Using A Food Journal To Improve Wellness

[Wellness Wednesday] Using A Food Journal To Improve Wellness

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday everyone! I’m in the middle of a Nutrition Coaching course right now, so of course, food is on my mind….

How do you look at food? Is it just fuel or is it something to celebrate? Maybe it’s both. Food can tell the story of our lives in addition to fueling our bodies. It can be a way to gather people together and bond, and it can help us thrive.

Does the food you eat help you look and feel your best or does it make you feel worse? How can you tell? One way to see the effects of what we’re eating is to keep a food journal.

If you’ve heard the words food journal, it may have been in the context of a weight-loss program, but that’s not the only use for them. A food journal can give us a realistic view of what and how much we’re eating, how the things we eat affect the way we feel, and help us identify deficiencies in our diet.

At its most basic, a food journal is a place to record what you’ve eaten throughout the day. You simply record everything you eat and drink. Just this basic food journal can help us see if we’re getting the proper number of servings from the major food groups, whether we’re eating more or less than we thought we were, etc.

If we add a couple of steps, though, our food journal can become an indispensable tool for us. We can have a record of how our bodies are feeling about what we’re putting into them, determine whether we’re making healthier choices most of the time, and even figure out if we’re emotional eaters.

 Keeping A Food Journal

Does it sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. It can be very simple, even with the couple of extra steps. All you need is a notebook and pen, or if you prefer, you can keep your journal electronically. Here are a few things we can keep track of:

  • Food/drink consumed.
  • Time of day – Our bodies can react differently to the same foods at different times of the day.
  • How you feel immediately after you eat – Do you feel comfortable, bloated, nauseated?
  • How you feel 30 minutes/an hour/24 hours after you eat? Keeping track of this helps you become aware of how your body is feeling in relation to what you’ve eaten.
  • Was I physically hungry? This simple yes or no question can help us see whether we’re eating because we’re hungry or if we’re eating to fill some other need.
  • For those of us who live with chronic pain it’s also helpful to note our pain level for the day. If you notice that every time you eat _______ you have more pain the next day, it may give you a clue that that particular thing is causing issues for you.
Sample Food Journal
Sample Food Journal

Using The Information Gained 

Okay, so we’ve been keeping our food journal for a week or so; what do we do with the information? That’s up to you, of course. You may decide things are fine just as they are.

If, however, you feel you need to make some changes, there are a couple of ways to go about it. First, look for patterns:

  • Are there any major food groups you’re missing out on or not getting enough of?
  • Are there certain times of day that seem problematic?
  • Are you eating when you’re not hungry?
  • Are there certain foods that you always eat to the point of being over-full?
  • Are there certain foods that seem to leave you feeling more energized?

We can see which foods seem to give us more energy and which cause us to feel more sluggish. We can see which foods seem to reduce our pain levels and which seem to increase them, and of course, we can see which ones just make us feel bad in general.

Next, determine what changes you want to make. As we’ve talked about before, it’s better to work on one or two things at a time than to try to make massive, sweeping changes all at once. It can help to prioritize those changes to get the most benefit  early on. If we see improvement early on, it can motivate us to keep going.

As we make changes, of course we want to track the results. If we continue to keep our food journal, we can see whether we’ve improved our eating patterns, if we’re eating because we’re physically rather than emotionally hungry, etc. This can help us eat more of the foods that make us feel the best and limit those that don’t seem as beneficial.

As always, I recommend you discuss any dietary changes with your doctor or nutritionist. This is especially important if you have a medical condition or are on medication, as what we eat can affect how our medications work and sometimes cause unwanted reactions.

Have you ever used a food journal? How did it work for you? Please share!


~ Terri

Using A Food Journal To Improve Wellness


    1. Thanks so much Deborah! I’m glad your food journals helped so much. Since you used yours specifically to encourage healing, are there additional things you would suggest tracking in the food journal? Blessings to you!

      1. Yes. I learned it’s not only important to listen to the wisdom of our body’s reaction but also to keep track of our soul’s wisdom. Watch for patterns of behavior where we react in anger at self, or another, depression, feat, sorrow, and then eat a comfort food that is comforting emotionally but detrimental to our disease which can send us to even darker places mentally and emotionally. I have found that the most important ingredient in battling physical illness is faith and keeping our spirit and souls clean and healthy. For wherever the spirit and soul goes the body will follow. 😀 <3 Sweet Blessings, Deborah P.S. I also learned that emotional hunger can growl louder than physical hunger! <3

      2. Thanks so much for sharing your insights Deborah! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  1. Keeping a food diary helps me stay on track when I am trying to lose weight and helps me track food reactions. I like to use MyFitnessPal for workouts and food so it tracks my calories and percentage of fat/protein/carbs.

    1. Thanks for sharing Cynthia, and thanks for telling us about MyFitnessPal! I’m glad keeping the journal has helped you. It really is one of our best tools when it comes to our nutrition. Blessings to you!

  2. A very informative, encouraging post, full of wisdom Terri It’s an area of my life that needs more attention and I intend to try harder. Fatigue and time restraints and excuses can cause me to make poor choices, which I’ve learned only make matters worse but it’s a challenge to always be prepared in advance. Used frozen soup for lunch yesterday, could never have enough of this handy food!

    1. Thanks so much Marie! I know exactly what you mean about the things that can cause us to make poor choices – I would imagine it happens to all of us from time to time. Having those healthy foods that we’ve already prepared available can be so helpful, but as you said it can be a challenge. I love the idea of bulk cooking, but I just don’t seem to be able to summon the energy for that. Blessings to you sweet friend!

      1. My main problem with bulk cooking is it is destined to fail when you have other members of the family with very healthy appetites…the extra gets consumed before it ever sees the freezer!!

      2. I had to chuckle a little Marie…. There are times when I cook something thinking that I’ve made enough for us to get another meal out of it, then my hubby loads up his plate and that idea goes out the window lol….

  3. I first kept a food journal when I was about 12, and that was with the idea of losing weight. The whole notion of keeping a food diary for years thereafter was dirtied by the whole weight-loss notion, and all the emotions that came with some very difficult times in my life. When I was 19, it became about tracking my food because of the digestive issue I was having and trying to see if there was any correlation or ’cause’ I could find. I wouldn’t mind giving it another go now, but more in terms of trying to encourage me back into eating more as I’ve lost a bit more weight since my last op and I know I need to be increasing intake again. You’ve made some excellent points and suggestions, as food diaries can be priceless for giving us an overview of what’s going on (which can be rather different on paper to what we think it is in our head), look at things that are working well and what’s not, identify triggers, links between food/symptoms etc. A very comprehensive and thoroughly helpful post, Terri!
    Caz xx

    1. I think using a food journal to help you get back to eating more is a great idea Caz! The whole point of one really should be to help you find the type/amount of food that works best for you. They are used a lot in weight loss, but that’s just one use for them. As you experienced, just like any other tool we have available, if used with the wrong motives or incorrectly, they can have a detrimental effect. I’m glad you were able to move past your negative experience. If you decide to try it, if you start to have a negative reaction to it, I hope you’ll just let it go. Anything that gives a negative connotation to something we have to have to survive (food) is just not worth it…. Thanks so much for your kind words sweet friend!

  4. Great post! I tracked my calories on my fitness pal to figure out why I was gaining weight on a whole food, meat, and plant based diet. No answers there as I was well below the amount I was/am supposed to be eating. Still no answers. I image tracking is a great tool for foodies! Personally I find eating to be a hastle, and just another thing using spoons I’m in shortage of. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Mishka! You know, sometimes when we eat less than we ideally should be eating, our metabolism starts to slow down. It can kind of be compared to the battery saving feature on our phone; it doesn’t know when it’s going to be “charged” next, so it hangs onto every little bit of energy it takes in. I’m not saying that’s what is going on with you, but it might be worth discussing with your medical team if they’re not able to find other issues that could be causing it. As someone who loves food, I’m sorry to hear that eating isn’t enjoyable for you. I hope you have a wonderful weekend sweet friend!

      1. I have heard that but I do eat at specifically timed intervals (makes me sound like a robot 🤖😉) so it knows the food is coming. MECFS people tend to lose or gain, definitely a misfire with the metabolism, all part of some big puzzle scientists are working on. Wishing you a lovely weekend 🌸

      2. Wow, it really is a great big puzzle, isn’t it? I’m hopeful that one day they’re going to be able to find all the missing pieces, and come up with a cure for MECFS, as well as other illnesses they haven’t quite figured out yet…. When I think about all the advances made in medicine just in my lifetime (I’m old 😁) it really does make me feel like it could happen. Hope you have a wonderful weekend sweet friend!

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