Being mindful when eating is important whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your current weight and improve your body composition. Using a food journal is a mindful behavior technique that can help you dial in your nutrition. Tracking food intake can improve your calorie and macronutrient counting and allow you to make adjustments as needed to optimize your diet. By journaling, you can also discover what foods make you feel the best and what foods you may want to limit due to your specific sensitivities and intolerances.
Journaling can also help bring awareness as to WHY you are eating. You may find that when you are feeling sad or depressed, you eat more and you eat sweeter processed foods.
Food journaling can help us bring awareness to our habits that we may or may not be conscious of! By writing down when what and why you are eating; you may discover that you tend to snack out of boredom or due to stress, rather than due to hunger.
You may also learn that you’re eating more or fewer calories than you thought, which can keep you from hitting your target weight goal. Once we become aware of our habits and routines, we can start to address those that are limiting our success up to this point. By tracking when you eat, you can see if there are certain times of day when you are more hungry and in response, eat more than you planned. Once you notice trends, you can, for example, adjust your eating times to prevent overeating later.
How to start?
There are many apps available, like MyFitnessPal, that help you track your calories and have an extensive list of foods programmed in that make tracking your intake easy. You can also simply use a regular journal or notebook.
Things to note when eating:
- Calories are important to track. As mentioned above, you may be getting more or fewer calories than you think. Your macronutrient breakdown (carbs, proteins, fats) may be different than what you need.
- Take note of how you’re feeling (mentally and physically) both before and after eating. You may find that your emotions are tied to eating better or worse.
- Keep track of the time of day when you eat. If you find that you’re snacking on “junk” foods by mid-morning, you may need to adjust your breakfast or modify that mid-morning snack to better support your goals.
- If you’re working out, note how you felt during your workout. If you find a correlation between feeling better during a workout and the foods you ate prior to exercise, then you may want to start replicating that meal prior to your workouts on a regular basis.
- Location can also be an important piece to note, as certain influences like work, the people around you, and your environment can play a role in your eating habits.
Food journaling can be therapeutic and can keep you stay accountable on a regular basis. Although it takes a little work, this practice can help you achieve your nutrition and body weight goals. It can also aid in discovering foods that make you feel good and those that you are less tolerant of. By identifying behaviors and habits, you can ultimately change your diet and optimize your overall health and well-being!
Kelly Wild (@kellywild8) is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy. She also is a National level Olympic Weightlifter and former 3 time CrossFit Games athlete. Kelly also played Division I ice hockey at Ohio State University. Kelly believes that health care should be proactive, not reactive. This mantra has inspired Kelly to publish a number of online fitness protocols at Californiastrength.com that anyone can use to reduce injury risk and improve strength in order to continue to pursue all of your athletic and fitness goals!