Many people have budgets to keep their spending in check, since saving isn’t always second nature. Eating healthy also isn’t something that comes naturally for some people, which is why keeping a food “budget,” or journal, can be a great way to change eating habits if you would like to kick your health up a notch.
Whether you are looking to shed pounds, cut out carbs or simply eat more vegetables, keeping a food journal can be a great way to stay honest and hold yourself accountable for your health goals. In fact, studies have proven the effectiveness of food journals, finding that writing in a food journal increased weight loss in people who were working toward that goal.
Food journals work, but they are only as effective as you make them. Here are some tips for making the most out of this handy tool.
Keep it small and with you all the time
Keeping a food journal is not about obsessing over every calorie you consume – it’s about noticing trends in your eating habits and better understanding which ones in particular might be harming your health. Still, if you are serious about this, it is important to be able to write down everything you eat. Don’t trust yourself to remember how many almonds you grabbed during your lunch break – record them on the spot.
It’s easiest to record things as you eat them if your food journal is small and portable, meaning it can fit in your pocket or purse. You might even want to make your food journal a note on your phone, since this is something you can easily access and edit and you are likely to have with you all the time. Plus, if you don’t feel like telling people about it, you can say you were sending a text or email when you’re recording!
It’s a journal – treat it like one
If you are keeping a food journal to lose weight or create healthier eating habits, recording your food intake is only half the battle. The other half is your emotional state. Stress, sadness and many other emotional states can lead you to make less-than-healthy eating choices, and writing this down may clue to you in to your personal weaknesses.
Write down the food or drink you consume, when you had it and what you were doing – then make a note of how you were feeling. For example, you might write that you were enjoying a salad with friends at a restaurant and feeling happy. Or, that you ate half a bag of chips while bored and watching TV. You might be surprised at how much your feelings and lifestyle impact your eating habits.
Share it with someone else
Reviewing your own food journal is definitely beneficial, helping you notice trends and potential weaknesses you can work on. However, sharing it with someone else is even more beneficial. It’s good to be forgiving of yourself, but when it comes to food journaling, it’s easy to cross the line from forgiving yourself for diet transgressions to making excuses to yourself.
Sharing your journal with someone – whether it’s a friend also working towards a health goal, a professional nutritionist, a trainer at the gym or even your spouse – will up the accountability factor even further, keeping you honest about your goals and habits.