While we are all (mostly) honest people, I find it interesting that accountability is one of the things that many people need to “keep them on track.” I hear about accountability when talking about exercise and food, however it also goes along with such activities as meditation and music or sports lessons. That’s why so many people join a group-to keep them accountable to the practice they want to participate in.
When it comes to eating accountability there is little that can replace keeping a food journal. There are many ways to keep a food journal and your choice will depend on what your purpose is, how tech savvy you are, and if you are accountable to only yourself or to someone else.
Techy Food Journals
With our techy ways, there are multiple apps that can be useful in food journaling, such as My Fitness Pal, Chronometer, and Meal Logger. These allow you to do such things as scan a barcode of processed foods which will automatically incorporate the nutrition info from that food, build your own recipes, and easily send the info to your food coach allowing them to electronically analyze your food choices. These can give you fairly precise nutrition information such as calories consumed (or burned when logging exercise also), the breakdown of carbs, protein, and fat; however they can be a little time consuming until you get past the learning curve of the app you are using.
Food Photo Op
Another way to keep yourself accountable is to take a picture of everything you eat. Cell phones make this an easy way to quickly snap a pic before you dive in to your meals or snacks. With this method it ensures you take the picture before or when you are eating, rather than wait until the end of the day to “remember” everything. While the pictures may not show the array of colors and perfection that foods look like in a magazine, there is something to be said about having to stop, acknowledge that you are putting something down the hatch, and you always have the ability to scroll back to remind yourself of what you consumed in the day. The downside is that if you forget to snap the pic, you can’t go back and get it.
The Old Fashioned Way
Then there’s the old fashioned way of keeping a food journal-writing it down. This can be done on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet, or with good ol’ pen and paper. You an use a formal food record or just a simple notebook. This way allows you to write notes about the foods, your mood when eating. who you were with, and any other details that influence your eating style for that particular meal.
Guidelines to Food Journaling
All food journaling takes a little effort, but if you don’t do it appropriately it is nearly useless. Here are a few guidelines to make sure you are getting the most out of your journal.
- Write down the type of food you ate. Be as specific as you can. Indicate the amount of the particular food item you ate. Estimate the size (in inches), the volume (1/2 cup or 1 tsp), the weight (2 ounces) and/or the number of items (12 French fries) of that type of food. Add any details, such as fresh, frozen, or canned, decaf or regular, how the item was prepared, or a brand name, whole grain, organic, or enriched, etc.
- Imagine that someone wants to duplicate your meals as closely as possible and needs to know as many details as possible about what you ate.
- Write down everything that you eat or drink, including all foods, beverages, supplements, vitamins, etc. Include all your meals and between-meal snacks from the time you get up until you go to bed.
- Be honest! It is useful only if completely and accurately filled out every day.
- Keep your journal with you all day. Write down the information as soon as you finish eating, since meals are difficult to recall in detail after time has passed.
- Note the time of day you ate the food, and any other details that may be useful in helping you learn about your habits.
They ways of keeping a food journal all have benefits and challenges, but the fact that you have to keep up with it makes all the difference in the world. No matter what your goal for food journaling, it’s inevitable that it will change the way you eat. Why? Because it keeps you accountable.