In the Spotlight
Watching What you Eat: Food Journaling
Contributed by Kathleen Williams, R.D.,C.S.G.
Although the idea of keeping a food journal is not a new one, it remains one of your best weight management strategies. Some have noted that weight loss can double, if a food journal is kept. A food journal, or food diary, allows you to look at your food intake over a time period, and identify areas that you can work on, which will benefit your health. Keeping a food journal can be as simple, or complex, as you like. The value you receive from your food journal does not depend on how simple or complex it is, and it is not important to spend a great deal of money on a "professional" journal. It can be as simple as recording your food and drink intake in a small notebook.
So, what works? What do you need to do to get started? First, decide if you want to use a simple notebook, some index cards, or if you want to print some pages from the Internet to use in your journal. Many sites have pages for your use, including My HealtheVet. The My HealtheVet's Track Health section allows a registered user to record and track their health information in one convenient location. One can keep track of their diet and exercise in the Journals section.
Whatever you decide, there are a few basic parts to every food journal.
For a very basic journal, you need to make each page of the journal begin with the day of the week. After that, divide the page into three sections for your meals, and leave room to record snacks. As you go through your day, make a note of the specific food you ate, the amount or size of the food you ate. Be sure you have an accurate amount. For example, write "15 almonds", not "almonds". Record all that you eat, and the approximate time of day.
Other information that is helpful in a food diary is to record the place where you have eaten, and how you felt before and after. This way, you can record if you felt "hungry", "bored" or "sad." Also, record if you ate at a dining room table, or in the recliner in front of the TV. Other personal observations may also be helpful. For example, note your weight that day, how much sleep you got the night before, amount and intensity of physical activity, and how much water you drank.
Later in the week, look back at your record. Do you notice trends? Do you see areas you can improve upon? Maybe you are eating extra sugary foods when you are tired, or are you eating late at night? Maybe you are eating portions that are larger than you thought. Maybe you will note that you miss breakfast most days. These observations will then allow you to make other decisions to change your eating habits. You will see your weight loss be even more successful!
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Updated/Reviewed: April 1, 2011