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Food Journaling – Love It OR Hate It?

I have always had a love-hate relationship with food journals.

I love them when I’m eating well and hate them when I ‘go off plan’.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kept an accurate food journal until I eat something ‘unhealthy’ and then decide to stop journaling.  I then proceed to tell myself something like this:

  • Food journaling is crazy
  • I don’t want to micromanage everything I eat
  • This doesn’t work for me
  • There’s got to be an easier way to do this
  • I don’t think this is really effective

And so it goes…

The problem is never really the food journal.

I would pretend the problem was the food journal but really it was my unwillingness to be honest with myself.  The food journal wanted to shove the truth in my face.  I didn’t want to look, so I didn’t like the food journal.

Or so I thought…

We can’t change something that we won’t accept or acknowledge and in many ways I didn’t really want to know what I was doing when I was eating ‘bad’.

I was so busy judging myself for eating ‘ off plan’ that I would never actually take the time to step back and observe my behaviors around food with kindness and curiosity, interested in what they were really about and how I might be able to change them.

The truth is that keeping a food journal when you are sticking to the plan is great BUT you have the best opportunity to learn about yourself and why you do what you do when you are ‘blowing your diet”.

As I work towards my strongest, healthiest, leanest, self in 2013 I have recommitted to my food journal.  I have made a deal with myself that no matter what I eat, the good, the bad and the ugly, I will write it all down and use it as a tool to know myself on a deeper more intimate level.

I’m a work in progress.  Keeping this journal shows me that I can often be very judgmental and super critical of myself.   It also reminds me that I like to use food when I’m tired, stressed, or anxious.

These are all good things to know.  They show me where I have work to do and are helpful tools that will help me move towards my best self.

Do you keep a food journal? Why or why not? What has been your experience with food journaling?

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18 Responses to “Food Journaling – Love It OR Hate It?”

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    Nancy — January 22, 2013 @ 7:08 am

    I appreciate the food journal, and have learned to use it even when I’m not 100% on-track with my eating goals. There are times when I just can’t keep up with it on a weekend, due to various priorities in life, not necessarily that I’m “eating bad”. When that happens, I refuse to get too “crazy” about it, and just get back on track ASAP. I constantly remind myself to extend grace to myself, just as I would a dear friend. The point is accountability, insight, and awareness.

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      Dani — January 22, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

      “I constantly remind myself to extend grace to myself, just as I would a dear friend. The point is accountability, insight, and awareness.” Beautifully said, Nancy. That’s really what it’s all about – so if you’ve got that down you’re ahead of the game!!

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    Janet — January 22, 2013 @ 7:44 am

    Hmmm. I think I love it when I eat healthy, nutritious food. It helps me validate myself and be proud for taking care of my body.
    I, too, come up with all of the reasons not to do it when I have something that I want to hide. I suppose THAT is the exact time to continue, so that I can make the assication between my eating habits and my feelings (and the thoughts behind them) that day.

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      Dani — January 22, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

      EXACTLY Janet. Great connection:)

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    Joelle — January 22, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    I’m’ exactly like YOU …I love my little food journal until it bites me back, pun intended :) You bring up such an incredibly valid point here. I too, have resolved a journal in 2013. Along with clean eating I am staying mindful of calorie count to help with my weight loss. I often find my struggle comes with an all or nothing mentality so I am hopeful your tip here will allow me an opportunity to change up the way I view the journal & look at it as a self exploration/journey tool instead of a “perfect log of nutrition” or a book stuffed in a drawer when the ‘too much cheese & wine’ comes out as a replacement. Thank you Dani!

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      Dani — January 22, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

      Yes Joelle – THIS is exactly it. It’s really a tool for us to get to understand ourselves a little better – and if we close our eyes and ears every time over-eating, etc occurs, we continue to miss the lesson;)

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    Emi — January 23, 2013 @ 7:25 am

    Hi Dani, if I have to be honest here everytime I started a food journal it lasted very little. Sometimes I would skip a whole day and then when I had to write about it the next day it was never really accurate, because I would always forget about something. So I found this great app through a blog and it really helped me. It’s called “The Eatery” and basically you can keep a picture food journal and you can grade yourself on how healthy each meal is. It’s fast and easy. It’s not quite the same thing as writing, but seeing the picture of everything you ate it might be even more powerful in a sense. I mean, at the end of the day you see every picture and you really have a good perspective on your food intake for the day. Plus in this app you can grade other people’s food and people can grade yours (not that it matters what other think because we all have different habbits and belives) and on some levels that also helps you to stay on track. You just have to snap a picture of everything you eat. It helps because maybe you are feeling like eating candies and then when you think about taking a picture of it and having to see it in you picture food journal at the end of the day it makes you re-think you choise. It keeps you from making unhealty choises because you always have to ask twice too yourself and sometimes you realize you don’t really need those candies. And it’s also very usefull to remember great recepies! I hope I could explain myself, just try it out it’s a free app. I really hope it helps you too!!

