Food Journaling: A Simple & Effective Tool to Help Change Your Ways

By Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN
Director of Nutritional Counseling
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF 


If eating healthier is part of your fertility improvement plan, research shows the simple of act of keeping a food diary is one of the single most effective things you can do to change your eating habits.  Numerous studies show that keeping a food diary, journal or log ““ whatever you want to call it ““ is highly effective at raising your awareness of what, where, when and why you’re eating, providing useful clues to target behavior change.  In fact, one study on people trying to lose weight showed that, along with attending weekly classes on nutrition and portion control, those who kept a food dairy six days per week lost twice as much as those who logged only once per week or less.

Because human beings are not “hard wired” to notice everything we eat ““ as hunter/gatherers we were supposed to eat whatever edibles we could find ““ keeping a food journal is like conducting an “audit” of your eating habits so you can see if what you think you’re eating is accurate. 

Simply picking up your notebook, tapping into an electronic log on your smart phone, or recording in one of the many available on-line food logs, is a reminder that you’re trying to keep food in your focus, and think about what you eat as the day goes on.  Here are a few simple tips from the experts on how to make logging work for you:

  • Record your food and beverage intake as the day goes on, ideally right after you eat.  It increases your accuracy and helps keep your intensions to eat healthier alive throughout the day.
  • Take time to practice portions control. Buy some measuring cups or spoons, or a food scale if necessary.  Practicing measuring at home so when you eat out you’ll be more accurate at estimating portions.
  • Use whatever kind of tracking fits your lifestyle. It can be a small notebook, an eye-catching colorful journal, an app for your smart phone or an online tracker such as those available through sparkpeople.com or nutritiondata.com.
  • Record everything ““ even the stuff that makes you blush.  It’s all part of the process.
  • If possible, share your logs with someone who can provide useful feedback, like a registered dietitian, or even a supportive friend.  Being accountable for your intake can reinforce your determination to practice positive behaviors.

 

ABOUT HILLARY WRIGHT

After 12 years as a nutrition-based educator for Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates (HVMA), Hillary transitioned to a part-time position at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She is also the founder of New Vision Nutrition in Arlington, Massachusetts — a private nutrition consulting practice that includes nutrition counseling, public speaking, and teaching nutrition to colleges and institutions. 

She is a contributing editor and regular writer for the newsletter “Environmental Nutrition” and is currently working with the Arlington Public Schools on grant-funded programs designed to increase nutrition, education and physical activity in  the community. Hillary’s clinical interests include women’s health and nutritional management of polycycstic overy syndrome (PCOS).