Why Should I Keep a Food Diary?

Keep a food diary to see the patterns of what foods bring your energy down, what foods derail your healthy habits, what foods sustain you best, etc. For example, do you tend to stop eating healthily in the days after you’ve had a big dessert? Or perhaps you're eating more of something than you thought. Or perhaps you're eating well during the week when you have a strict schedule, but you're eating more junk foods during the weekend when your spouse's foods influence you more.

Look for patterns in your food diary. Judge nothing. This is not about making yourself feel bad, it is purely about information. You are observing your eating habits to see what is working well and what needs tweaking.

Using a food diary —or notes of any kind— will enlighten you as to not only WHAT you're eating and how often, but when you're eating it, and often times WHY you're eating it. Patterns will emerge. "Oh I see that I often have a pastry from the bakery after our stressful Wednesday afternoon conference call with my boss. Hmmm." Yeah, hmmm alright. That's some emotional eating there. Good to know. Only when you are aware of it can you decide what you want to do about it.

After all, knowledge is power. And the more you know, the more you can make powerful decisions that help you reach your goals to live your dream life. These thousands of little choices we make over time that create our lives into what we want them to be.

Alcohol counts, too! Track anything you eat or drink.

Want a pretty food diary? Go for it! Whatever makes you more likely to USE IT and recognize it for what it is — an important tool in your journey that can help you find out what foods empower you and fuel you and what foods weaken you. You'll learn more about your life than you thought.

You may even begin to discover unknown food intolerances. The lag between the symptom and when you ate the food can make it hard to detect. Our bodies change with time and we can develop food intolerances or food allergies at any time - so pay attention and avoid foods that don't sit well with you. (You can even go to your doctor or holistic practitioner to get a test if you want more information.)

Things to pay attention to in your food diary:

  • How you feel after you eat something
  • When you eat certain foods
  • Why you eat certain foods
  • How much energy you have
  • When and how much you exercise
  • Snack patterns
  • WHY you eat at certain times

I like to keep my food diary and exercise journal separate, but I do make a brief note of my exercise in my food journal. That way I see how I ate that day impacted whether or not I exercised and how much and what kind of exercise I did. Find what works for you.

But it's TOO much work to write notes...

C'mon now. This is your life! You are a strong woman and you can do anything you put your mind to. This food diary can help you overhaul your diet and can enlighten you about patterns, behaviors, and preferences so you can find a system that helps you live your best life. Write it down on scraps of paper and throw them in your pocket, jot it on your hand, tuck a little tiny notebook into your purse - make it doable for you. You don't have to write longhand notes in your journal waxing poetic about how you felt about your salad at lunch, just jot down the basics of what you ate and anything else of note. In fact, shorter notes are better as you can see the patterns at a glance. The time you take to scribble some notes about your food habits in your log will pay off in big ways.

Tip: Still think you're too busy to jot down what you ate? Leave your journal in the bathroom and write a few notes when you visit. That's all the time it takes!

Want an example? OK - here is one day in my food diary from a few years ago (Note: Everything is abbreviated in my notes - "ht" = herb tea, "pot" = potatoes, etc. but I'll spell it out here so you know what I'm talking about):

  • Oatmeal, raisins, agave, cinnamon, herb tea with sugar (ran out of stevia)
  • 2 eggs with cumin and chili powder, tortilla chips, fresh pineapple
  • Lentil soup, potatoes, salad
  • 3 mandarin oranges, 2 wheat toasts with a little butter, agave, cinnamon, salsa and tortilla chips
  • Ate too much too late - felt sort of "bingey." Maybe emotional eating or too light of a dinner. 1 hour of exercise (dancing). Didn't get any greens in today. : (

It's easy to break the notes out by meals - breakfast, lunch, dinner, evening - but do it however you prefer. None of us are perfect - we're all on our own personal journeys. Keep learning and growing so we can live our unique best lives more each day!

Most importantly, write it down, even when you don't want to. Keep your food diary current and REAL. Seeing it there in ink helps you see reality. Be as honest as you can but DON'T be hard on yourself. Just write it down and look for patterns.

Look back at it once in a while to see what you want to change and for the cause and effects of things. Did you exercise too late and then couldn't sleep? Did you eat too much and then felt sleepy? Did you snack too much at work and then weren't hungry for dinner until late? Just observe and identify what habits and patterns you like and which ones you want to tweak. Like everything else, this will be a gradual life shift... a series of small lifestyle changes that gets you closer and closer to your dream body and dream life.

Happy writing!

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