    Greetings from Italy

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      Dani — January 28, 2013 @ 10:02 am

      Thanks for sharing this Emi – I’ll have to check it out and am sure other readers will be intrigued as well. ;)

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    Ellen — January 23, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    I just ate a sugared jelly stick from Dunkin. Maybe I’ll start my journal tomorrow…….

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      Sarah — January 24, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

      haha I’m having the same thoughts about starting tomorrow since I hit the junk food hard today! Trying not to beat myself up!

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        Dani — January 28, 2013 @ 10:07 am

        That’s the hardest and most important part –> STOP the beatings! They are not allowed. The goal is to observe yourself with kindness and curiosity – this is where the magic happens.

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      Dani — January 28, 2013 @ 10:03 am

      LOL! Been there. Done that. I say write it down and be curious as to WHY you ate it;)

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    brittany — January 24, 2013 @ 11:46 am

    I am a firm believer! I work for fitlosophy where our flagship product is a 12 week fitness and nutrition journal. Before I started working here well rather my whole life – I have been type A. I love making lists, taking notes and generally being organized and maybe a bit in control :) Food Journaling gives me a greater sense of control over my diet/weight loss and has helped me to lose more than 10% of my starting body weight over the last few months. The added layer of personal accountability and the thought that someone could flip my book open and see what I have been eating and doing in the gym makes me want to make better choices! No surprise – our research also echoes these sentiments and results – our mantra is write it down, make it happen. Since you have a love hate relationship with journaling, I would LOVE to know what you think about fitbook. You can flip through a virtual demo here: http://www.getfitbook.com/fitbook-demo-s/37.htm Maybe its just the journal you need to change your mind :)

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      Dani — January 28, 2013 @ 10:06 am

      Thanks for sharing. For me it’s really not about the journal – it’s about the willingness to write it ALL down. No matter what. But perhaps this will be helpful to some of the readers;)

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    Rebecca — January 28, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

    At first I did keep a detailed food journal, and I think it helped because I was less likely to ‘cheat’ because I would have to write it in. But the more I started to have a lifestyle change the less I kept track of what I was eating, because my mind set had changed so much, when I would write in the food journal I felt like I was on a diet, but once I started to change my whole outlook it wasn’t a diet anymore it was a lifestyle, and I felt like keeping track of what I was eating was pointless, because it made me feel like if I had to write it down then I hadn’t really changed my way of thinking and my attitude towards a healthy lifestyle. For me personally I feel it works best this way, I have lost 33kg now and am so much healthier, but I think the bottom line is you have to do what works for you, and if a food journal works then its a positive thing, but if it makes you feel like you are fighting with yourself too much then finding a different route is the way to go.

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    Dani — January 28, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    \the bottom line is you have to do what works for you\ – Period. End. I couldn’t agree more Rebecca!

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    Venia101 — February 8, 2013 @ 5:17 am

    There are apps out there for phones and tablets that make food logging nearly effortless and easy to remember to do. They are useful, especially when you log everything so you can see how little nibbles through the day add up, or how much nutrients (or lack of) you are getting.

    The nice thing is these apps usually allow you to log and chart your exercise.

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    Jen — April 11, 2013 @ 10:01 am

    I think food journaling has been really good for me…it took a lot of work. Sometimes I would decide not to snack just so I didn’t have to write it down! I don’t food journal anymore, I might start again at some point, but I did it long enough to learn the value of food…which like so many others things is something that I take for granted until I take the time to learn it. Now I have an idea of the value of food good and bad. I really like your thoughts on eating food that makes my body feel good… I hadn’t really thought of that before, but have been guilty of eating things I know I will regret later. Now I am keeping track of what things make me feel awesome and those are what comprises the majority of my shopping list. :)

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