The general reaction to food journaling is far from enthusiastic or excited. No one wraps up a nutrition session with the “I was really hoping you’d tell me to do that!” sentiment. Writing down what and when you eat every day is tedious and daunting. What if you just want to enjoy that cookie instead of documenting it? What if you don’t want to say anything about that second (third, fourth…) cup of coffee? What if your “one” glass of wine would probably actually be considered two, but you’d prefer to ignore that? Suddenly your diet becomes much more than what you consciously or mindlessly put inside your mouth – it becomes a chore.
I wouldn’t want to keep a daily food journal for too long, either. I totally get it. But when you strip down journaling to its core function, it’s an invaluable tool. It is rarely, if ever, just about the food.
I usually ask clients to journal something in addition to their diet. And most of the time they’re already journaling something else (exercise), they just don’t think much about it (cough, TrainingPeaks, cough). Many athletes track and report their daily exercise without a second thought, because there’s value in that! You can watch yourself progress, you see where missed workouts or extra effort made a difference, you or your coach can more easily identify your strengths and weaknesses.
All of those things can be true of any other type of journaling, whether it’s food, sleep, training, thoughts, hunger levels, bowel movements, etc. I’m just saying, you can journal pretty much anything! And any time you do it, you’ll learn a lot about yourself.
Here’s a challenge for you: remove the stigma of journaling, and give it a try. There doesn’t have to be any end goal or even anything you want to change. Just write down what you eat and when. If you want to add a layer or two, options include: hunger levels at the time of a meal/snack, energy levels throughout the day, sleep quality (and/or hours), exercise and stress. (All of the above affect the quality of our diet and our training, but we don’t always isolate them or look at the big picture.) Do it for one week. See what happens.