The word accountability sounds important and a little intimidating. It’s defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility; to account for one’s own actions. When you are taking on the challenge of making a lifestyle change around nutrition, it is proven that those who keep a food journal will experience more success. It is one of the first habits we teach clients in our coaching program for a variety of reasons.
There are several options today that make writing down everything you eat fit with your busy lifestyle. As they say “There’s an app for that” as in- My Fitness Pal, Evernote or Food Journal just to name a few. You can always use the old pen and paper method as well. I prefer the second because food journaling is more than just writing down what you eat. Food journaling offers a number of different benefits.
Besides just writing down the food eaten, we encourage clients to also record how they feel (hunger/cravings), their thoughts and feelings surrounding food, energy level and any health symptoms they might be experiencing. This gives you a great deal of insight about how the food you are eating is impacting your body. For example, if you are experiencing a daily headache in the afternoon after eating yogurt for breakfast, then this could possibly mean you have an intolerance to dairy. Remove it from your diet and see if the symptoms improve. You will also think twice before slipping in a few chips if you have to write them down. If your energy level is running low, maybe you aren’t eating enough and your food journal will reflect this.
By writing down your food, you will visually see where you need to make a change. As humans, we grossly under estimate what we eat and how much we eat. Areas that need to be changed sometimes will be blatantly obvious when you see how many chips and cookies you put away in a week. You will see if you are eating too many simple carbohydrates versus complex, not eating lean protein at every meal or if the volume of vegetables has fallen off over time.
Food journaling will help you identify things causing you to overeat and under eat. An example of how this works shows in this scenario. Every Wednesday is a big day of meetings at work. There are deadlines and lots of stress involved plus they order pizza for your “working” lunch. You overeat because of the stress and pizza is well your “kryptonite” as I like to call it. In steps the Food Journal. When the scale fails to move, review your food journal. If all your other meals are spot on except Wednesdays, you have found a potential problem. Now you can come up with a plan that will help you stay on track on Wednesdays to keep moving toward your goal. You may also note that you over eat as a response to stress.
You will gain a wealth of knowledge from a food journal if done properly. It really is key for learning what foods impact you and it’s a great accountability partner when you are beginning a behavior change. As with all our habits, if you can’t score compliance at a 7 or greater on the change ruler scale, then shrink it down. Instead of every meal start by just writing down your breakfast everyday. Find what is easiest and works best for you and start building on your successes. Be consistent and remember that focusing on less helps you achieve more.