Think about the first thing you ate today? Can you remember? Was it a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and a glass of orange juice or was it a coffee you bought at Starbucks drive-thru in the morning and a smoothie you picked up at lunch time because you were running late to work and had a busy morning? How much popcorn did you mindlessly munch on while you were watching the newTwilight movie? How many ounces of steak did you eat for dinner or did you compromise dinner because you stayed late at work and had drinks with co-workers instead? Most of us keep track of our finances, we know exactly how much we have in the bank and exactly how much we have to splurge on a new pair of shoes or a new gadget at Brookstone, yet we don’t keep tract of the very essential thing we put in our bodies every single day: food!
One of the first and most important pieces of information I gather from a client looking to improve their diet and health is a three day food journal. A three day food journal is simply a record of every morsel of food that a person puts into their mouth for three days, however, for most people (myself included the first time I kept a journal), is not so simple. What do we eat, how much do we eat, and why do we eat when we eat are all important questions that many of us have never thought about before yet can be very enlightening for us when we take the time to track it. Studies show that keeping a food journal has one of the largest impacts for weight loss in women. In fact, women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not.*
It is difficult to make dietary changes when you do not know what your eating in the first place. If you are looking to make changes in your diet I urge you to record everything that passes your lips for 3 days ( 2 weekdays and 1 weekend). Some tips for a successful food journal are as follows:
-Be honest: You don’t need to impress anyone with your food journal. Don’t be ashamed of what you ate or did not eat. This is meant to assess your “typical” eating pattern so that you can make improvements in your health and well-being.
-Be accurate: Measure or weigh portions if you have to (oz., cups, grams). Be aware of how food was prepared (grilled, baked, steamed, fried), read labels and ingredients, and pay attention to the use of condiments.
-Be consistent: Write down what you eat as you eat it in your paper food journal or electronically on your phone or tablet. Sometimes we are unaware of the “grazing” or nibble here nibble there so this is the time to bring awareness to food patterns. Below is a link to iPhone/iPad apps that make it easier to record food and count calories. It is surprising how many hidden calories are in restaurant meals however this link will make it easier to track. http://gigaom.com/apple/ipad-app-roundup-food-diaries-and-calorie-counters/
The intent of a food journal is to bring awareness to patterns in your diet (do you tend to skip meals, mostly eat out, etc), the type of eater you are (informative, emotional, social), and the areas you can make improvements (eat more vegetables, eat complex carbs instead of refined, cut back on soda). In a recent study as stated earlier, weight loss can be attributed to not skipping meals and limiting the amount of dining out for lunch. Perhaps you can wake up earlier to eat your yogurt and fruit bowl instead of running on coffee alone, prepare a lunch the night before instead of eating in the food court, or perhaps you can substitute one of those steak dinners for grilled fish. You may be surprised how quickly your body, energy level and mood will positively respond! For a more detailed diet analysis assessing macro and micro nutrients, email your 3 day food journal to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free diet analysis.
“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” Adelle Davis
* Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “Want to lose weight? Keep a food journal, don’t skip meals and avoid going out to lunch.” ScienceDaily, 13 Jul. 2012. Web. 14 Jul. 2012.