Introduction To Food Journaling
How can we achieve healthy weight loss if we are unaware of what we are putting into our bodies and how it makes us feel? A great tool for weight loss or weight maintenance is the practice of food journaling with mindful eating.
If you log down what you are eating, along with your level of hunger/fullness, and emotions, you will be able to create better eating habits! It has been shown that individuals who keep a food journal can eliminate self-sabotaging behaviors, like overeating, binge-eating, and emotional eating. Food journaling is a great way to discover your personal eating habits, behaviors, and preferences surrounding food.
Benefits of Food Journaling
There are numerous benefits to this simple task. Let’s review some of the main benefits of food journaling.
- Discover and eliminate mindless eating
- Detect food intolerances
- Discover emotions and feelings around food choices
- Better determine internal cues, such as hunger and fullness
- Identify the overall quality of your diet (based on variety, balance, and moderation)
- Identify triggers to unhealthy eating habits, such as over-eating or binge eating
What To Include When Food Journaling
Below are a few components that should be included in your food journal. Of course, you do not need to include every single component each time, but the greater the detail, the better you will be able to recognize your personal habits.
Being able to accurately log portion sizes is important for determining whether you are eating too much or too little. Examples of some measurements can be 4 ounces of chicken, 1 cup of rice, or 12 baby carrots.
Please note that you do not need to measure foods for the rest of your life! There are other ways to estimate portion sizes, such as using your hand and fist. Once you get a general idea of what measurements look like, you will be able to easily identify what you are consuming.
Including the way the food is prepared or served makes a huge difference! For instance, the nutrient composition of fried chicken differs drastically from grilled chicken. Some examples of preparation methods you can list are baked, fried, grilled, boiled, roasted, sauteed, and steamed.
This may seem like a silly detail, but the location of where the meal took place can make a difference in the way you eat. For instance, you may notice that when you are out at a restaurant, you tend to eat past the point of comfortable fullness. These details can help you determine where you may need some improvement.
Day & Time
Including the day and time is important to identify how often your meals take place and patterns in your hunger and fullness.
Logging your mood is one of the most important factors. Keeping track of your mood will allow you to see how your feelings affect your food choices. You may notice interesting associations such as, when you log your mood as lonely, you eat more dessert.
Logging your hunger and fullness levels prior to eating, midway through the meal, and after the meal will allow you to learn more about your internal hunger and satiety cues. You will be able to notice patterns associated with the amount of food you eat and your corresponding hunger/fullness levels.
Including all of these factors in your food journal will allow you to get the best snapshot of your eating behaviors. Let’s take a look at an example of how a food journal may look.
Sample Food Journal
Kristy’s Food Journal
Let’s go over our findings.
Ready? Let’s review what we found:
- Monday lunch might have been planned for too late in the day. Kristy logged “0” for her hunger level before the meal. Waiting to eat until the point of ravenous hunger does not set you up for success! It often leads to overeating and uncomfortable physical sensations.
- After Monday’s sushi dinner, Kristy noted that a few hours after eating, she felt abdominal pains. Considering that she was at a comfortable level “7” after dinner, the pains may be a sign that something Kristy ate does not agree with her. This could have been either the spicy tuna or maybe the fried shrimp in the shrimp tempura roll. Now, Kristy has a better idea of some foods that she might be intolerant to and can avoid in the future.
- Kristy’s 10:00 pm snack may not have been based on physical hunger. Kristy noted that she was alone, her mood was “bored”, and her hunger level was a “5”. This gives Kristy some insight into noticing that her decision to snack was most likely based on emotional factors. She also ate past the point of comfortable fullness, leading to uncomfortable physical sensations.
Food journaling is a great way to learn more about personal eating behaviors. Keeping a food journal is a great tool to eliminate mindless eating and helps to provide accountability.
The main components that should be included in your food journal include:
- Portion sizes
- Preparation methods
- Day & Time
- Hunger/Fullness levels
Get Pacer For Easy Food Journaling
Albers, S. (2020). Mindful eating handouts. Eating Mindfully.
Katherine D. McManus, M. S. (2019, January 31). Why keep a food diary? Harvard Health.