When I first meet with clients and tell them the first step to them building healthier eating habits and losing weight is keeping a food diary, they usually look at me like I am a crazy person and give me the infamous nod, which simply means they won’t be doing that. Today, we’re discussing the importance of keeping a food diary and tracking your food intake, and explaining how such a simple step can be the secret to a healthier you.

First, let us start off by explaining what exactly a food diary is. It really is as easy as it sounds; you keep your form with you everyday and track down everything you eat in detail. Here is a template of a sample food diary:

Time Food Type How Much Where Mood
8 am Oatmeal with flaxseeds, raspberries, and almonds 1 small bowl At home Hungry
10 am Green tea with honey 1 cup, 1 tsp honey In office Sleepy

First of all, keeping a food diary helps you become more aware of the choices you are making. Most of us will chow down on a cupcake and forget all about it 10 minutes later. Once you have to write it down though, you will be reminded of it all day on that piece of paper. It is almost like you are owning up to your actions and committing to them. At the end of the day, you will look at your diary and feel proud of your achievement of successfully eating healthy or you will feel bad that you didn’t try as hard as you could have. It’s all about your commitment to yourself and your actions.

Secondly, food diaries will help you identify specific triggers to unhealthy eating. For example, after just a few days of keeping a food diary you might start noticing how you usually make unhealthy food choices when you are in an angry or anxious mood, or you always eat healthy at home and the problem is when you are out with your friends. It is a chance to understand your body more and realize the reasoning and influences behind your food choices.

One of the other most important benefits of food diaries is to identify how certain foods make you feel. It becomes much easier to identify food intolerances or digestive issues once you start writing everything down. For example, you might start noticing that every time you recorded a meal that contains dairy you experienced bloating after it. Things like these are hard to identify unless you are completely aware of what you are eating throughout the day.

So, if you thought keeping a diary was only for teenagers, think again! We encourage you to keep a weekly food diary and watch how it transforms your eating habits. The point of a food diary is to learn about yourself, not to judge yourself or grade it.