Personally I had never thought to keep a food journal. I mean what reason was there? I was young and thought I was pretty health conscious, I mean I didn’t have any major health issues that stuck out. But a matter of fact I did have a major health issues, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) in which I had no idea I had and that is because a little pill called Birth Control masked that for the 12 years I was on it. I will go into this later in the post with a bit more detail, but having a food journal sure helped me understand a lot about what I was putting into my body.
For about 12 years, the same time I was on birth control, I often would get a stomach ache. No over the counter medication could help me and when I went to see specialists, they only threw some sort of pill at me without any idea what was going on. The pills I was receiving were for IBS, lactose intolerance, etc., and I can’t even remember some of the other ones to be honest. Eventually, I stopped going to see a doctor for my annoying stomach aches and chalked it up to this is how I will be the rest of my life. Most of the time when I had a stomach ache, I could simply lay on my stomach for about 30 minutes and the pain was gone. Even in public I did this because I was at the point of not caring anymore and I knew laying on the ground or across chairs in college and libraries would do the trick!
A friend had mentioned that the birth control she was put on gave her a stomach ache and so she switched to the IUD (Intrauterine device). So I thought okay, maybe next time I go in for my yearly visit for the doctor to dig around in my vagina, I will ask him about changing things up. Oddly enough it was Valentine’s day and so was my doctor appointment, how cute, a date with my old doctor on Valentine’s Day. Turned out this awkward date was the best start to a new happier and healthier me! Instead of switching birth controls, he suggested that I make a food journal. He mentioned, I could be lactose, but considering testing is so expensive, let’s make a food journal instead.
The next day, I started my food journal, which looking back on it now, I am in complete disgust:
Everything on this list is complete fake and processed food, which was all making me sick.
At this point I was just writing down foods that I ate and that was about it. It didn’t seem to matter if I had dairy or not because I would still get stomach aches, so the doctor suggested fiber supplements. Those seemed to help when I took them, but if I missed a day, holy cow my body was put in limbo. Soon after I started my log, I started tracking calories, sodium, fiber, and researching how much a woman needed each day. And WOW let me share with you why a food journal is important:
- Macros: surplus or deficit? This is the number one reason to have a food journal. The best thing about this is that there are a ton of apps out there now that you can scan you food or type whatever it is your indulging on and log it. Many of these apps will also give you macros to follow provided on your weight, height, and whether you’re looking to stay the same weight, lose weight, or gain weight. I used MyFitnessPal to track my macros against what I should be getting for a woman my age and size. HOLY COW was I surprise because I thought I was pretty health conscious. My sodium was thru the roof, my fiber and protein was extremely low, and carbs thru the roof. This should have been no surprise because I loved my pasta, Texas toast, and ice cream, but I didn’t realize how bad it all was. By having a food journal, I was able to change my eating habits slowly to meet my nutritional goals.
- Awareness: Realize how much crap you are putting into your body. I don’t think many of us actually realize what we are putting into our bodies and what it means when we eat so many on the go foods. Making a food journal will bring that awareness to the table and show you exactly how much garbage is in all of that processed food. Looking at the back of food labels, sometimes the amount of calories in a serving is basically as many calories as you should have for lunch. Or do you think you’re being healthy by opting for that big salad at McDonald’s with the fruit, chicken, and sweet salad dressing? Check the macros on that! They are just as outrageous and sometimes worse than eating a pink slim burger from there. Keeping a food journal will show you that even if something is labeled healthy, it can be far from it! For an example, check out the comparisons below:
- Specific Diet Goals: Perhaps you are following a specific diet like the Ketogenic diet or Paleo diet, you need a food journal to help meet those goals. If this is your first food journal, you may not see the difference from how you have been eating to what you will be eating, but you will definitely feel the effects. Jumping into a new diet can be difficult, especially when you cannot go over or be under certain macros, you may feel lost and extremely hungry because you have already met your calories for the day by the end of lunch. If you are going cold turkey, I suggest doing some research and finding a couple of weekly plans for yourself so you don’t feel completely helpless.
- Learn and understand portion control: This is a big one! How many times have we dipped our hands back into that cracker box, a bag of chips, or stacked up on some cookies?? I know I could finish a whole bag of chips by myself in one day! Problem is, for almost every type of junk food out there, a serving is like 3 chips. Okay, so maybe you don’t eat any junk food, so you don’t need a food journal, wrong, even if you are indulging on fruit and vegetables, you still need to portion control! Even with healthy food items you need to portion control because of the sugar and carbs in a lot of fruit and vegetables. A woman I used to work with used to get so angry because she “works out all the time and eats fruits and vegetables all day, but can’t lose weight” That is because she was eating way too many portions of fruit, the same fruit at that, and vegetables. You should only be eating 1 serving of whatever it is once a day! If you are still hungry, find another fruit or vegetable to snack on. This way you are also getting way more nutrients then sticking with one item.
- Branding: This is another big one! Heck they all are! I had my food journal for about 2 years at the point that I realized different food brands are entirely important as well. So by now, I was pretty much meeting all my macros and I was happy the way life was going. When I was out grocery shopping, one of the items I needed was out, so I needed to make a decision for another brand or flavor. Alright, well I finished shopping and went home. I scanned my new item for my food journal and to my surprise the macros on this brand was way different than the previous one I had purchased, and by different I mean it lowered some of my macros in a good way! This was great because now I have more room to find some more food to fill it in with! After this discovery, I was able to check the brands of everything else I was using to either drop or replace from my daily eating habits. By logging a food journal, you can easily compare brands, or even flavors to help you meet your daily goals!
By having a food journal, 1. I was able to go off birth control, turns out the dairy wasn’t making me sick, but it gave me terrible acne. 2. My stomach aches disappeared, this was because of gluten and highly processed foods. 3. I am actually satisfied during the day and not reaching for snack after snack or left starving all day. 4. I can easily meet my Keto/Paleo diet goals.
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