The further and further along you progress on your self-care journey, the greater the importance of self-awareness will become. Understanding and listening to your physical and mental cues will drastically improve your quality of life. An excellent tool for accomplishing this is the food journal. There are numerous benefits of food journaling including enhancing self-awareness, weight loss, and breaking bad habits.
I first heard of a food journal through a friend in college who was an extensive traveler. He would record everything he ate when he visited a new place or country. Thinking back on it now though, all he was doing was simply creating a list of food that already complemented his main journal that he kept. He didn’t even realize the incredible benefits of food journaling.
One of the main obstacles that prevent many people from keeping a food journal is exactly how to record it. You don’t have to actually keep a physical hand-written journal due to how impractical that can be in daily life. Of course, there are a variety of apps available, some paid and some free, that you could utilize, but it really doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or complicated at all. You could simply create a section in your notes on your phone dedicated to writing down exactly what you ate, and your time will already be marked at the time of the note’s creation which helps in detecting patterns throughout the week.
What to Include in Your Journal
Once you have found your method of keeping a food journal, it is time to consider exactly what to include in it. There are four components to an effective food journal:
Specific Food – Write down the exact food and every food consumed with as much detail as possible. For example, don’t just write down hamburger, write down cheeseburger with extra ketchup, lettuce, and tomato. This is important to recognize small areas that could be improved. Of course some items are generic such as 20 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola or other small snacks and beverages.
Time – Write down the time each food item was consumed. As mentioned earlier if you are recording your entries electronically such as in a notes app then this will already be done for you. The time of day and frequency of food consumption could provide valuable insight into your eating patterns.
Calories – We consume a variety of foods every day without really considering the amount of calories that each food possesses. You might be surprised how many calories a small candy bar or soda contains. Men do need more calories than men, but only about 500 more making a total of 2500 calories a day sufficient. A good site proved by the USDA to bookmark to quickly get an estimate on how many calories an individual food item has can be found here.
Mood – I heard the audible sound of groans coming from a few guys when they saw the word, “mood” appear on screen but hear me out. This one I do consider optional and doesn’t need to be listed on every food item, but can be effective in discovering problem foods and their causes. For example if you are having a real bad day make a note of it when you list the food that you ate that day. Did you drink more alcohol than usual? Did you eat more junk food? Food as comfort can never lead to good results, and it is important to identify it, so you can control it.
Many of us go through are day in a zombie like manner, barely comprehending what we even did by the time we go to bed at night. It is hard enough to remember the exact sequence of events let alone every little thing you consumed throughout the entire day. Keeping a food journal will bring with it a new-found self-awareness on the choices we are making with our eating habits. Did you eat three energy bars throughout the day or drank several more cups of coffee than you thought you did. Writing this things out and looking back on them can help bring your entire daily habits into focus, a powerful tool for change and becoming a better version of yourself.
Breaking the Cycle of Bad Habits
After you have been keeping a food journal for around a month, patterns start appearing and making themselves known. Little bad habits that you weren’t aware of begin to show up. Maybe every time you get home from work, you drink two cans of beer when even cutting back to one would make a difference, or perhaps you always skip breakfast on certain days and just eat some junk food instead throughout the day to compensate. Unless they are identified, bad habits will go unchecked and become out of control. By willing yourself to face these habits, you can begin the process of breaking them down and eliminating them from your life.
Studies have been done that show keeping a food journal can double your weight-loss efforts. Once you have gained enough self-awareness to notice a trend of bad eating habits you can start making a real change in your diet and nutrition. Just thinking about having to log something unhealthy in journal can be the catalyst to stop you from eating it in the first place. When something is entered into your journal, it feels somehow more permanent and real, this is one of the real key benefits to food journaling. Never underestimated the power of the written word.
Journal to a Better You
The benefits of food journaling start out small at first but gradually with time become a powerful force in your self-care. Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be complicated with all the technology we now have on hand and once internalized will literally take only a few minutes a day. Just the fact that you having to log every thing you eat it, will slightly alter your daily routine. With a new-found self-awareness and increased will-power, you can achieve things you didn’t think possible, because once you see change is possible, there is no limit to your capabilities.
Please share your own experiences with changing your diet and food journals in the comments section below. I wish everyone great success on their self-care path.