As a holistic nutritionist, a lot of my suggestions are incredibly unglamorous and feel like such a chore. In a world of quick fixes and fancy solutions, drinking water and eating vegetables – two suggestions that are seriously life changing – trigger eye rolls and sighs of exasperation.
My former self finds this advice too simple to be the solution and questions if they will make a difference or are even necessary. I promise you that if I’m recommending something, it’s important and valuable. While the content I share is mostly in support of implementing this boring-but-necessary advice, I will always let you know when my advice falls into the cherry-on-top category and isn’t absolutely essential.
Food journaling falls into the boring-but-necessary category so I wrote this post to make you value it enough to prioritize this habit. You may have heard about food journaling but are unsure what it entails. I break down everything that is required to successfully complete one. I also share some ways to make it easier and more likely to do.
Food journaling provides valuable, insightful information that you may not discover otherwise. And the good news is that it is one of the few habits I recommend that are not meant to last forever! I encourage you to complete at least one week but longer is commonly required if you have been in chronic pain for years.
Brings awareness to your food choices and eating
Becoming aware or conscious of your eating is a vital first step to recovering your health and eliminating symptoms such as headaches. This awareness is crucial because we all make various assumptions about our diet including what does or doesn’t work for us as well as what we eat and how often we eat certain foods. It also forces us to be mindful of our choices.
Get honest with yourself – otherwise there is no point
Remember that your food journal is not for anyone’s eyes but your own unless you are working with a practitioner (who isn’t judging you btw) and they will only be able to help you best if you are honest. Write down every single gulp and bite from everything including drinks such as lattes and water and snacks or treats such as nuts, bars, chips and chocolate.
Don’t wait until the end of the day to write everything down
I get this part seems like a nuisance but, speaking from experience, I promise you will forget things and it’s these little things (like a piece of this and a bite of that) that add up to big reasons why you aren’t seeing the results you want. Use your phone (notes or app) or keep a cute, little notebook on you. You may start with snapping a picture of everything you eat, if writing it down feels too overwhelming. However, recognize that you will ultimately need to know every single ingredient you consume if you want to truly discover why you are in pain or continue to suffer from chronic headaches.
Keep track of time
Writing down when you eat can be very insightful to how troublesome times like emotions or physical imbalances trigger pain. This can be anything from confrontations to celebrations to your cycle and they may help you gain knowledge about yourself. This way you can become better prepared for what to do in these situations in the future or guide your healing protocol towards something more suitable.
Log your poops
No, this isn’t TMI. And your food journal is not reserved solely for food! Your bowel movements are a key indicator of your health so it is important to track them. You should aim for 2-3 BMs per day and don’t forget to look in the bowl. Read this post for what your poops should like.
Don’t forget about symptoms
Beyond your BMs, make sure to list physical symptoms like bloating or constipation and emotional symptoms like irritability, anxiety, or mental fatigue. Also note if you ate because of an emotion – not to judge yourself but solely to bring awareness to your eating habits.
I completed a food journal for the entirety of my elimination diet (yes, it looked as if I was writing a manuscript) and it would have been impossible to pinpoint my food sensitivities without it – rendering the process incredibly less useful.
You may think you are eating a certain way and realize from your journal that you eat more of this and less of that than you previously thought, which is incredibly eye-opening.
A food journal is exceptionally vital, but remember that its purpose is not to promote competition with yourself or comparison with others. It is a necessary tool to help you uncover your hidden food sensitivities so that you can finally find relief from pain.