Caregiving can be a rewarding experience; however, it can also be exhausting and lead to poor food choices and weight gain. Many caregivers make their loved one the main focus, often times at the expense of their own health concerns. Over time, weight gain and unhealthy eating habits can easily develop. Staying healthy and active is important to providing great care for your loved one. Keeping a food journal is one strategy to help prevent unwanted weight gain and keep you on the right track with your health. Research indicates that people who keep a food journal can lose twice as much weight when compared to those who do not keep track of what they are eating.
- Food journals are easy. No equipment necessary, just write down everything you eat and drink.
- Food journals increase your awareness. Food journals force you to be aware of what you are consuming and sometimes the shock of seeing how many calories you are taking in is enough to help you stay on track.
- Food journals let you track your progress. Your food diary can be used to help you make adjustments throughout the day. They can also help you choose how much exercise to do based on your calorie goal.
- Food journals offer accountability. Many people choose to avoid unhealthy items, so they will not have to be written in the food journal.
- Food journal tips:
- Know your reasons for keeping a food journal. Do you want to become aware of hidden food triggers, notice problematic eating patterns, or just make sure you are maintaining a healthy diet?
- Choose your food journal format. In general, keep track of meal/snack time, type of food, amount/portion consumed, and degree of hunger. You may also want to write down how you felt physically and emotionally once you finished eating. You can also keep track of the type and amount of exercise you have done for the day.
- Decide how often to write in your journal. You should keep your food journal daily for the best results, but at least 5 days per week at a minimum. Write in your journal immediately after eating to be most accurate. Keep your food journal with you at all times.
- Choose how detailed you want to be. Even just writing a small amount of information can be helpful.
- Be accurate and honest about portion sizes.
- Don’t forget to include the extra foods that add up over the day. For example, adding condiments like mayonnaise, salad dressing, butter, margarine or eating a handful of candy can add a significant number of calories to your daily total.
- Be aware of common obstacles. Remember that you are not perfect, mistakes do occur. Think of your food diary as a tool to motivate you to make healthy choices most of the time.
- Review your journal. Acknowledging and reflecting on your decisions is the most important component to remaining on track with a healthy eating plan.