Food diaries don’t lie! As long as you are being “real with yourself, food diaries can’t lie. They are there as more of an outside observer, sitting there plain-spoken, without judgment, and without any opinions. Food diaries, on the other hand, can be the most useful tool in your eating healthy and weight loss book bag!
Here’s How: Again, what it boils down to is that they don’t lie, and they don’t have it within them to judge you or tweak your circumstances. Only you have that within you!
Your Food Diary Analysis Will:
- Help you find eating patterns
- Help you to find out whether you label foods as “good” or “bad”. Most people do.
- Help you to discern which kind of eater you are. There are many kinds: emotional eater, binge eater, picky eater, healthy eater, etc. There are no right or wrongs here, this is just to find out where you’re at.
- Help you understand yourself better
- Help you make better healthy eating choices for the future
- Help you resolve some of your biggest food and eating problems, including those directly linked to weight loss!
What You’ll Need:
An actual food diary or journal, a notebook, and colorful pens, if possible. The different colors will help you to separate your notations from the actual food you eat, or to divide things into sections.
Here’s What You’re Going to Do: I don’t believe in wasting anyone’s time. Yours or mine. So, let’s get started! If you haven’t been keeping a food diary, you are going to first go back and look at how and what you’ve been eating over the last week. Depending on how good your memory is, you can even go back further. In fact, I encourage it!
It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means. This is just to give you an idea of what you’ve been eating and how it has affected you. For example, make notations. Have you gained or lost any weight because of this? Did certain foods make you feel “good” or “bad”? Why is that?
Write everything down with ease and grace. The point of this is to be completely honest with yourself, and detach yourself from the outcome. The next thing I’ll have you do is to look for patterns in your eating habits.
Do you diet all week and binge eat on the weekends or when hanging out with friends or family? Do you eat too much when you’re really stressed out and overwhelmed? Start connecting the dots to make the connections. You’ll be surprised how many emotions are connected to our food choices!
Food Diary Analysis Questions:
One: What problems are you having with food and eating? Honesty is so important here because it’s going to help you get to the root of the problem!
Two: Which foods did you label as “good” or “bad”? Most of all, why? There’s always a reason.
Three: Do you allow yourself treats and guilty pleasures? If so, why?
Four: Do you diet most of the time, but still struggle with weight?
Five: Do you eat a lot throughout the day, but not enough of the right kinds of things?
Six: Are you a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.? Why? Let’s revisit our personal choices and see how well we’re doing with them.
Seven: Do you struggle with making yourself eat? Like the sight of food almost makes you not want to eat? So, then you don’t?
Eight: Do you spend a lot of time going through a fast food drive thru’s because you’re too busy to sit down and make and eat a home-cooked meal?
Nine: Do you eat breakfast every day? If so, what do you eat? If not, why not?
Ten: Are you a big coffee drinker, because you lack for energy and need to keep going to get through your workday?
Eleven: Do you eat lunch every day? If so, what’s your typical lunch?
Twelve: Do you eat dinner every night? If so, what does that look like? Is it a big square meal or one of many smaller meals?
Thirteen: Do you eat snacks? If so, are they junk food or healthy? How often do you eat a snack?
Fourteen: Do you eat a lot of smaller meals throughout the day?
Fifteen: Do thoughts on food make you feel conflicted? Like on one hand, you know you need it to survive and thrive. Then, on the other hand, you resent it, because you struggle with it so much?
Sixteen: Do you have a “sweet” tooth?
Seventeen: Do you “fad” diet a lot?
Eighteen: Are you meat eater and a dairy eater? Write down why that is and how you feel about it. Does it make you feel good inside or something else?
Nineteen: Do you feel sometimes like your “missing” something from your diet?
Twenty: Are you getting all your nutrition every single day? Be honest. No one is here to judge!
Take some quiet time to sit at the dinner table, or wherever you feel most comfortable, to go through every single question. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking your answers, write what your gut tells you! Whatever pops into your mind first is the most likely answer to it all
Once you have completed everything, this is where the real breakthrough happens. You’ll be able to put a picture together of what you really want your diet to look like and where you need help the most
My youngest daughter is fifteen-years-old, healthy, and growing. We did a food diary analysis on her because I wanted to see some of the problems that young girls and women struggle with. Chloe has recently become vegan, she’s just converted after years of being a vegetarian, so she’s flexible with that.
She has expressed to me that she eats all day long, that she’s always hungry, and that it makes her feel bad about herself. She also said that she wants to eat healthier for school lunches, but struggles with that, and will often settle for a bag of chips and nuts, or nothing at all.
She says that she sometimes craves “meat.” Not that she wants meat, she hasn’t had it in many years, but she’s aware that she needs more natural proteins in her diet. When you eat only plant-based foods, that’s a common thing that happens, your mind and body equate a connection between meat and protein.
Right away, I knew what her needs were! Just from these questions being answered. I told her that it’s actually good that she eats several small meals a day, but from what she tells me, she is eating all the wrong things.
So, she doesn’t need to replace the habit. Just the food that falls in place here. Smaller meals should also be healthy and have no more than 250 calories if you eat frequently.
This meant, adding in trail mix, a banana, a bag of nuts (though she was already doing this, I felt she needed a little more variety here.), a small salad, etc. Lots and lots of little meals.
More protein. Chloe felt she needed more protein, but as her Mom, I already knew she wasn’t deficient. She was getting it from the wrong sources.
As a new vegan, she was eating a lot of vegan t.v. dinners, which aren’t the best thing in the world. She was doing this out of convenience, after a really long day of school and sometimes, a lot of times actually, for breakfast, even though I was offering her other alternatives.
