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3 Musts for Effective Food Journaling

Many people count calories when they are trying to lose weight.  Doing so can be very helpful, and often, can lead to greater and more sustainable weight loss.  In a study done by Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, those participants who kept a food diary lost almost twice the amount of weight of those who did not journal.  Further, those who kept a diary managed to keep the weight off.

What really makes a food journal successful?  Obviously, recording what you eat and how much of it you eat is definitely an important component to track.  But is that enough?  I’d argue…no.  Tracking your caloric intake is undeniably important, but it doesn’t necessarily tackle the emotional side of the food intake equation.  Many of us use food as a form of comfort…whether it be to fill a void…to alleviate emotional pain…to calm nervousness…or to offset boredom.  In order to create sustainable lifestyle changes, knowing what triggers you to eat is arguably, just as important.

Mindfulness of the hows, whys, whats and whens of your food consumption promotes balance, choice and acceptance of what is.  To practice this mindfulness, keep a journal to document how you feel physically AND mentally…before, during and after meals and snacks.  Here are the three components you should track in your journal:

  1. What You Eat. Document what and how much you eat.  This will help you identify those foods that are most gratifying and filling as they apply to actual hunger as well as emotional triggers. It will also enable you to determine how balanced your snacks and meals are.  Include calories of what you ate as well.
  2. Appetite. Evaluate your appetite on a scale of 0 to 5: 0 represents “extremely hungry,” 5 extremely full.  Whenever possible, strive never to be a 0 or a 5.  If hunger sets in, aim for a rating no lower than 1; after you have eaten, you shouldn’t be fuller than a 4.
  3. Physical and Emotional Status. When you get hungry and while you are eating, tune into your physical and emotional state.  What were you doing when you became hungry?  Were you thinking about anything in particular?  Were you stressed?  Depressed?  Happy?  Relaxed?  Bored?  Note your feelings in order to understand what triggers your eating.  Are you really hungry?  Are you using food to fill an empty void?  Is food an automatic “go-to” when celebrating?  Noting these feelings will help you distinguish between real hunger and emotional hunger.

Here is a chart of what your journal should look like:

Date & Time What did I eat / drink?
Caloric Value How did I feel before/during/after eating? (0 – 5)
What was I doing? What was I thinking? How was I feeling?

Have you used food journaling to help you lose weight?  Did it work?  What did you find most effective?

Adapted from “GET REAL” and STOP Dieting! Copyright © 2009 by Brett Blumenthal. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Mind-Body, Nutrition Tagged with: , , , ,