By Angela Gerrity, RDN, LD Ireland Army Health Clinic DietitianJanuary 24, 2019
Starting something new can sometimes be daunting, and restarting your healthy lifestyle might seem an overwhelming task. But one of the tools you can use to help you reach your goals is a food and activity journal.
When you start a journal, try to take it all in. What that means is logging everything throughout your day--for example what you ate and drank, what you did and where you went.
Write down what you eat and drink all day starting with when you wake up and end when you go to bed. Include how much you ate--portion sizes. If you're not sure, use an estimate. This will give you an idea of how much you consume each day. If possible, record the amount of calories you ate or drank. Capture your water intake as well. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
With each meal or entry, ask yourself, "Am I truly hungry?" You might be starving, need a snack, or not be hungry at all. Take note of this in your journal. It helps to write down your thoughts, feelings, and symptoms. They play a part in why you want to eat. Doing these things can help you make better choices in the future.
Write down your physical activity each day. Include the type of activity and length of time. For instance, if you ran for 30 minutes or bicycled for an hour. Be sure to include routine things, such as doing household chores and walking the dog. Add a note to capture your thoughts, feelings, and symptoms. This could be how you felt before and after, or if you had any pain.
Your Whole Self
Something else to keep not of is anything that you reflect on throughout the day. This could be emotions, insights, or goals. Be sure to include hobbies and time spent with others. You also should make note of any questions or concerns that you want to discuss with your doctor.
Here are a few other things to consider:
• Some other tips to using a food and activity journal would include:
• Commit to writing in it every day and reflecting on what you have learned.
• Keep track of the times you are doing these things to help you figure out any patterns or habits. This could be when you ate, how long you were active, or what you felt.
• Try to carry your journal with you, so you can write things down before you forget. But if you don't have your journal, write a note and add it in later.
• Each day, look at what you wrote down in your journal and compare it to other days to learn patterns and become more aware. For instance, did you eat from all five food groups? Did you skip a meal? This assessment will help you make healthy changes in your daily life. You may be surprised by what you find out and how helpful a journal can be.
• If you find it hard to keep a paper journal, consider an online journal. There are many mobile apps that allow you to track food, drink, and activity. Try to find an app that has an emotional or mental component as well. Examples include Rise Up, My Fitness Pal, Yazio, and Lose It!
• Remember to consult with your primary care physician about any health conditions and schedule yourself for a routine physical. And as always, if you need help with your dietary changes contact the Ireland Army Health Clinic Nutrition Services by calling 502-624-9713 or 502-624-0408
NOTE: Information contained in this story can also be found at from familydoctor.org and American Academy of Family Physicians.