Why Keep a Food Journal?

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Your Best Self Starts Here

You are what you eat. Seriously. I know, it can be a hard concept to grasp, but when you consider that every ounce of your being—every cell, molecule, and structure—is miraculously constructed based on past food choices, it’s both daunting and inspiring. Our day-to-day intake determines future outcomes—for better or for worse—and the beautiful thing about this process is that you get to decide what that looks like. Yes, you! Once you become fully aware that every bite and every sip taken in, and every drop of sweat poured out, creates the you that you’re fully capable of becoming, then the wheels of change can begin to turn.

Don’t feel overwhelmed or alone if your best self is lost at the moment, enveloped in poor food choices, drowning in drink, or way too familiar with time spent on the couch. It is still there, just waiting to be liberated from the depths and shepherded toward full potential. You have the power to take back control of your diet, food habits, and sweat sessions and pour your energy into becoming the person that you want to be. Start investing in yourself and explore what you are capable of when you reach for better choices.

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Eating well can help us feel great and enjoy life more. So how is it that we keep getting this wrong? Perhaps we feel dazed by the vast availability and variety of food. Or we succumb to mixed messages surrounding food and nutrition. Given that every day presents us with food around every corner, on every counter, and at every meeting—and every social media feed depicts glorious plates of food and mixed messages of what to eat (or not) and when—we’ve earned the right to feel totally overwhelmed. So on the rare occasion when we get the quantity or timing or setting right, it’s still easy to eat all the “wrong” foods. How we feel determines what we eat. It’s no wonder that a majority of us no longer feel comfortable with our food choices or with our pants size.

We often set ourselves up for failure when we eat in response to emotion. Remember, nutrition itself is a science. If you can shift to viewing food as a way to find energy and nutrients and learn what comprises the best choices, then your best self can begin to take form, built on a platform of functional and powerful foods. This journal will equip you with essential information to help you build a strong nutritional foundation, day in and day out, rooted in deep-seated habits that play out as healthy choices. Change how you think about food and you will no longer be rocked by overeating, cravings, and emotions. Use this journal to put some distance between your feelings and how you fuel. Healthy eating can become a reality if you invest a little planning and intention.

I’m here as your nutrition coach. As a registered dietitian, I have helped countless individuals reach for better, and whether you’ve got a decent handle on nutrition or you’re a complete disaster, I can help. No judging—I promise. I have seen it all, and I want to share what I’ve learned in a way that provokes thought and change in your life. Set aside 90 days for this journey. I will guide you to create new habits and make better food choices, and along the way, you will glean insights on why these choices matter. You’ll need to commit to work: taking the time to track what you eat, keeping an open mind and experimenting to find an approach that works best for you, patiently putting it into practice, avoiding the common culprits, and getting up each time you fail. Take it one bite at a time, one week at a time, and the seemingly huge task of self-improvement will become more manageable. Whether you’re focused on getting to a healthy weight, fueling better athletic performance, cleaning up your diet, or simply hitting macronutrient goals, I promise you, you’re in good hands.

I often hear, “I’ll bet you have the perfect diet. You seem so regimented and perfect.” If only that were true! Food intake isn’t as simple as knowing what to eat . . . so many factors influence the when, where, and why. Even if my diet were pristine, imparting nutrition information is not as simple as modeling my perfect plate. Every plate will be different because it needs to suit your needs, your wants (within reason, of course), and your taste buds. What’s on my plate shouldn’t matter to you. I have to work every damn day to make better choices, just like you. To balance my intake with my output. To choose more color and fewer processed foods. While I love vegetables, I’m human too. When I get home after a stressful day, an adult beverage and salty food calls to me too. As do cake, cookies, and late-night eating. So I get you. Know that I fall off the wagon more than I’d like to admit. But no matter how many times that may happen, what’s important is that we get back up, dust ourselves off, and try again.

Over the years, I’ve guided many people who were once clueless about which foods to put in their grocery cart, and even if they had a clue, they wouldn’t know what to do with these foods when they got home. I’ll give you a taste of basic nutrition, and explain the foods you need to fuel health and performance. Over the coming weeks and months, it will all meld together to give you the confidence you need to create change.

From there, it’s time to set your personal goals. You might already have a nutrition or health goal in mind. Lose five pounds . . . and then some. Trade fat for muscle. Or maybe your intake and output don’t seem to match up and you’re desperate for some motivation to get to the gym more than once a week. Maybe you’re a nutritional train wreck and need a complete overhaul. We will get down to the nitty-gritty to determine what drives your choices and what’s holding you back, identify your specific nutritional pitfalls and personal obstacles, and evaluate your daily food choices.

You are built on the foods you choose. Choose to build a strong foundation.

Keep a Food Journal

Nutrition experts have long known that there’s a simple tool anyone can use to improve their food choices, listen to their hunger cues, and ultimately improve their relationship with food. Food journals—or any method of logging your daily diet, whether online or on the back of a napkin—can be used to rein in portions, identify your emotional triggers, and help you reach your healthy weight. A recent study of 1,700 overweight or obese people conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research found that food journals are a helpful ally in the quest for weight loss: Dieters who kept a food diary for six months lost twice as much weight as those who kept no food record. Writing down what you eat makes you accountable for everything you eat and drink, including drive-by snacks, what’s left of your kid’s dinner, and pieces of chocolate. Food journals can also help reduce one of the biggest obstacles to meeting our goals: mindless and emotional eating. After all, if you have to measure out and log whatever food or drink you typically use to drown your sorrows, there’s a good chance you’ll get in touch with your emotions rather than cope with calories.

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A food journal can also help you keep an eye on foods that you need to watch for optimal health—whether it’s bad guys like sugar, good guys like fiber, calcium, and iron, or intolerances such as gluten or lactose. When you review what you ate in a day or a week, you can spot gaps in your intake, which could potentially deprive you of important nutrients. For example, if you get to the end of the day and see only one serving of vegetables (maybe just the lettuce on your sandwich), you’ll realize that you’re far from reaching your daily recommended intake! Find out if you’re eating far more processed foods and fast foods than you’d like and whether these foods are replacing healthier, nutrient-dense choices. Keeping a food journal can also help you plan ahead for balanced meals and result in improved nutrition for everyone who eats at your table. And when you get discouraged, flipping back through your journal will allow you to see how far you’ve come.

In Sweat. Eat. Repeat., registered dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede will help you take charge of your diet. Over her 90-day guided program, Bede can help you improve your nutrition as well as your habits and attitudes about food.

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    Sweat. Eat. Repeat.

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