Keeping a Food Diary: The Key to Mindful Eating
Keeping a food diary means that you are going to write down what (and possibly how much) you eat. A food diary is a good tool that gives you more insight and control over your eating habits. You can find food diaries of all kinds. It is important to find out which type of diary best suits your personality and purpose. If you use a food diary in a smart way, it becomes much easier to steer your diet in the right direction and to lose or gain weight successfully. However, a food diary is not a panacea. What are the pros and cons of a food diary? And how do you successfully keep a food diary?
What are the benefits of a food diary?
A food diary has many advantages. Depending on your personality and your strengths and weaknesses in your diet, a food diary can be a good solution.
1. Create awareness and insight
If you want to change your diet, the first step is to become aware of what you eat. Many people eat worse than they think. A cookie here and a drink there, it all seems to be okay. But if you write it down and look at it per day or per week, then you realize how much unhealthy food you consume.
A food diary can also give you insight into your portion size, the number of calories or macronutrients you are taking in. And depending on what you write down, you can also gain insight into your hunger and even your deeper emotions about food.
Measuring is knowing. We keep repeating that. After you have gathered the necessary insight, it is of course the intention that you get started with this. With a food diary, you can make step-by-step changes to achieve your goal.
In the beginning, you can go a long way with a simple rule such as: “I drink a maximum of 2 alcoholic drinks per week.” Anyone who wants to go all out counts every calorie that goes into his or her food diary and has near-perfect control over nutrition.
3. Measure progress
In a food diary you usually also have the option to record your weight, for example. In this way you learn which amounts of food give you which result. This way you know better what and how much you may need to adjust in order to achieve more results.
What are the pitfalls of a food diary?
A food diary is a tool. And a tool is only an added value if you use it wisely. So don’t be fooled by the following pitfalls:
1. You do not take any further action
Writing down what you eat almost automatically makes you more aware of what you eat. But if you are too busy and do not consciously work with it, then simply noting down is more of a waste of time. Writing down is a tool, but you have to use it consciously. Only when you actively use your food diary to make changes will it help you achieve your results.
2. You draw wrong conclusions
A food diary can give you fantastic insights. But it is possible that you will come to the wrong conclusions and that you will make wrong decisions. That’s why it’s ideal to keep a food diary and work with a nutrition coach. He or she has a broader view of the whole. A nutrition coach will help you determine what is the most effective strategy for you personally to achieve your goal.
3. You become dependent on your food diary
If it helps you keep a food diary for the rest of your life, then, of course, you can. But ideally, you use it as a temporary tool to gain insight and work towards a certain goal. If you become too dependent on this and develop an obsession or eating disorder as a result, you are better off without a diary. It is a matter of finding balance. And if you think you are too emotionally connected to your food diary, then it’s important to ask for help.
How do you keep a food diary?
Depending on your personal preference and goals, you can choose between all kinds of different food diaries. Here you will find several options to consider. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what suits you best.
1. Offline versus online
A classic food diary is a paper notebook in which you write everything down. It has been proven that writing something down with pen and paper creates much more awareness than typing something on a PC or app. But you do have to take your food diary with you everywhere and you could lose it.
A digital app is therefore very useful. This is always on your phone and the data is saved so that you can consult it later. If you like numbers and want to count calories or see your weight in a graph, then a digital app is ideal.
2. Photos or text
It is not mandatory to write down what you eat. By just taking pictures of your food you also get a lot of insight. Sometimes a picture says more than 1000 words. Especially if you work with a coach, this is very useful. Moreover, taking a photo literally takes 5 seconds. Handy if you are very busy during the day. And then you can view everything later at a calmer moment.
3. What and how much
You can limit yourself to what you eat or write down how much you eat. When you start tackling unhealthy eating habits, writing down what you eat is more than enough. In this way, you focus on one thing at a time to tackle. Once you think your diet is healthy enough, it’s time to focus on the amounts.
4. Only food or also lifestyle?
To gain more insight into your eating behavior, it is very interesting to note when you exercise, how and how much you sleep and how you feel. Of course, that requires an extra effort, but it is very instructive.
You may discover that you have cravings or headaches every Monday. That could indicate unhealthy behavior on the weekend. Or you find yourself always eating chocolate when you feel lonely. In this way, the process goes deeper than just what you eat. It will be the start of greater personal development.
Summary: Is a food diary helpful?
A food diary is a very useful tool to gain insight and control over your eating pattern and even your entire lifestyle. But you can also do it the other way around. If you use a healthy eating plan for weight loss or gain, you already record what you eat in advance. This way you don’t have to lag behind and eat what’s good for you from the start.