Why you should keep a Food Journal

I have a history of having a love/hate relationship with food journals. In my Weight Watchers days, I had no problem keeping track of what I ate and assigning the appropriate points. At first this was on little paper booklets that they supplied and then later, on the WW app once most everyone got a smartphone.

This is pretty much how it would go for me:

I’d be really good about tracking until I reached my goal weight or went on vacation and let myself go off the rails. I’d stop tracking one day and never go back. Until the next time I rejoined Weight Watchers, after gaining all the weight back again.

Totally all-or-nothing mentality.

The reason I didn’t keep tracking was because what I was eating wasn’t “perfect” or “on plan.” There was no way that I wanted to write down what was actually entering my mouth. Why? Because if I did, I’d have to admit to myself that I had fallen off the wagon. I, of course, knew that I had, but I didn’t want to see written evidence of it.

The thing is, people who keep a food journal while losing weight have a higher success rate. So this last time, I knew a food journal was in my future. And I was NOT happy about it.

I’ll admit it. I had a few internal adult tantrums about the prospect. I really, really didn’t want to keep a food journal.

So of course, I had to investigate my thoughts about food journals. My thoughts included “it’s so annoying and inconvenient to have to write down or type in every morsel that passes my lips” and “food journals feel really restrictive because I will only write down good choices and that means that then I can only make good choices” and “a food journal feels like a harsh, judgmental teacher and I’m either the A+ student or the flunky who isn’t following directions.” Whoa.

There’s always a thought that precedes a feeling. Those thoughts made me feel very resistant. Resistant to the action of keeping a food journal which resulted in me not food journaling. Interesting how that works.

I had to completely change around my thoughts about keeping a food journal in order for me to have any hope of consistently keeping one.

I decided to look at my food journal purely from a place of fascination, curiosity, and intrigue. I decided that judging my eating as “good” or “bad” was not allowed. It was truly only a record of the food that had entered my body. It itself is just a notebook or a computer file. It’s completely neutral.

I’m the one who assigns meaning to the food journal. And the good news for all of us is that we get to decide what that meaning should be. I chose a meaning that serves me and has an upside. The upside is that I can recall what I’ve been eating because these days, I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night. So if I hit a weight loss plateau, I have real data to look back on so I can figure out what to tweak. And I can look back on the weeks where I was having success and see if I can find a trend or pattern to replicate.

Luckily there’s no angry schoolteacher inside my food journal, judging me on my eating choices. The angry schoolteacher only resided in my head, dictating my thoughts about my food choices. After I decided to give her the boot, I allowed my brain to think about the food journal in a way that truly serves my weight loss efforts.

In doing this, I have been able to release all of my resistance to food journaling. I decided to think that it’s easy and no big deal to journal. And that makes me feel motivated to take the action of journaling my food intake. And the result is objective information from which to make future dietary choices. Awesome!

So what are your thoughts about a food journal? Do those thoughts serve you in your attempt to lose weight? Do you want to keep those thoughts or choose different ones? Choose wisely!


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Showing 3 comments
  • Lisa

    Any app suggestions you could give for keeping a food journal? What do you use?

    • Katrina

      Hi Lisa! Great question. I prefer to keep journaling really simple. Your Notes app on your phone should be more than adequate. I prefer not to use apps that assign calories to the food you eat because we are not interested in that information. Especially at first, you do not have to be super rigid or exact in journaling how much food you eat (for example, you could just write: romaine salad with carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, 2 hard-boiled eggs, and ranch dressing). If you want to add anything else, I would add where you are on the hunger scale (those blog posts are here and here) when you start eating and where you are on the scale when you finish eating (this could look like: -4 to +3). It’s sometimes helpful to get more specific with portion sizes as you get closer to your goal weight, but you can always start adding that in later. If you have any other questions, please let me know!

  • lisa

    great info! I might try using notes for this rather than an app which details everything-it become tedious and then I stop doing it!

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