessly snacking?
- Am I eating vegetables and fruit every day? With every meal?
- How much processed food is in my diet?
- Am I eating foods or beverages with added sugar?
- Do my moods affect my eating habits? Do my eating habits affect my mood?
- How often do I eat on the run? When stressed?
Once you have seen the physical answer to these questions, you can adjust your original goals to reflect what you’d like to see change/get better. You may begin to see that you are missing entire food groups (i.e vegetables) or entire meals (breakfast!).
Things to consider:
- Do it now. Don’t rely on your memory at the end of the day. Record your eating details as you go.
- Be honest. You don’t gain anything by cheating on your food log.
I don’t wanna food log……
Then don’t. For some people food logging is stressful and can create a negative relationship with food. If this is you, then just skip it.