So, you've been wanting to lose weight and you decided to start a food diary to track your eating habits. And it all started pretty well. You wrote down every single bite of food you took. You carried your diary around with you so you wouldn't forget to track anything. You even bought a special diary and pen to make tracking feel fun.
And this all lasted for maybe 3 days, until that one meal when you forgot to carry your diary and you couldn't remember later how much you really ate.
I wished that food diaries were some magical thing where you just lose weight by writing things down. But I was so, so wrong.
Some people seem to really love food diaries, but I couldn't get myself to enjoy it as much. And I didn't feel like it was helping me lose weight. Instead, it just made me feel bad for eating the stuff I knew I probably shouldn't have been eating.
What's the big picture?
I like to think of food diaries as like a money tracker. If you track your money without having a budget, then there's not point, right? You're just tracking something without any intention of using the information for a bigger goal.
And that's how you want to think of your food diary, too. It's not something you use just to track your food. What you do with the information you gather is where the magic happens.
So here are 5 correlations you want to look at to make your Food Diary work to your advantage: you need to track these in addition to your food to make it work:
Food and Discomforts
How is your digestive system responding to the food you eat? Do you get gassy, bloated, have constipation, or any aches and pains?
I used to think that stomach aches after having ice cream were normal, but then I found out that I'm sensitive to dairy. Your body is not supposed to feel any discomforts, so you want to record when you feel anything "off".
Then, take a look at the food you had before you had your discomfort and see if there is a pattern. Do you always get gassy after having dairy? Tired with brain fog after having bread?
Food and Energy Levels
Start recording how much energy you have every hour, and rate it on a scale of 1-10.
Do you see a pattern where you're energy levels are like a roller coaster? Waking up exhausted, alert around noon, falling asleep in the afternoon, and then up with energy at night?
If so, take a look at how many stimulants and sugars you have in your diet. These foods shock your system to the point where you have an energy crash later on in the day (and you wind up craving more).
Food and Habits
What were you doing in the situation when you were eating? Record your activity. Were you sitting on the couch watching Netflix when you had too many helpings of chips? Were you studying for an exam when you crammed one-too-many cookies into your mouth?
Start identifying what activities you do in your daily life that could be triggering poor eating habits (and start thinking of what you can do, instead).
Food and Environment
Where were you when you ate the food? Did you have a couple donuts in the office kitchen, brought by your coworker and left out on the table? Did you eat a bit too much when you happened to be at a buffet?
Start recording the location where you have been eating foods and see if your environment has been triggering you to eat more.
Food and Celebration
Do you see any patterns in your eating habits at celebrations? Do you go crazy on the cheesecake when you dine out, or always have 10 glasses of wine at a party?
Start understanding what your habits are when you're in social situations. What do you look forward to when you celebrate when it comes to food? What do you justify having even though you feel like you probably shouldn't eat it?
Using these 5 Correlations for your Food Diary:
If you only track your food throughout the day and nothing else, then you might not be helping yourself very much in the long run. Because it's not about just the tracking - it's about the data analysis, and the correlations.
You're smart. You know how calories work, you know about portioning, and you know that vegetables and water are good for you.
So there's no need to analyze the nutrient density of the food that you're eating as much as what's happening in your lifestyle, and if the foods you eat make you feel any discomforts.
What about you, how have you been using your food diary? Leave a comment!