Monday, February 17, 2014

Junk out, good food in part 4 Keeping a food journal

In case you missed it
part 1
Part 2 cravings
Part 3 emotional/social eaters

In part 3 we reviewed the emotional and social eater.  It is hard to eat healthy when our brains have created such an emotional bond with junk food and we begin to believe that we can't live without it. Those bonds can be very strong. Breaking those bonds begins with being aware.  Food journaling can be so very insightful as to what is going on with your life and food. It makes us very aware of what we are eating and the reasons behind it.  It is a good place to start.

If you have never done a food journal it is a great time to start one.  It is quite simple. It does not have to be complexIt can be as simple as carrying a small notebook in your purse or briefcase and keeping some notes. There are web pages where you can download and print forms that can help you track food intake. There are also many apps that can help you track your food intake on your smart phone. Whether you choose the old standard notebook, a printable from a web page, or track it with an app on your smart phone, you need to start. It is important to know where you are in order to form a  good game plan to get yourself on track for great health. 

There are a few items that are key to your success with a food journal

                                                                                     Photos in this post come from Bing images

Key 1:   Be honest.  You have to record every thing that you put into your body. Those candies that you ate as you passed the receptionist desk. The three bites you stole from your spouse's or child's plate at dinner. That glug of milk you drank right from the carton. Yes, you have to write it all down, and you have to be honest. If you ate a whole package of cookies do not write down one cookie. Three bowls of cereal in the morning is different than one. You get the idea. If you are going to change it you have to be truthful with yourself.  It can be overwhelming and even painful to look at your food intake in this way, but it is well worth it in the end.

Key 2:  Write it down as you go. It is rather difficult to recall everything you ate during the day in one fell swoop.  It is too easy to forget those little things like those mentioned above. I know a person who actually set a timer to go off every three hours. When the timer went off she would recall the past 3 hours and write it down. It worked for them. For me, I would take an inventory after each meal, and before bedtime. I would write what I ate for that meal and I would recall back to the previous meal being aware of what had happened in between meals. It was enlightening for me as I was a snacker. I would snack and not really be aware of how many snacks I was snitching until I started tracking.  

Key 3: Record your feelings as well as what you ate.  This is especially helpful for the emotional eater. You can learn even more if you record what you are feeling before, and after you eat. This was key for me to fight the emotional cravings. I was able to make correlations between food and my emotional state. While journaling  I was able to identify the habits and break many of them.

Key 4: Be Consistent. If you only record what you eat on the days you are "being good" and ignore the days you are on a binge, it does you no good. Likewise, if you record the weekdays and forget to record the weekends you are missing out on key information. Consistently monitor your food intake for two solid weeks. This will give you a good baseline for where you are.

Once you have a food journal in hand you can begin to go over the data. Start looking for patterns. For example you may notice that you eat more fatty food when feeling stressed. You may notice that when around your family you make good choices, but co-workers are influencing you to the negative, or  maybe it is the other way around. You may notice that you frequent the refrigerator right after getting home from work, or that you snack while waiting for dinner to be on the table. You may find when you eat a large breakfast you tend to skip lunch and then hit the vending machine later in the day. Or it could be that when you eat a sugary breakfast you get a mid morning slump when your blood sugar drops. Two weeks of data should reveal some of these things.

Once you analyze the data, form a good game plan. You  begin to see where your traps are. You can avoid those traps once you are aware. You can form new, better habits. You can get a buddy on board with you. Become aware and make changes for the better.

For me two weeks of tracking gave me plenty to work with. I made some changes and began a journey of better health. During that year that I lost nearly a hundred pounds I did several rounds of journaling. Every couple of months I would journal for another two weeks. It was interesting to see the changes. I was able to see what was working and what was not. I was able to tweak the game plan and was amazed to watch as new patterns emerged.  As Doctor Phil often says, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge".   Find out where you are and what needs to change.

Try it, keep a food journal for two weeks. It may be the best thing you ever did for yourself.

 Here are a few resources that may be of help to get you started.

50 plus food tracking apps

Printable food journal pages

food journaling tips


This post shared as part of real food Wednesday

Amazon has many different food journals for sale including one for kids. I have included links below for your convenience.

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  1. I just this month started keeping track of what I ate. Not for any particular reason other than to stay healthy and be aware of habits I don't need. Thank you for the pointers and for sharing at WJIM's Monday's Musings. Have a great week.

  2. It makes you think twice when you have to write it down first! I know that it helped me when I did it. I should probably start again :) Good luck!

  3. Thanks for sharing this idea at the Healthy Tuesday hop! :)

  4. Keeping a journal is a very good idea. I have writing down my meal plans for the past few weeks. I saw that we had been eating way TOO much bread and carbs and not enough veggies. It's helped me quite a bit.

    I'm stopping by from the Let's Get Real Friday Link Party. This week you are my featured blogger. I hope you'll join us again tomorrow. at