Keep a Food Journal to Track Eating Habits

To assess your diet — whether to determine if it includes essential nutrients in the correct amounts or to try to understand how you can lose weight — consider keeping a food journal. Most people don’t make the connection between how they feel and how much they eat until they keep a food journal, which is nothing more than a record of the foods you eat, when you eat them, and how you’re feeling when you eat.

If you eat when you’re not hungry, you’re not alone. Many people do. Unfortunately, physical hunger is often low on the list of reasons to eat. Many people eat because the clock says that it’s time to, because people around them are eating, or because a food simply looks or smells good. The key is to recognize these triggers and deal with the emotions behind them in ways not related to food. (Of course, if you’re hungry, then you should eat.)

A small notebook or a few index cards that you can clip together and fit into a pocket or purse will work. Record three weekdays and one weekend day, because you probably eat differently on weekends and for different reasons. Just remember to do the following:

  • Record everything you eat. That includes the swipe your finger made through the brownie batter. If you eat crackers, record how many.

  • Record where you’re eating. In your car, watching TV, while preparing dinner, in your office, at a party.

  • Record your feelings. What were you thinking or feeling when you ate? Were you angry, sad, or happy? Or just hungry?

  • Record information immediately after eating a food. You don’t want to forget anything or filter your emotions; your feelings may change later in the day. You’re looking for clues to why you eat, not only to what you eat.

  • Don’t edit. Try to be as accurate and honest as possible. This information is for your eyes only. It’s a journal, not a newsletter. No one else needs to see it.

  • *Analyze your journal at the end of the day and determine where improvements are needed. Calculate the number of servings from each of the food groups in the pyramid. (Determine the intensity of your emotions and how they affected your eating.)

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