Why And How Of Food Journaling
Put on your scientist hat and gather the data you need to make informed decisions.
You can’t manage (or improve) what you don’t measure.
If you want to be better at something, start with awareness.
Tracking brings awareness.
Do you want to manage your money better? Track your finances.
Do you want to manage your time better? Track where it’s currently going.
Do you want to manage your nutrition better? Track your eating.
No matter what data you collect about yourself and your life, knowing the facts helps you make easier decisions.
Collecting data tracks your consistency.
Consistency is the ticket to success.
In your coaching program, you and your coach can collect data about things like your eating and exercise, so you can easily see how consistent you’re being.
By keeping a food journal, you’ll see the big picture of how often you’ve done daily practices successfully.
With a view of the bigger picture, you’re able to more clearly see patterns and the longer-term cause and effect of behaviors.
For example, why on one particular day are you feeling uncontrollable hunger, and finding it more challenging to make healthy food choices? Looking at the big picture, maybe you see that the previous two days your carb intake was irregularly low, leaving your energy levels and decision-making lacking.
Without tracked data over days, it would be nearly impossible to understand detailed patterns and consistency.
Collecting data highlights what you’re doing well.
Journaling isn’t punishment. Instead, journaling is a way to highlight what you’re already doing well, and what’s already working for you. Then, how can you learn from your success? How can you build on your healthy daily practices?
To stay encouraged, make journaling positive.
Try to focus mostly on what to do more of, rather than what to restrict. Try to learn and stay future-focused, rather than ruminating in regrets.
Collecting data helps you make more informed decisions.
Gathering data and evidence about yourself allows you to become more aware of behaviors, and see whether it’s taking you closer to your goals.
With tracking, we can be objective. We don’t assume or think or wonder whether we’re doing something. Our self-awareness depends less on memories. With accurate data, we know for sure.
We get immediate feedback that helps us take informed action right away.
We can decide what to do next based on evidence, instead of guessing and hoping.
How to food journal: Make the practice helpful for you.
Here’s how to collect your data so that you get the best quality evidence for you, according to your awareness, skills, and goals.
- Record everything you put in your mouth.
Everything counts. For the most accurate picture of what you’re doing, capture everything you eat and drink in your journal. Even the small stuff—like drinks and small bites—add up to make a real difference.
- Record the basics.
Of what you’re eating (and drinking):
- What are you eating?
- How much are you eating?
- How are you eating?
- When are you eating?
- Record as soon as possible.
Memory is very unreliable (especially if you’re busy and distracted). Record immediately.
- Decide how detailed you want to be.
Tracking more detailed information will give you a clearer picture of your total behaviors. Tracking more details also means more time, attention, and effort you’ll have to dedicate to the practice.
Track the least amount of information you need for your skills and goals.
Unless you love journaling the smaller details, start as easy as possible. Or, if you know you want to be the mad scientist of your body, go on with your mad self.
Match the data specificity to your skills and goals.
For example, if your goals right now are to lose some weight to generally feel better, and watching portion sizes is a new practice for you, track your food in general hand portion sizes.
If you already have the self-awareness that stress and emotions are a block to healthy eating, maybe add tracking feelings to your journal.
If your goals are to keep high muscle composition while exercising 5+ times per week and losing body fat, you may want to be more detailed in single ingredients and grams of nutrients.
- Record everything.
(Did we mention that already?) Be compassionate and brutally honest. There’s no such thing as sneaking cals. Untracked data leaves you in the dark, and nobody wins.
- Stay positive.
Remember that this is a positive, healthy, and encouraging practice. Focus on what you’re doing well and what’s working. Stay future-positive, rather than past-negative.
Write In Your Journal
Download the PDF below, or use the recording method of your choice to record what you eat and drink today.
Food Journal PDF (form-fillable)