- and why you should try keeping one
If you have ever had nutritional therapy you have probably been asked to complete a dreaded 3-day food diary.
Nobody eats as 'well' as they think they do
When we were in training we had to role-play food diaries with each other - and turns out all of us thought the days we had to report on were not 'typical'. We all thought we ate much more 'healthily' than what came up during the role-plays... I, for example, had eaten an entire packet of Oreos that day (uni days were long and I had to get up at 5 am to travel there, getting home after 11 pm - which meant a lot of comfort food).
Since then I have heard people tell me the same thing countless times as I've asked them what they've eaten in the past few days - usually with an embarrassed chuckle. Perhaps it's time we all just accepted that it's totally okay that we don't eat perfectly all the time?
Anyway, in the interest of practising what I preach, I thought I would keep a 3-day food diary for you guys - perhaps something interesting would come of it.
Read on until the end to find out why you might want to keep a food diary too <3
A nutritional therapist's food diary:
3 Reasons to Keep a Food Diary:
1. Notice your patterns
Through keeping a food diary you will notice more than just what you eat. You will notice the times of day that your energy dips, your concentration flounders or your mood shifts. Our go-to 'pick-me-ups' in those situations are very often convenience foods or sweetened/caffeinated drinks, to get us through the discomfort.
By noticing when those moments are you may also notice what triggers them. Is it a lack of food before? Is it the type of food (for example did you have a breakfast of refined carbohydrates and milk, lacking adequate protein and healthy fats to keep you full and your energy levels stable)? Is it the situation you are in? Perhaps your work or your social circles? Is it that you are completely worn out and exhausted after a day of no breaks?
Notice the patterns and consider what you may want to change. If the patterns or situations feel difficult to change or very entrenched consider finding a health coach or nutritional therapist to guide you through the process.
2. Notice the links
The number one reason we nutritional therapists ask you to keep food diaries is to notice whether any foods are triggering your symptoms. It's really hard to know what reactions foods cause because we very often eat them together with other things. Additionally, many symptoms are triggered by food but can also be triggered by emotions. So noticing links (without food intolerance testing) is hard.
By diligently writing down what you eat and what symptoms you experience at what times - you may start to notice certain links. For example, I noticed that I often had belly cramps when I ate out. Initially, I thought this might be a sign of slight anxiety of being out and often times meeting new people... but then I noticed the cramps only happened when I also ate dairy (which happens surprisingly often when out for a meal!). Since cutting out dairy I very rarely have any pains or discomfort when eating out!
If you have been trying to figure out links for a while and it seems like your reactions to foods are all over the place - one day you react to raisins, another day raisins are totally fine but you react to pasta, and on the next day you can eat pasta but you're reacting to something else - this might be a sign of an underlying problem.
It is unlikely that it's the foods as such causing the symptoms- instead it may be something in the digestive process is going wrong. This can be to do with your digestive enzymes, with your gut bacteria or your gut integrity. If this is the case for you it is worth finding a trained practitioner to help you decode what is happening!
3. Notice your food
Too often do we eat what is easy and available instead of consciously choosing our food.
I noticed myself thinking a little more carefully about what I would eat when I was keeping this food diary for you guys. I know this is a slightly special case because I was planning to share my diary with all of you, but even just writing it down for yourself you will become more conscious of what you choose to eat.
The more eating becomes a conscious choice, instead of just doing what we think we should, choosing out of habit or taking what is presented to us, the more nourishing it will be. Every food choice we make either helps our bodies function at their best or makes them work harder.
Whether you come away from this article planning to keep a food diary or not, I encourage you to do this:
Practice choosing your food with an attitude of kindness towards your body. No indifference, no harsh criticism, no should's or shouldnt's. Simply Kindness.