Food diary, food log, food record or food list, whatever you name it, it sounds the same, right?
I can guarantee you they are not.
In my practice, keeping a daily food log is 80% the key to your success in a designed clinical nutrition program.
AND, you don’t have to be on a program to track every little bit of every little nibble that goes into your mouth.
Why Keep a Food Log?
Believe me when I say (personal experience: I have kept a food log for the majority of the past year) you have no idea what you’re putting into your mouth unless you’re tracking it.
Top 3 objections people have to tracking what they eat:
- I eat the same thing all the time.
- I will lose the piece of paper.
- I don’t have time to write it all down.
My responses to the top 3 objections people have to tracking what they eat:
1. Actually, you don’t eat the same thing all the time. When you have a week or two to look back on, they might think they have the same thing for breakfast every day, though the food record indicates that most of the time they have eggs. Sometimes another food is mixed into the eggs, and other days they have thrown in a dietary meal replacement or shake, and then there is the quick, ‘I grabbed a muffin at the office’, or ‘ate half of my son’s waffle’.
2. You may lose the piece of paper, and you may not. Even in these technologically advanced days of digital everything, most people are still carrying around a bag of some sort with a planner, a pad of paper, or a folder where they carry important documents.
This is an important document. THIS food log is a picture of your current state of health.
Even if you don’t carry a bag with you, it’s likely you have a pocket you can fold it into until you need to pull it out and jot down what you’re eating. The best food logs my clients turn in to me are the ones with food and water stains, they are tattered and wrinkled-they have been used.
If it’s an important document for you, it’s less likely you’ll misplace it. You might forget it on the kitchen counter but you probably won’t lose it entirely.
3. None of us have “extra” time in our days, we’re all on the same clock, however, it’s all about priority. Is it a priority to get better quickly and stay that way or are you fine with slugging along feeling so-so and hoping things will change? This is where you take matters into your own hands.
Most people eat while sitting down. Whether this be during a project at your desk, while having yourself on mute during a conference call, or while perusing a magazine or browsing online. You are likely sitting. Which means taking out your food log and jotting down what you are eating takes all of one minute. Then you can carry on with the task at hand.
Even if you’re standing because you might feel rushed-it still takes a few minutes to chew and swallow, so get scribbling while you’re at it.
If you forget to write down what you had at lunch because you got distracted while having lunch with a friend, write it down the moment you remember, or during dinner.
Taking responsibility for your health is an empowering step, and one that can be easily made by keeping a food log.
Suspect you have food intolerances or allergies?
Then a food log could be your best friend without yet eliminating any foods. I always tell my clients we aren’t going to eliminate food groups unless we have to, meaning, unless you have tested for needing to remove them one in my program.
However, sugar isn’t a food group.
In case you were wondering.
But that’s another blog topic right there.
Off soapbox and back to topic: people who have begun paying attention to what they are eating or attribute certain foods to a rash, headache or stomach ache, may notice this might happen, though haven’t challenged it in any way.
Having a food log allows you to see what you’ve eaten in relation to how you’re feeling. Did you know it can take up to a week for your body to communicate its level of unhappiness in regards to a particular food? Yes, your body can respond right away with a scratchy throat, runny nose, a cough, explosive diarrhea, headache and belly ache or a number of other things….or if can take a bit for your body to process, in which case we blame that headache on stress, kids fighting, tight muscles or the like.
It’s not to say our bickering children can’t cause a headache, or your boss pressing into you with a deadline can’t get your heart racing, but having kept a food log, you can look back and connect that after book club stop at the pub for onion rings and a beer with the girls (which is, say, rare for you) with the stabbing gut pain you had two days later as your body is working so hard to digest that gluten you usually don’t eat.
How to begin keeping a food log
Grab a small notebook to keep with you making up three columns, one for each breakfast, lunch and dinner. Track this info, along with your water and other beverage intake each day, leave a spot to track snacks, and perhaps a place to jot down a note or two.
An interesting note to keep in the margin would be a quick word or two summing up how you felt that day: sluggish, full of energy, rested, bloated, etc.
Another level of tracking would be to look at your bowel movements, their number and consistency, along with how many hours and quality of sleep you got.
I can almost guarantee you won’t need a professional eye to make some basic changes based upon a few weeks of data you collect.
Maybe you realize how much sugar you eat between dinner and bed, or that you actually consume 3 or 4 cans of soda per day versus the 2 on your work shift. I have a client who was consuming 6 cans of soda per day, and, on her own eliminated 1 can per day and lost 7 pounds in the first week!
You might notice you aren’t eating any protein with breakfast-maybe that’s why you’re so hungry an hour after you get to work…
Like I said above, taking responsibility for your health is an empowering step, and one that can be easily made by keeping a food log.
And if you decide to begin working with a professional on your nutrition or health goals, you’ll have a great amount of data, failures and successes to share with them, furthering accelerating your quest to being full of energy and vitality.
Have you ever kept a food log? What was your process?