Taking note of the foods and beverages we consume is a helpful way to visualize what our diet is truly like. There have been many times I’ve asked clients to write down every single thing they eat and drink for the health concerns we were addressing, and it was often very eye opening for them. Sometimes, they chose not to eat something because they knew they would have to write it down. The journal starts its magic right away!
If you are ready to lose weight, improve your cholesterol or blood pressure, or want to figure out why every day around 3:00 PM you feel fatigued, one of your first steps is writing everything down. Here’s what you need to do to make a journal your go-to reference in problem solving:
- Every single thing that enters your belly gets written down. If you pass by a dish of popcorn and throw a handful in your mouth, write it down. If you washed it down with just a gulp of soda, write that down. If you put mayonnaise on a sandwich, that counts!
- Details, details, details. Sandwich bread to you may be your classic white, whereas to another person it might be sprouted grain. Both contain different types and quantities of nutrients, and ingredients. It is important to include the details of the type of food you are ingesting.
- Measure! This is another very important detail. What is “a glass of” juice, or “a cup of” coffee? This step will probably be the most difficult, but it is super important to become familiar with portion and serving sizes. Do NOT skip this step if you are serious about making healthy changes to your diet. Yes, it will be a difficult step, but you will not have to do this for the long-term, promise.
- Note the time. Indicating when you eat can give clues to why you may be experiencing issues with weight loss, not feeling so great at a certain time of day, or can be linked to moods or behaviors that are standing in your way to success.
- What mood were you in? Our moods can seriously affect what we eat. Maybe you blindly binge on salt and vinegar chips when your nerves are tense, or when PMS makes its obnoxious monthly visit all you crave is chocolate and cheeseburgers.
A helpful food and beverage journal contains at least three days, and is ideal at no more than seven. Start now! Grab a pen and paper or your go-to notebook. If you prefer the digital type there are many apps available for this. A simple search for “food journal” should pop up with more than enough suggestions. If you’re reading this near the end of the day, that’s okay! Settle into a quiet place and do your best to recall your day. Make no more excuses, the only time to start is now.
After you have a completed journal, this is how you’ll use it:
- REVIEW. Getting all these facts down on paper will paint the picture you need to see what you can do to make healthy changes. It might be that you skip lunch many times each week, or you eat a lot of deep fried foods, or you eat anything in sight as a result of boredom.
- PLAN. Let’s say you do skip lunch every day. Question yourself why you do this. Are you so consumed in work you forget, or worse – are unable to? Do you have no appetite? Whatever is causing this to happen, do some brainstorming and implement a plan you can accomplish.
- ACT. Nothing changes until you do. Your plan has to go into action right away, not next week. If you continue to hesitate with following through on your plan, it might be time to make a different plan. No matter what, when you’re taking on a huge task to change your health, it is important to have a support team. This can include your closest friends or family, doctor, or other health specialists. There is no need for you to do this on your own. The world is a better place when we help each other out!