The Importance of Food Journaling
Ok, so you’ve already heard enough about food journaling, or you’ve already tried food journaling before but you stopped for some reason. We’re revisiting it today because monitoring what you eat is an essential part of your weight loss program. Try thinking of beyond just listing your daily food intake. Mood/food journaling is where you also record your emotion, which can help link your feelings to your food choices or episodes of overeating. You can also record the context or anything about the surroundings that may provide valuable information on possible triggers to eat. This includes your location, such as a social event, a certain room in your home, sitting in front of the TV, time of day, or certain people that may influence you to eat.
So why is food journaling so important for weight loss?
- It helps you to be accountable. Ideally you will log what you eat along the way. (You’ll have trouble recalling everything if you wait more than 24 hrs). If you have to write down those few chips, you might pause for a moment and refrain from impulsively grabbing them. You might not have been aware of those extra foods sneaking in that are adding unwanted calories. Recording what you eat can be a reminder that you are not getting enough protein, or that too many hours are going by without eating. Keeping track of your fluid intake, can help you remember to grab a bottle of water before you leave the house and stay well hydrated. If you choose to log your exercise, you can look back and feel great about your consistency or resolve to get to the gym more that week.
- It helps you face any issues with food. Be honest with yourself. Record your struggles with food, not just when you are doing well. (It’s okay if you turn over the page to list all the items you now feel a bit embarrassed about.) Better to take a look at the overeating episode than stay in denial. Facing your problem may be the first step toward change. Do you tend to overeat more when you are stressed or bored?, do you turn to comfort foods when you are lonely or sad? Food journaling can be a powerful tool to give you insight into your own vulnerabilities.
- It helps you learn from your mistakes and plan ahead better. Understanding how you got from point A, where you were on track with your food choices, to point B, where you got off course, is all useful information. You may start to see certain patterns. Do you make poor food choices when others are eating in front of you (i.e. coworkers order takeout)? Are you more likely to give in to your craving when you are over hungry? Next, figure out what you can do differently to be more successful. If you tend to grab unhealthy food when you walk in the door at the end of the day, you may need to add a small healthy afternoon snack at work. Or maybe you want to take a brisk walk to decrease your stress level. If you go off your food plan at social events, try drinking a protein shake before you arrive. Consider bringing a healthy appetizer that you’ll feel good munching on when faced with lots of food. (Who knows, maybe someone else will appreciate it too!)
Any way you choose to use food journaling, it may be the missing piece to the puzzle in your weight plateau, or just assist you further along your weight loss path to success. Either way, if you’re not currently food journaling, I hope you’ll decide to give it another try!