Why I’ve Started Keeping a Food Journal

I went back and forth for a while on the idea of keeping a food journal.

It’s a diet-y thing to do. And I was afraid it would trigger me. Would it be impossible to resist the urge, with all the raw data there, to slip on over to Spark People and enter in what I’d eaten, to get a calorie count? I could already hear the “but I’m just doing it to find out how much fiber I’m eating” voice piping up.

But the truth is, I don’t feel as good as I could. Not as good as I want to. Some days I feel sluggish, even though I’ve been gluten-free since the beginning of the year. The deep, relentless fatigue is gone–but I want to feel even better. And I’m pretty sure there is still something in my diet that’s tripping me up.

So, when the company I write for sent me a little hard-covered journal for no particular reason, I decided to take it as a sign. I started to track how many hours I slept, what I eat (no measurements or amounts, just the name of the food and the time of day), my hunger level on a 1-10 scale and my training. Plus, I take notes on how I feel during the day.

I have always had a finicky stomach. I had ulcers when I was ten. Stress, anxiety, pressure, anticipation, joy, excitement–it all goes straight to my stomach. Also, for as long as I can remember I . . . well, let’s put it this way, when I was little I was positive I could never get married because there was no way I could ever, ever fart in front of a boy.

There is more, but I’m going to stop myself now.

When Nick was two or three days old, I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream that Snow White’s dwarfs were mining for gemstones in my belly. It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced–and remember I had a two or three day old baby. I went to the hospital, sure I was having a twin or maybe an appendicitis.

And, I swear to you, the doctor’s only advice was to tell me I needed to lose some weight.


It kept happening, maybe once a week. Twice on a really bad week. One thing was very clear, I wasn’t digesting my food at all. It was sitting in my stomach, rotting, until it exited however it could.

I’ve never been a major milk drinker. But I finally realized that the pain was happening the nights after the one or two times a week I would drink a glass. I stopped drinking milk and the pain didn’t come again. Oddly enough, it turned out a couple of months later that Nick was also having an issue with milk. So for years he and I were both dairy-free.

In fact, I’ve never had a glass of milk again. Not for seventeen years. I can’t make myself do it.

But eventually, I started eating cereal again. And ice cream. And finally cheese. And nothing bad happened. No stomach cramps. I figured whatever it was, it was connected to my pregnancy and it was over.

Only now, I’m keeping this damned food journal. And I’m noticing that after I have a bowl of cereal or some cheese I get stomach bloating and every lovely thing that comes with that. Also congestion. I supposed I need to try to go dairy free for a while and see what happens. I’m not happy about that.

Other positive things are coming out of keeping a food journal. I’m finding that if I wait until I’m really hungry, I start to crave food that I know will make me sick. If I get hungry enough, I want a sandwich. Nothing else will do. (Except, of course, something else does do. But in the moment, I’m sure it won’t.) Also, having an external way to track my satiety level has really helped me start moving toward being able to eat to my hunger.

So, I try to eat when I’m at a level 5 (noticeably hungry, but not distractedly so) and stop at about a level 3 (full, but not stuffed.) It doesn’t always work, but I’m getting better at it. I have a feeling this is a skill and that it will get easier with time and practice.

So, what about you? Have you ever kept a food journal? Did you find it useful or was it too diet-triggery for you?


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