Thursday, August 14, 2008

Diet Diaries: Do or Don’t?

I am often asked by friends interested in losing weight if they should keep food diaries. My answer is a definite and resounding… Maybe.

I’m sorry, I know that when asking a question, we never like getting the answer “it depends,” but for this question, it truly depends.

A food journal is a log of what you eat on a given day. This is a very personal log and can be altered to your liking. You can maintain it by hand in a mini notebook, create spreadsheets on excel, use online tools, or pay for high-end web-version services. You can list just the meal you ate, or break it down by food, break it down further by calorie, by food type, by nutrient type, fat content, weight, how you felt after eating, how you felt before eating, how long it took you to eat… so basically, it can be very simple or you can drive yourself insane with all the details.

Let’s take a look at the pro vs con list:

Food Diary Pros
- Can be easy to see what you have eaten
- May keep you accountable
- May keep you from eating something bad since you may not want to enter it in your log
- May give you a sense of control

Food Diary Cons
- Can easily become an obsession
- May not be feasible / may forget entries
- Can be a chore that frustrates you and you end up giving up on your diet
- May make you feel limited

Are you someone who keeps good records?
Is it feasible for you to make note of what goes in your mouth?
Will you be able to stick to a diary for a day? Week? Month? Longer?
And most importantly: Does it APPEAL to you?

When beginning a fitness/nutrition plan, I would suggest first keeping a ‘loose’ food diary for one week. You may simply enter the servings of meals and drinks you have each day. A quality nutritionist or dietician will be able to make general approximations as to calorie count. During this time, don’t diet. Eat as you normally do.
After that initial week, your nutritionist will be able to make suggestions to you or provide you with daily meal plans to help you achieve your dietary goals. At this point, I’d say continue with the journal only if you want to. If it doesn’t appeal to you, toss it.

Remember, wellness should never be a chore. Fitness can be fun and eating well can be easy. (I swear!)

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