We talked about starting her day with a protein filled smoothie. Grape nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, almond milk, blueberries, and banana.
For lunch, we talked about getting her a bento box, which has lots of little compartments for snacking. We could fill those with nuts, granola, celery and carrot sticks, and a more protein-based miniature salad with natural dressing.
Dinner: We came to the conclusion to start weeding out the t.v. dinners and focus on fully-loaded baked potatoes, veggie-based stews, and chili, as well as baked beans, all as a source of healthy proteins!
Chloe has been eating healthier ever since then! I think first the “foodie” confession helped. Then realizing there were instant solutions to her meal problems helped greatly too!
This is what your food diary analysis can do for you! Being honest with yourself helps you to make reassess the situation and then make a new plan. In case you didn’t know where I was going with this, you’re going to make a new plan.
Rachel is my oldest daughter’s best friend from nursing school. She’s young (in her twenties), married, has a son, and has a really busy life, as you can imagine. She is a meat and dairy eater, without any thoughts or plans to change that. When she came to me, some of her problems looked like self-sabotage.
She was bringing her own giant cup to get slushies with her young son. You know how much sugar is in a slushie, no matter how good they are! Another problem she had, was digestive issues.
She was constipated for up to ten days at a time, which means she wasn’t getting a lot of fiber in her diet. She also ate out a lot with her husband and son. One of her concerns was her weight. She’s a little overweight for her frame and height, mostly in her stomach.
My assessment of her situation was that she just needed to make a few changes if she was willing. For example, slushies could be cut down to once a month, as a special treat, and that she would just use the largest store size she has, rather than a huge cooler.
As far as her diet, she needed more veggies and fruits, plain and simple. But, how to get that into her diet? Especially when she’s very busy with nursing school and eats out a lot.
I recommended that Rachel “drink” most of her veggies on the fly! She would be able to pick up some cold-pressed pre-made juices from the grocery store, as well as take the time to make a breakfast smoothie, in the morning.
So, that she wouldn’t get bored with it, we just changed the variables. Each day, she’d add a different fruit to the same concoction, sometimes even making it green for more energy!
For eating out, she would choose salads instead of the usual suspects. She could then subtract or add to the restaurant salad as needed. This also prevents boredom!
I also told her, that she should try getting french fries and baked potatoes that are fully loaded, but without meat, sour cream, etc. She could have veggies sauteed and loaded into the potato. She could also try sweet potatoes, to change things up.
Since then, Rachel has lost 15 pounds so far, and is feeling a lot better about herself! What’s important here, is that she identified her food problems, then built a life around changing them for the better.
Create a Meal Plan That Works For You:
Now that you’ve done your homework, you are finally in a place where you can sit down and formulate a meal plan that works for you as an individual person. It should:
1. Go with your lifestyle in a flowy way, meaning it feels natural to you.
2. It should incorporate the foods that make you feel good, while still challenging you to try new things.
3. It should be flexible. If it’s too rigid, not only will you not enjoy it, but you won’t stick with it. Make it something that can grow, change, and evolve with you as a person!
Meal Plan Know How:
Using the real-life examples above, write down what your “current” situation is and then look at how to solve each problem objectively.
Let’s say you can’t eat when you’re stressed, you lose your appetite, and you happen to be stressed a lot. I happen to know someone like that.
While you can’t change the biological protective shield your body puts up to defend itself, you can change how you react. If you can’t eat, then drink something!
Create a hearty smoothie that has lots of proteins in it, much like the breakfast smoothie I created for Chloe, and then change the variables as needed. This is so that you have an emergency backup plan!
Once you have a meal plan that you are happy with, I want you to keep a food diary for life. It doesn’t have to have every emotion or major detail of your day, but it definitely needs to be where you can see it every day.
Some people prefer one they can write in, while others prefer to use an app. Choose what will work best for you on-the-go!
This is so you will always be able to see where you need to tweak and make effective changes. It will also help you feel motivated and inspired about food! You’ll use your food diary as a companion to your new meal plan.
Plan to keep your food diary and meal plan on your person at all times, as well as in a place in your home where you’ll see it often. The inside of a kitchen cupboard is a great place to hide your meal plan in plain sight! So, is the inside of your fridge or even your freezer.
When to Update Meal Plans:
You’ll update your meal plan as needed, usually when major life changes happen. If you need to, you can do the food diary analysis again too. This will remind you of what you’ve been keeping up with and what needs to change in your life now. Here are a few good examples:
* When you’re pregnant or have just had a baby
* Going back to school
* New job or new job position
* Starting a new business
* Starting a blog
* If someone close to you has passed away
* When going through peri-menopause or actual menopause
* When you’ve gained a bunch of weight or lost a bunch of weight
* When you begin a new exercise program
* Throughout any time period of transition or difficulty
Tips For Meal Plans (Things You Should Include)
* Be sure to have a plan in place for when you have your monthly moon. Period symptoms often include bloating, gas, weight gain, and a significant increase in hunger for the wrong kind of foods. Plan for it!
* What to do when you go to a restaurant, how to handle it. If it’s a splurge, then dig in! If not, have a plan in place.
* Plan for family events and milestones. I’m vegan, so I deal with this sorta thing a lot. It’s hard to be prepared, but the more prepared you are, the better you’ll do!
* Plan your lunches, especially if they involve work or school.
* Have an emergency backup plan in place, for various situations that set you up for failure. There are so many, but don’t let that intimidate or scare you. Just take control of the situation.
* Going to be in the car for long periods of time? Have some snacks ready, that you made for yourself. Make enough to share with your loved ones too. The healthier the better!
Having a meal plan in place, as well as your trusty food diary, will make navigating through the world of food so much easier! Trust me, I know. I’ve made a life out of it!