I love this quote: “Knowledge is Power.” When it comes to understanding eating patterns it couldn’t be more true.
Everyone who has kept a personal journal knows that writing can be a therapeutic process that helps integrate seemingly unconnected life events. Some believe the process works because the physical act of writing (using your hand-eye coordination) occupies your left brain, leaving your right brain free to access emotions and to create new insights.
Over the next few weeks we are going to explore the connections between what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, where you eat, and how you feel before and after eating. It’s all linked together in very interesting ways.
I’ve created a food journal template for you to download to make recording fun and easy. You’ll see that the journal has been designed so that each piece of tracking information – date, time, food or drink item eaten, quantity consumed, where you’re eating, and how you are feeling when eating has its own column.
Although it’s tempting to wait until the end of the day to record everything, it’s not the most accurate. It’s really best to record everything while you eat or shortly thereafter. This way, you’re less likely to forget items like that extra serving of pasta or chocolate chip cookies that a coworker brought to share at work. You can always reflect back on your day by looking over your journal at the end of the day to make sure that nothing was missed.
So let’s walk through the process:
Column 1 – TIME
For this column, jot down a specific time – like 8 am or 3:30 pm instead of just “breakfast” or “afternoon snack.” This information will be important when we explore patterns of eating.
Column 2 – LIST ALL FOOD & FLUIDS
Here’s where you want to record everything that you eat and drink. Be very specific. Deconstruct your meal by listing individual ingredients. For example, instead of writing down “turkey sandwich,” write out the type of bread (whole wheat), turkey (low salt deli) and condiments (pickles, tomatoes) as separate entries. Write down your drinks as well – this includes water! And don’t forget to record snacks!
It would look something like this –
|8 am||Egg, fried in butter||1||home||Tired, sad|
|Non-dairy creamer||2 T|
|Whole wheat toast||1 slice|
|Almond butter||1 T|
Column 3 – AMOUNT OF FOOD AND FLUIDS
Just as important as WHAT you’re eating is HOW MUCH you’re eating. There are a couple of ways to do this – it depends on how precise you want to be. If you’re interested in how many calories you consume, accurate quantities are extremely important. In this case, a food scale can become your new best friend (J) for correct portions. This way, you can weigh out ingredients and record the exact amount you eat. Tedious yes, but it will give you the best information when it comes to evaluating your intake.
Another method is to “guesstimate” quantities of a food by using a visual reference to compare to standard portion sizes. I’ve chosen one of the most popular – the hand guide to portion control! This is especially helpful for when you’re eating out. Here’s how it works:
- Use your two open hands to guide you in selecting a healthy serving of vegetables.
- Use your fist to select a healthy portion of grain products. Your serving of rice or pasta should be equal to your fist.
- Use your palm to measure a healthy serving of meat and alternatives. Your chicken breast or lean steak should be the size of your palm.
- Include a fist-size serving of fruit with or between your meals.
- Use a thumb tip-size serving of fat.
Column 4 – WHERE
Where do you have most of your meals? Record where you eat – this provides helpful clues about your food habits. Some people may eat more while dining out, and others tend to eat more at home. Did you eat at a restaurant? In front of the TV? At your desk? In your car? Stay tuned to take a closer look at this area.
Column 5 – FEELINGS
Mood matters! We don’t just eat because we’re hungry. Our emotions can have a significant impact on what we choose to eat, when we eat, and how much we eat. Use the “feelings” column to write down emotions like tired, anxious, happy, sad, or guilty. For example, you might write “tired, no energy” for an afternoon snack of coffee and an oatmeal raisin cookie. Understanding key emotion-to-food connections will help you appreciate the reasons why you make certain choices.
Now that you have the tools for keeping an effective food journal, start writing! It’s time to learn more ABOUT YOU!