We often eat without thinking about it. The more available food is, the more we are likely to consume it without considering whether we really want it. The nut bowl on your coffee table will magically empty. We’ll forget that handful of potato chips we grabbed. Don’t I have a half a soda or a half-drunk cup of coffee sitting somewhere?
Keeping a food journal is an interesting diet exercise. Don’t make any other changes in your eating habits, just follow this one rule: nothing (but water) goes in your mouth before you write it down. I don’t mean you have to write down pretzel by pretzel, but “a handful of nuts” or “a soda” or “cereal and milk”. Write first, then eat. If you eat something and think you’ll write it down later, you won’t.
Most people find they eat less and lose weight, through the simple act of writing down what they eat. Whether they feel guilty (“I’m taking a spoon to a jar of strawberry jam” looks even worse when you write it down), or it’s just too much trouble (“I’d like to grab a handful of Doritos, but it’s not worth finding a pen”), they’ll change their behavior. Try it; you’ll be amazed at the end of a week what you haven’t eaten.
…And For the Advanced Class..
Once you are in the habit of journaling what goes into your mouth, and a new column– when. Note not only what you consumed, but the approximate time (to the half-hour is close enough). This will give you two incredibly useful pieces of information. First, it will let you know how often you are eating between meals, or skipping proper meals and then over-snacking. Second, and even better, you’ll be able to track when you felt the need to eat shortly after eating something else, and what that something else was. You may find that you weren’t hungry for hours after your whole-grain cereal, but 40 minutes after a candy bar, you were jonesing for something to nibble. You may find, like me, that you can eat Cocoa Puffs and be satisfied until lunchtime, but have eggs and you’ll be ravenous by 10:30. Journaling can be used as a tool for discovering the foods that trigger you to eat more.
If you’re game for even more homework, note down periodically how you feel. You may not be hungry, but are you dragging? Queasy? Energized? A couple of weeks should allow you to gather enough data to flag any foods that are making you feel less than zippy, as well as foods that make you feel good. You might find an ideal combination of satisfying foods that get your engine firing on all cylinders. Whether or not you lose weight, you’ll feel better.
The busier our lives get, the less likely we are to remember what we ate yesterday, let alone when, and how it made us feel. How can we possibly expect to control our diets when we don’t have any information on which to base our food choices? Want to know? Write it down.