It doesn’t matter what fitness goals you have, keeping a food journal can help with all of them.
A food journal is a place where you log down EVERY SINGLE THING you eat. Every burger. Every glass of water. Every thing.
The journal raises awareness of your daily and weekly food habits and keeps you honest with yourself.
Here are some common questions and tips to help you start yours and get on a faster track to achieving your fitness goals.
For How Long Do I Keep the Journal?
You can decide to keep this journal for a week or a month, but either way, once you set the goal, stick with it! Some people maintain long term journals in order to track their healthy eating habits over time, but the timeline should reflect your goals.
If you look back at a my 30 Days of Food Tracking Posts, I tracked my eating for 30 days. It was hard and very revealing. As much as I thought I was on top of everything, I wasn’t minding my nutrition as well as I could have for the results I want to see.
I needed to eat less cake and cookies 🙂
I have done the food journaling several times in the past, for a week or two at a time, to check that I was eating the right amounts of certain foods and less of the junk. It has always helped me reevaluate my diet and how I need to keep myself in check with it comes to food.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, I would suggest keeping the daily food journal for several months. This will give you invaluable insight into where you are today vs where you were 4 months ago. Not only will you see the physical changes your body, but you will be able to see when you started being better to yourself by eating better foods.
Where Do I Keep the Journal?
The most common places to keep the journal:
- small notebook
- app on phone
- in your planner
- fancy journal
My husband prefers putting all his info into an app, MapMyRun, which has a way to track your exercise and food. It also has listings of all calories, protein, carbs, fats in foods, so it’s great for those people who want to track macronutrients.
This is especially good for those trying to put on muscle mass or gain weight. My husband is that kind of person – he is a hard gainer, so when he tracks his food, he is trying to eat to gain weight/muscle.
Wish his wife had this problem -.-
If you don’t have time to get your notebook out or log it in the app, sending yourself a text or quick email from work is a good way to still keep notes.
If you find yourself forgetting to log things, setting a timer for 15 minutes after breakfast, lunch or dinner is a good way to remind yourself.
What Do I Write In This Journal?
: Food :
As mentioned earlier, you will write down everything you eat. How specific you get will depend on your goals.
If you know you are someone who needs to be sure to eat veggies at every meal, then make sure you are noting those specific items. If you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, you will want to write down everything you eat in order to track those macronutrients.
Generally, you should write down what you are eating and the amounts of each. If you don’t know the exact ounces or amount, just make notes like “1/2 cup” or “1 serving M&Ms.” You can find the nutrition information online later. If you are eating from something that tells you the protein, carb & fat amount, write those stats down.
At first, you should carefully measure portions, until you get the hang of it. Most of us have little to no idea how much a serving of something actually is. Chicken breasts are gigantic these days, but that doesn’t mean you eat whole one. And when the serving of chips is 12 chips – 12 chips is a lot smaller than we think!
When you have been watching your portions closely for a few weeks and feel you have a good grasp, you won’t need to measure everything out all the time. Progress!
You will start to notice your food habits after a few days and be able to decide whether or not you need that ice cream at night. Is it really doing anything good for you when you had that cake at 3:00p.m? Probably not.
It’s good to have treats, but too many doesn’t equal health or weight loss progress.
: Emotions :
The journal isn’t solely for food – you will want to write down your emotions, body reactions and activities too.
Writing down your emotions will help those who are emotional eaters. For me, sometimes I just eat out of boredom.
Or when there’s something I’m craving and I don’t know what it is, but I’ll eat a little bit of everything in the house to determine what it is and it turns out that I don’t even have whatever it is I’m craving. What is this trickery?
Those are the days I need to be adding my emotions to the journal.
It’s always good to write down how you felt before and after you ate. This way you can remind yourself why you shouldn’t emotional eat – because it probably didn’t do anything good for you.
It might seem simple, but it helps a TON.
: Body Reactions :
How is your body reacting to certain foods? Did you eat that yogurt and get a giant bloated stomach? Did you eat a big bowl of past last night and feel sluggish this morning? Food journals are great for people who are trying to figure out if they have an intolerance to some foods.
Tracking my food has helped me figure out that dairy, beans & lots of gluten affect my stomach in a very bad way. I’m not completely allergic to those foods (because I still eat pizza!) but I do know that if I have an event where I’m going to be wearing a tight dress or shirt, then I need to lay off all of those or else it will LITERALLY look like I have a baby bump.
Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. 🙁
That is how much I get affected by these foods. Having stomach really hurts my motivation to do anything, like exercise or….move.
Not to mention – acne! I have accepted my hormonal breakouts at this point in life, but the rest are just annoying. I know if I eat tons of greasy or cheesy foods it will lead to a breakout.
This result of food tracking has probably helped me the most and given me back more confidence that I can control my body and its reactions. So thankful for that.
: Activities :
I don’t think anyone should avoid a fun time because of fear that the food won’t fit in your plan.
Live a little!
The best reason to track your activities is that you can plan for them.
If you usually have a handful of nuts and come chocolate for a snack during the day, if you know you are going out to eat with friends later, switch out that snack for something will less fat. This way, when it comes to fatty dining menus, you won’t feel like you’re straying too much.
This is a good way to keep you in check for the days following an outing too. Knowing you wrote down all the tortilla chips, drinks and loaded potato skins you ate will keep you from overindulging in the upcoming days.
I hope these tips and info on food journals have convinced you that its a good idea for you – even if only for 2 weeks! It can really assist in any fat loss goals you have, especially since food is the biggest hinderance in weight loss for most people.
If you already keep a food journal, are there any ideas listed here that you already do? Any you would add to the list? Let us know here or on FB!