#SorryNotSorry—I really dislike food journaling. While I know it’s helpful for a lot of people, it always feels like kind of a headache to me. It’s an extra chore in my busy day, and frankly, I’d rather skip the writing and just dig into my meal most of the time.
Nevertheless, a few months back, my coach suggested I give journaling a try. So, being a good mentee, I decided to give it a shot. And honestly? I have to admit—I was a little surprised by how much I learned.
Even being the type who normally monitors my food intake pretty closely (I’m a nutrition coach, hello), there was a lot to unpack about my day to day nutritional habits. And though everyone’s food patterns look a little bit different, you could totally copy my experiment and use a one-week (or more) food journal to audit your own nutritional habits next time you hit a plateau or a slump.
So without further ado, here’s what food journaling for a week taught me about my health habits:
I thought I was doing a great job when I was going out to eat. I followed my own advice on eating beforehand, ordering intentionally, and taking leftovers home. (If you’d like to hear more about my advice for handling restaurants, I wrote a blog about that too!) But despite all that, when I looked at the list of what I’d eaten in my journal, I was SHOCKED at how much I’d actually been consuming.
Reflecting on my dinners out, I realized I was adding extra calories to my meal—a seemingly benign appetizer, a second (or third) glass of wine . . . I’d also completely lost track of my portions and how much was healthy to be eating. Yes, I’d divided my restaurant meal into two portions, but depending on where you’re eating, even a half-portion may still be WAY too much food.
These little additions had an impact on my body fat and waistline, which I’m not terribly happy about. This was the first major wake-up call brought to me by my food journal.
Just like most people, when I don’t eat enough protein with my breakfast, I get hungry faster than I normally would. Since I work from home, I kept finding myself in my kitchen looking for snacks not long after breakfast. Finding little things to munch on in between meals often leads to poor food choices, so this wasn’t good. Not to mention, it threw off my macros when I made a really bad snack choice just because I was hungry .
I already knew these snacks were something I struggled with, but once my food journal helped me realize that I was eating too little protein, I was able to better address the problem. I started adding additional protein sources to my breakfast. This made a huge difference for me. I was no longer in the kitchen rummaging for unhealthy snacks because I was able to wait three hours to eat. Visually seeing my macros helped me figure out the culprit behind my mid-morning hunger and actually do something about it.
Do you ever have those weeks where cooking just feels impossible? Between travelling, meetings, and everyday obligations, I end up feeling that way a lot. While it’s okay to eat out every once in awhile, cooking at home is almost always the better choice. Still, when you find yourself in the middle of a crazy week, it’s easy to use that busyness as an excuse to just order takeout and call it done.
I knew I’d been doing that a little more than I probably should have, but my journal helped me realize that these “treats” had become way more frequent than I was admitting. While everything we order tastes really good and I do generally try to choose the healthiest things on whatever menu I’m ordering off of, I could certainly prepare healthier, more nutrient-dense, cleaner food at home.
After digging deep and analyzing my health habits with my food journal, I’ve decided to make some changes. In addition to being way more careful about what I eat at restaurants and adding protein to my breakfasts, I’ve realized that I really need to prioritize movement.
Maybe I can’t make myself less busy, but I CAN commit to squeezing in activity wherever possible. Even on the busiest days, I can almost always find 15 minutes between tasks to go for a walk, hop on my elliptical, do some stretching, etc. At a minimum, I can take laps around my house while I’m on a conference call. These are small actions, but they can add up to big results over time.
I know not everyone works at home like me, and that it can be more challenging to squeeze movement in when you’re in an office environment. However, I challenge you to think about how you can tweak your routine to create more room for physical activity. This might look like taking a walk around your office building while you’re waiting on an approval, or doing a workout video while your baby is napping. Whatever you can do to get moving, do it!
While I can’t say that I’m staying on the food journal train, I do think the experience of tracking my habits for a short time was valuable. What do you think? Are you into journaling? Can you see how journaling for a few weeks might be valuable in your own life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
If you feel like you need someone to hold you accountable to making smart nutrition and movement choices, join my free Facebook Group, Never Diet Again! There, you’ll find tips, recipes, and fitness check-ins to help you stay on track. Just like in this blog, we get real about the journey to finding a balance between health, family, and professional life. Not only that, but you’ll enjoy support from women who share your health goals and want to see each other succeed. So what are you waiting for? Check it out now!