If you have decided to lose weight, a suggestion that you may have read or heard about from doctors or other dieters is “diet journaling.” Although not too many people are familiar with keeping a diet journal, it can definitely be a valuable tool while you are losing weight and creating a healthier lifestyle.
So what exactly is “diet journaling”? Just how does diet journaling work? And by what means can it help you to lose weight?
What Is a Diet Journal?
Eating food is a normal part of our daily lives, and it something that we do sometimes without even being mindful of doing so. And that can lead us, first, to eating more than we are aware of or, second, to eating too much of the “wrong” foods.
A diet journal becomes a resource or a tool which will help you to identify exactly what you are eating so that you can make more careful and health-conscious decisions about your eating. Eventually, as you continue journaling, you will become more aware of your eating habits and, possibly, you will begin to more carefully consider what you are eating.
How Does Diet Journaling Work?
You can make your own diet journal. You can make it as simple as a list of what you eat recorded on your cellphone’s notepad or on a small notepad which can easily fit into your purse or pocket. It can be as complex as a steno pad wherein you record the carbohydrates, proteins, fats or calories that you have consumed during the day. You may even decide to use one of the many “diet journaling” apps found on the internet; they, too, vary from the simple to the very complex.
Regardless of whether you make it simple or complex, the important thing to remember is that your diet journal should be as accurate and precise as possible. Remember its purpose is to keep track of your eating habits and to start your journey to a healthier, happy you!
That having been said, let’s discuss what specific kinds of information you should put in your journal.
Listed below are some suggestions* as to what details you should include in your diet journal:
- Write down what you are eating. Be as concrete and specific as you can.
Identify the exact the food and drink that you consumed. How was your food cooked (fried, grilled, steamed, roasted, baked, broiled)? Did you add any seasonings, sauces, garnishes, or dressings? What kind of a drink did you have? Be specific about its size, type and ingredients. Was it sugar-free? Was sugar added? Also, be sure to make note of any drinks containing alcohol that you may have.
- Write down the amount you are eating.
Begin weighing and measuring your food, if you are able. For example, how many cups, teaspoons, ounces are you eating? Away from the house? Just try to guesstimate what amount you are eating.
- Write down the time you are eating.
Making a note of the time(s) that you are eating will help you to determine possible triggers that are causing you to eat (e.g., whether your eating is related to meeting deadlines at work, to snacking in between meals, late at night, while watching the television, etc. )
- Write down the exact place where you are eating and what you are doing while you’re eating.
Are you eating while in your kitchen preparing your meal, at your workplace, in your bedroom, in your car, with your friends just hanging out, in the family room watching television, etc.?
- Write down with whom you are eating.
Who are you eating with? Are you eating with your husband/ significant other, your kids, coworker(s), friends, or by yourself?
- Write down how you are feeling while you are eating.
What emotions are you feeling when you’re eating: tired and exhausted, stressed out, lonely, bored, happy?
- If you want to, write down if you have any kind of exercise routine.
How Can a Diet Journal Help You to Lose Weight?
After a week or so, it will time for you to assess what you have written in your journal. Now, you will be able to see very clearly how your notes will help you to create a proper understanding and assessment of your eating habits.
Evaluate your entries by looking for any patterns, recurrent eating behaviors or activities.
Ask yourself, for example, some of the following questions:
- How nutritious are my meals? Am I planning nutritious, healthy meals?
- Am I eating the right foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains) in their right proportions?
- What is my intake of calories?
- What is my intake of sugar in my foods and drinks?
- Am I drinking enough water to properly hydrate my body?
- How often am I eating? If between meals, what am I eating?
- Am I sitting down and enjoying my meals, or am I eating on the run?
- Are my moods affecting what I eat and when I eat?
- Are any of the foods that I am eating causing me any discomfort (such as headaches, indigestion, bloating, allergic reactions, inflammation, etc.)?
After you have uncovered and pinpointed areas where you need to improve, you may want to seek the advice of your doctor or a dietician so that you can map out some specific diet plan. Or you may want to set a few goals for healthy eating on your own. Most importantly, those goals must be specific and measurable ones, and you must keep writing your daily intake of food and drink.
In “The Single Best Way to Lose Weight,” Kate Torgovnick says that “It's scientifically proven: The key isn't just what you eat, it's what you write.” She identifies five of the key ways in which keeping a diet journal will help you to lose those pounds:
- You'll get a reality check about how many calories you consume.
- You'll cut back on between-meal munching.
- You'll discover where your diet detours.
- You'll learn why you pig out.
- You'll see real results — quickly.
Keeping a diet journal can help you on your weight-loss journal because it will give you information about you and your relationship with food. The ever greater advantage of keeping a diet journal is that it doesn’t have to cost you a dime, and you can begin right now!
*Suggestions adapted from Why Keep a Food Diary? by Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN