Keeping a food diary can be an eye-opening experiment, but with one little tweak it can lift the lid on a whole other dimension of insight.
Logging every morsel that passes your lips for a period of time sounds like a bit of a pain in the bum but it’s well worth the effort if you know what you’re looking for.
I’ve recorded several food diary reviews for members of my iNats online coaching program and the last one I did for Sally was a classic example of how this little extra element can spark connections
How to keep a food diary
If you’ve never kept a food diary before I can highly recommend you give it a go. The easiest way to do it is to just log everything you eat and drink in as much detail as possible.
You can do this with a good old fashioned pen and paper, or using an app like MyFitnessPal which can also give you more information about your ‘macros’ (carbs, proteins and fats).
Including the time of day is also a good idea so you can begin to pick out patterns and habitual behaviours (always have a cream cake at 11am, for example).
I recommend my guys keep a food diary for 7 days so you can see how things vary through the course of a week.
If you’re trying to lose weight, improve your digestion or sleep or have other goals you’re hoping your nutrition will help you achieve, your food diary throws out 2 additional questions:
1) How closely are you following your plan?
And if you’re following it to the letter but still not getting results, the 2nd question is:
2) What do you need to change?
All of this is useful information, but only if you do something about it.
If you can see from your food diary that you’re not doing the things you committed to doing with your diet but aren’t prepared to make any changes, there’s little point in continuing to log everything.
And if you’re ‘doing everything right’ and still not getting results, you need to investigate what else you can change rather than blindly continue down the same track.
Of course, if things are working for you then you need to take note of this as well.
Keep a couple of weeks worth of food diary somewhere safe, so you can revert back to it if you deviate in the future and need to get back on track.
I’ll come onto the little tweak in a second, but there’s one other important instantaneous effect that happens when you begin to record your food intake.
Because you know you’re going to have to write it down, you get more discerning about what goes in your mouth.
“Do I really need that piece of cheese just because I’m walking past the fridge?”
This can be a good reason to keep a food diary any time you want to get back on the wagon – it’s like having your own personal accountability partner in the form of a little notebook.
Make This Tweak
Keeping a food diary is helpful, but with this little tweak you’ll crank up your level of insight to that of Jedi Master.
As well as writing down what you ate and when, write down what your circumstances were at the time, and how you were feeling.
These 2 extra pieces of information can unravel many mysteries of what drives our behaviours, and gets very specific with real life evidence.
In iNats, the latest diary I’ve reviewed is from Sally, who sent me a covering note when she emailed me her 7 days on a plate.
Here’s what Sally wrote:
Without you even reviewing it I honestly can’t believe my terrible food patterns! So insightful-I’ve done food diaries before but what was really interesting was writing down WHY i was eating and HOW i was feeling at the time. Amazing what ‘triggers’ me for example Stress, not planning and boredom are big triggers for me that I need to work on!
Compared to the other food diary reviews that you have done my diet is dreadful but i think a good example of someone who has an unpredictable crazy work pattern.
If anything I would desperately like some tips how to control my emotional eating (many times during the week i would try and speak to my chimp and tell him ‘its ok, the food isn’t going anywhere you don’t need it now, you’re not hungry just bored etc’ and I’d spend a good 10 mins trying to reason with him and it simply wouldn’t work!’
Also eating ‘on the move’ and when there is little time to prepare-i always reach for the carbs so i don’t need to worry about being hungry and not having enough energy.
Also really surprised at how little water i drink. I seem to drink a lot in the gym between sets and exercises but not really anytime else!
So even if you didn’t review, I’ve learnt a huge amount by doing this!
Looking forward to getting your feedback and anything i can do to improve
By writing down the situation she was in when she ate what she ate, and how she felt, Sally was able to make some pretty powerful connections even without my review.
I don’t think it’s uncommon to find yourself eating on the hoof, or reaching for food simply to suppress hunger. It’s also really common to eat when you’re bored or just because that’s what you do at that particular time of the day.
But when you see that information written down in front of you it has more power to make you change your behaviours that you can imagine.
If your diet is a part of your overall success plan, then it’s important to monitor what’s really going on.
You don’t need to keep it continuously, but it’s worth doing a 7 day stretch to get a really clear view of the situation.
When you understand what’s happening, you can adjust your rudder and make the necessary changes to keep you moving forwards.
Need Some Help?
If you’d like me to help you with your nutrition, mindset & training then join me on the 12 Day Kick Start program which is a part of my online iNats program.
You’ll also get full access to the iNats membership site and be able to have a look at Sally’s food diary review along with all the other ones that I’ve recorded.