Fit 4 Life | What to look for in a food journal
A food journal is meant to capture a snapshot of one's eating habits, with the goal of driving improvement. The next step, of course, is assessment; figuring out what that picture shows.
What do you look for though?
First, it's important to remember that the exercise is not meant to highlight negatives. Yes, it is important to identify and reduce limiting factors - the negatives that damage your health and prevent you from reaching your goals.
It is also necessary, however, to highlight and try to improve or maintain the positives. All this should be done while paying attention to context.
Here is a look at some common limiting factors, commonly overlooked positives, and some often disregarded factors that may affect how you eat.
Limiting factors are those things that hinder us from deriving the maximum health benefit from our food. These vary based on health/fitness level and goals.
Some common limiting factors include:
EATING TOO MUCH PROCESSED FOOD
While it is hard to avoid processed foods in today's world, care should be taken to limit the consumption of overly-processed food. Highly-processed foods tend to be calorie dense but low in essential nutrients, especially when compared with whole foods.
OVEREATING OR EATING WHEN NOT HUNGRY
Many times we eat not because we are hungry but because we feel we should: because of emotion, tradition - for example, 12:00 noon is lunchtime whether or not you are hungry - or other external factors. Eating in the absence of hunger is a sure way to health and fitness issues.
Skipping meals, whether as a means of controlling food consumption or a result of being 'too busy to eat', usually leads to overeating and eating whatever is available. These are the enemies of health/fitness goal.
Using food to manage emotions is never a good idea. It will lead directly to the problems associated with either skipping meals or eating when not hungry.
POSITIVES TO REINFORCE
Highlighting negatives can be demotivating, so when there are positives, be sure to give yourself credit.
Eating balanced meals is oft-preached but is overlooked even more often. From homes to restaurants, plates are usually often piled high with carbs/fats, while other food groups barely make it onto the plate. Striving for balanced meals is something that should be applauded and encouraged.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION
Too often we hear that fruits are too sugary and should be limited, or that fruits and vegetables are too expensive or tasteless to eat regularly. If you find that you consume fruits and vegetables regularly, feel free to pat yourself on the back.
Other positives often overlooked include:
- Controlling sugar consumption
- Drinking adequate water
- Avoiding processed foods
Assessing context will help identify the reason for behaviours.
Be sure to pay attention to the following when assessing your food journal:
* What you were doing while you ate - Were you busy or did you make time to sit and eat? If you were busy, what were you doing; driving, working, etc.
* Your emotions - Describe how you felt while you ate. Were you angry, sad, happy, nervous, starving, bored?
* Did you feel satisfied with the meal?
* Did you overeat?
* Were your hungry before you ate?
* How long had it been since your previous meal?
* Are you skipping meals?