A significant reason why people don’t meet their goals is lack of accountability. This is why apps like DietBet have become so popular—putting money on the line suddenly makes you more accountable to the goals you’ve set for yourself.
However, you don’t need to dish out cash to stick to your healthy eating goals. Instead, go the traditional route and start a food journal. This tried-and-true method may be the one thing standing between you and success.
If you want to journal your way to a healthier diet, here are three things you need to know:
1. Why journal?
Many studies have found that food journaling works very well as a method for changing what you eat, including this Kaiser Permanente study with 1,700 participants. “Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories,” says Jack Hollis Ph.D., and study author.
Consuming fewer calories and choosing healthier foods aren’t the only benefits. There are other effects of journaling that can help you make positive lifestyle changes once and for all.
Learning: You may be shocked to see how many times a day you go to the candy jar on the office manager’s desk. Without a journal, you might never realize that; discovering these small but impactful habits will help you stop them.
Accountability and awareness: It may be surprising to see how much more aware you are of everything you eat when you’re journaling. Suddenly you’re questioning whether you should get that side of fries with lunch or not. Even this small amount of accountability has an effect, and it starts right away.
2. How to make it effective
If you stay on top of your entries and remain honest with yourself (even when you don’t want to) food journaling will prove to be beneficial. Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of your journaling efforts:
Be consistent: Write down everything for at least seven days. This allows you to collect information during the workweek and weekend.
Be honest: It may be hard to admit that you ate an entire pint of ice cream, but that’s the point.
Be on top if it: Don’t write your food journal at the end of the night. There are detailed notes you need to be taking (discussed in the next section) and if you wait, you may not include critical details like what time it was or the mood you were in.
3. Don’t forget to take notes
The most important part of a food journal is taking detailed notes about the feelings and thoughts that occur when you eat. These will provide insight on why you tend to crave a chocolate bar on Tuesday afternoons, what mood you’re in when you choose a salad for lunch and more.
When you’re armed with these details, you’re better prepared to make changes that will last. When taking notes, include answers to the following:
- What time is it?
- Was I hungry when I ate this?
- What was my mood before I ate? Why? (Write your mood before you actually eat so you don’t just try to guess later.)
- What was my mood after? Why?
- Was I dining alone? With friends? With my significant other? With my family?
These details will start to weave a story about your eating habits. You’ll begin to realize that you’re often just bored rather than hungry, and that eating with friends makes you eat a lot more than when you’re alone. Perhaps that 3 p.m. chocolate bar didn’t wake you up or make you feel better; it just made you tired and sluggish. Or, maybe you’re waiting way too long to eat between meals, which makes you irritable.
Knowing these details makes your food journal most effective. With this information readily available, you can start making daily changes and slowly move toward creating a full lifestyle change.