Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday everyone! I’m in the middle of a Nutrition Coaching course right now, so of course, food is on my mind….
How do you look at food? Is it just fuel or is it something to celebrate? Maybe it’s both. Food can tell the story of our lives in addition to fueling our bodies. It can be a way to gather people together and bond, and it can help us thrive.
Does the food you eat help you look and feel your best or does it make you feel worse? How can you tell? One way to see the effects of what we’re eating is to keep a food journal.
If you’ve heard the words food journal, it may have been in the context of a weight-loss program, but that’s not the only use for them. A food journal can give us a realistic view of what and how much we’re eating, how the things we eat affect the way we feel, and help us identify deficiencies in our diet.
At its most basic, a food journal is a place to record what you’ve eaten throughout the day. You simply record everything you eat and drink. Just this basic food journal can help us see if we’re getting the proper number of servings from the major food groups, whether we’re eating more or less than we thought we were, etc.
If we add a couple of steps, though, our food journal can become an indispensable tool for us. We can have a record of how our bodies are feeling about what we’re putting into them, determine whether we’re making healthier choices most of the time, and even figure out if we’re emotional eaters.
Keeping A Food Journal
Does it sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. It can be very simple, even with the couple of extra steps. All you need is a notebook and pen, or if you prefer, you can keep your journal electronically. Here are a few things we can keep track of:
- Food/drink consumed.
- Time of day – Our bodies can react differently to the same foods at different times of the day.
- How you feel immediately after you eat – Do you feel comfortable, bloated, nauseated?
- How you feel 30 minutes/an hour/24 hours after you eat? Keeping track of this helps you become aware of how your body is feeling in relation to what you’ve eaten.
- Was I physically hungry? This simple yes or no question can help us see whether we’re eating because we’re hungry or if we’re eating to fill some other need.
- For those of us who live with chronic pain it’s also helpful to note our pain level for the day. If you notice that every time you eat _______ you have more pain the next day, it may give you a clue that that particular thing is causing issues for you.
Using The Information Gained
Okay, so we’ve been keeping our food journal for a week or so; what do we do with the information? That’s up to you, of course. You may decide things are fine just as they are.
If, however, you feel you need to make some changes, there are a couple of ways to go about it. First, look for patterns:
- Are there any major food groups you’re missing out on or not getting enough of?
- Are there certain times of day that seem problematic?
- Are you eating when you’re not hungry?
- Are there certain foods that you always eat to the point of being over-full?
- Are there certain foods that seem to leave you feeling more energized?
We can see which foods seem to give us more energy and which cause us to feel more sluggish. We can see which foods seem to reduce our pain levels and which seem to increase them, and of course, we can see which ones just make us feel bad in general.
Next, determine what changes you want to make. As we’ve talked about before, it’s better to work on one or two things at a time than to try to make massive, sweeping changes all at once. It can help to prioritize those changes to get the most benefit early on. If we see improvement early on, it can motivate us to keep going.
As we make changes, of course we want to track the results. If we continue to keep our food journal, we can see whether we’ve improved our eating patterns, if we’re eating because we’re physically rather than emotionally hungry, etc. This can help us eat more of the foods that make us feel the best and limit those that don’t seem as beneficial.
As always, I recommend you discuss any dietary changes with your doctor or nutritionist. This is especially important if you have a medical condition or are on medication, as what we eat can affect how our medications work and sometimes cause unwanted reactions.
Have you ever used a food journal? How did it work for you? Please share!