In 2008, research suggested food diaries can nearly double weight-loss results. The mere step of writing what you consume, can encourage you to eat fewer calories. For a body desperate to slim down, this sounds too good to be true. For a body attached to a perfectionist’s mindset, apprehension is warranted. My food diary took me on a downward spiral; months spent in hunger and despair.
Calorie-counting, substitution and measuring
I recently found an old notebook which was once permanently in my kitchen. In secret, I jotted down a daily plan consisting of 1,200 calories, eventually pushing to a 1,000. To the outside, I was a health-freak and positive Pam (doesn’t Pam – Pamela sound like an upbeat person?).
Work colleagues admired my health-kick enthusiasm. My manager at the time, loved going out for lunch with me. But her meals consisted of greasy café’s and fast food joints, so I made excuses to avoid eating with her. For the most part, I began sitting alone. It kind of alluded to the lonely route my food diary had travelled me towards.
It was never enough. Crackers with jam became a cracker, left plain. Porridge with milk, turned to porridge with water. When I wasn’t using my scales to precisely measure, I was researching facts and estimating the calories of produce. Knowing that 4 grams of sugar is in every tsp, was like knowing my train journey to work.
The obsession escalated elsewhere
It wasn’t just my food diary that consumed my daily living. I started coming home after work at 10 pm, to either one or two workouts. Sometimes followed by a morning routine. I wanted perfection to take shape in every area.
How do I create the perfect morning rituals? What is the best way to fall asleep? The end page of my journal, contained jottings of my sizes – from the scales, to a measuring tape. This all seemed like a full-proof plan to jumping on the skinny train. Back in 2011, being thin (healthy or not), was the physical ideal. I was blind to women using weights or building muscle.
Going back to using a food diary
Eventually, I ripped up most of the book’s pages, hid my measuring tape and began to enjoy the taste of goodness – flavours and wide variety. My body did lose over a stone, but I didn’t appear healthy. Though I’ve not ever physically looked like I’ve suffered from problems with food.
To get to where I am today, has taken years of experimentation. You might be surprised then, that I have once again opened a food diary and began using.
Despite the negative associations, a food diary is still a beneficial tool to use. Kristen Kirkpatrick, writing for the Huffington Post, talks about the accountability and personal acknowledgement one can gain, such as assessing how stress might impact our food choices.
To use a food diary effectively, and to block guilt or fixation, here are tips to consider. Each have impacted me:
Write down what you eat after
To avoid the struggle of trying to live by a list you wrote in the morning or the night before, jot down what you have consumed after eating. Since taking on this practice, I’m more honest and care-free about my choices.
Decide the exact purpose
Are you writing in the hopes of losing weight, or to figure out your eating habits? Whatever your reasoning, it’s good to have it clearly defined so you stick to that point. If for example, you are keeping track of sugar cravings, do not go off focus and worry about carb intake or overall amount digested.
Look out for concerning signs
If you notice yourself becoming upset, or see your insecurities increasing, it’s wise to stop using your food diary. Food diaries are not for everyone, and you don’t want a ‘helpful’ guide to become obstructive.
Spend a few minutes analysing, on a weekly basis
There is an assumption, that a food diary is always linked to slimming down. What’s different today, is that I’m working on ensuring I eat enough to fuel my body correctly. I’m not trying to eat little or remove any form of treat from my diet. A few minutes each week, stops me from over-analysing, which also let’s me see noticeable habits and patterns. I can then give myself mini-goals for the following week.
How do you feel about a food diary? Have you done one before, and would you be open to the idea?
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