If you want to know what you're eating, to either lose or gain weight, or to eat healthier, keep a food diary. I know that you've probably heard this before, but really, it works. A food diary doesn't judge what you're eating as good or bad, it just makes a nice list of all the foods (and beverages) that you are putting into your body.
- Buy a really pretty, pocket size book. This can be lined or not, and can range from a a $0.79 one from the stationary store to a higher end journal. Try the blank journal by Nomad (www.nomadjournals.com). If you are like me and enjoy writing on quality paper, spend the extra few bucks. Whatever you pick should support the type of person you are. The point is to get a book that you are going to want to handle often. Make it as pleasurable as possible.
- Write down everything you eat, but if your eating pattern changes in the process, let it. Often times, people become more aware of what they are putting into their mouths the minute they start writing things down. Sometimes, this makes them feel that they are being dishonest because they are not charting their normal eating pattern. This is okay. It just means that the journal is already working. Thinking about your food is helping you to sort through what you really want to eat, and hopefully helping you make solid choices.
- Include all beverages, and whatever you put in them. For example: iced tea with three packs of stevia, or 12 oz. coffee with a splash of skim milk. Every calorie (and water) should be charted for best results. (If you drink water throughout the day, chart each time you open a bottle and the amount.)
- Keep your diary for a minimum of five days to see a pattern. Once you know what you are eating, you will know what to add, and what to take away. You will see if you're eating enough fruits, veggies, and getting enough protein and fiber. You may see that you have a slump at a certain time of the day, which will allow you to plan a healthy snack for that time instead of hitting the vending machine or the drive-thru.
- Write your feelings next to your food with every entry. If you dined with friends, had good conversation, and laughed a lot, write that down. If you ate some nuts because you were bored, write that down too. Your motivation to eat and the food choices you make during certain moods are very important. Also, if you have a strong feeling after eating something, be sure to note that. If you smoke, quit!, or at least write down every cigarette as if it were a food entry.
- Lastly, be sure and write the times that you eat. Not just "breakfast," but "7:30 a.m." This will help you see when you eat for energy, hunger, and patterned eating.