Food Journaling

Food Journaling

Food journaling is exactly what it sounds like but there are a lot of great ideas you may not have thought of that make for some very useful tools.  I personally had been recommended many times to give food journaling a try but I figured I had such a good memory and so in tune with myself that it wasn’t worth the time. The truth is there can be and usually is, a big difference between what we eat and what we may have thought we ate. The memory tends to gloss over and also recreate the past in a more favorable light. Food journaling has actually made me realize, I don’t really have such a great memory after all. At this point with food journaling, I have uncovered a few food sensitivities, foods I don’t digest well, and my energy levels related to excess sugar and carb intake. I have also journaled probiotic use, keeping track of different strains and gaining some very useful info from this as well.

Food Journaling Basics

Where are you going to keep your journal and on what medium? A cell phone is obviously popular these days because everyone has one on hand. A laptop or notepad work too. Just remember that you will write down what you ate shortly after as time allows for forgetting. It is important to document everything, don’t forget snacks or beverages. It’s a good idea to come up with your own system of measurements that you can easily remember and relate to. For example, a handful of chips may mean something different to you than to Shaq. These quick measurements are nice to have because it’s much faster than trying to actually weigh or measure everything which can be a pain. A handful of chips will always be a handful of chips to you. Other good measurements include: a fist which is about a cup and a deck of cards is about 3 oz, which is a good one to measure meat portions. This visual method of recording portions also helps to accurately keep track of the percentage of protein, fat, and carbs consumed in proportion to each other.

Food Journaling 101

Keep track of what you really consume:  Rather than count calories, portion size is the preferred way to record meals with journaling. Also, include the time of day the food was consumed. Another thing to add in which can be helpful is the way you feel after eating or just how you feel generally that day. Other habits such as workouts and sleep are useful as well. A food journal increases awareness of real eating patterns and is very helpful for weight loss. We are often surprised by what we actually ate. Our (mine for sure) minds often gloss over the reality of what we really ate, especially when it comes to portion sizes as well as the little extras such as snacks and condiments.

Identify Food Sensitivities

Hmm, I got a stomach ache after eating some pasta today, I quick look at my food journal and I notice that I had a stomach ache after eating lasagna a month ago. I wonder if the acid and zesty-ness is a contributing factor or many a sensitivity to the nightshade family?

It’s a great resource to have this record you can go back to and reference whether you have a symptom or certain food, you can look back and identify what you ate the last time you had that symptom. When keeping a food journal you are already keeping track of everything you eat. When attempting to uncover a food allergy, any feelings, symptoms or moods need to be recorded as well. Stomach problems may be pretty obvious, but it’s also important to jot down any other and all symptoms that are out of the ordinary. Examples include the mood you are in, a runny nose, itchy skin, headaches, etc. It’s a great idea to additionally keep track of bowel movements as well. Even keep track of symptoms that seem unrelated such as a cold or a sore throat.

It’s also a good idea to record vitamins and supplements. It may take some time to uncover a troublesome food but a food journal is a crucial tool to do so. It helps and speeds up the process to already have in mind a food that you think may be a problem but it’s not essential. Suspect foods will be eliminated for a specific time, usually 2–4 weeks and then reintroduced. The food journal doesn’t just identify the times this food was ingested but also the symptoms throughout the process. Why is this helpful? You may notice that you had negative symptoms at times during the elimination time period which indicates the food item is not the offender. The symptoms disappearing during the elimination and returning at the time the food is introduced of course points to that food. In other words, these discoveries may not have been uncovered without careful attention to food journaling.

Food as possible mood disruptor

What we eat can profoundly affect our mood. Most commonly, sleep disruptions, irritability, depressed mood or fatigue are possibly connected to the diet. With a food and mood journal, it is especially important to write down how you feel after each meal as well as your overall energy level at the end of the day. This is important because if you feel energetic immediately after eating but crash later on, this is good to know. Keep in mind that this is your journal so don’t be afraid to be totally honest about your feelings. For example, “I feel really grumpy and can’t deal with people today.”

Sugar is the usual suspect in many a food and mood journal and is, of course, found to be guilty frequently. It is important to be open-minded however because there are a lot of different foods that can potentially affect people in a lot of ways. Yes, even health foods can sometimes cause issues for some depending on how your body processes them. Let’s talk sugar for a minute though. Sugar is food journaling gold. If you are working on reducing sugar intake a food journal is essential. Sugar is going to give you feedback. Sugar has such a profound effect on the body you will certainly notice and have relevant data when you are making records related to this little bugger.

At some point, you will hopefully begin to realize how certain foods make you feel. So, yes I recommend food journaling, give it a try. It is usually best to track your biggest concerns first when journaling to keep things simple and later take on more.  It takes time to get used to as it is a habit but it can become an empowering resource and collection of information!

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