Counting calories not only helps us because it causes us to eat fewer of them, but also because it makes us more conscious of what we are eating. Keeping a food journal does this as well, and much more.
Think what it would be like if you had a tiny camera that you could strap to a pair of glasses or baseball cap that would monitor everything you ate. Imagine that it would give you a full report of daily calories, percent of protein, fat, carbohydrate... well, you get the picture.
Although this would be a great invention, it would still miss the point. Keeping a food journal not only helps you understand how much and what types of foods you are eating, but if done right, it helps you understand WHY you are eating.
Most of us don't make the connection between how we are feeling and what or why we are eating. A journal helps you become your own detective and determine what feelings trigger you to eat. And when you start to realize why you're eating, you can find a substitute behavior.
I encourage you to keep a record for a month. If daily sounds like too much, then keep it for two weekdays and one weekend day each week. Keep it with you at all times so that you can track what you eat and how you are feeling when you eat.
After monitoring yourself, you'll begin to understand your emotional reasons for eating. Once you know some of your personal "triggers" you can then work on substituting a different behavior. For example, if you realize that you always eat when you feel anxious, you can try going for a walk or taking a moment to relax instead of heading for the potato chips.
Becoming your own food detective will help you understand what, when and why you eat, and that's the first step to changing your behaviors.
Megan Porter, RD