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Keeping a (Food) Diary: The Benefits of Journaling Your Digestion Problems & What You Eat

Digestion problems are no joke. If your gut doesn't feel right, odds are, the rest of you doesn't either. Many things can cause digestive discomfort, so it's often hard to pinpoint what's throwing your GI tract out of whack. That's why keeping a daily food journal can be a powerful tool for improving your digestive health.

What is a Food Journal?

It may sound like where you document your crush on Cheez-Its (and, really, it kind of is), but a food journal is much more than that. It's a log of everything you eat and drink each day. The goal is to use this intel to better understand how, when, and why you eat. You don't have to decipher your detective work alone, either. Providing your physician with a food journal can also help him, or her decide what changes you may need to make to curb digestive chaos.

It's important to note that food journaling isn't the best practice for everyone. If you have a history of eating disorders or other food-related anxiety, work with your physician to find healthy alternatives. Keep in mind that you also have resources at your disposal if "It's Complicated" best describes your relationship status with food sometimes.1

What Are the Benefits of Food Journals? 

For many, logging your food intake offers a range of health benefits, including the following.

1. Detecting Food Intolerances

A food journal can help you connect the dots between digestive distress and the food behind it. You may notice a pattern, for example, that every time you drink beer or chow down on a pizza, you feel rotten. 

2. Better Nutrition

Journaling can identify foods you should eat more of, such as fruits and veggies, as well as foods you should eat less of, such as Hot Pockets and Nutella. 

3. Identifying Unhealthy Eating Triggers

One of the most interesting benefits of a food journal is the ability to spot unhealthy eating triggers. Three common catalysts for poor nutrition include work stress, relationship stress, and a depressed or otherwise lousy mood.

That's just the tip of the food-trigger iceberg, though. You might discover that watching your favorite show or sports team leads to regular overindulgence. Maybe you can't relax with your favorite celebrity gossip magazine without downing a bag of salty chips at the same time. Whatever the spark(s), sussing them out will help you figure out healthier alternatives.

4. Portion Control

Keeping track of how much you eat can help you become more aware of your portion sizes. It can also force you to be more honest about them as well.

5. Weight Loss or Gain

Food journaling is central to most weight loss and weight gain strategies, whether it involves tallying up calories or not. Many people aren't aware of how much they're eating — or how little they're eating — until they see it in print.

6. Pinpoint When You're Usually Hungry

Another benefit of a food diary is the ability to establish a regular eating schedule anchored by when you're actually hungry. Eating when your body tells you it needs nutrients — as opposed to "fog eating" at the kitchen counter or diving into those nachos because, well, they're there — can help you lose weight and regulate your metabolism.

7. Smarter Goal Setting

Sticking with a food journal also makes it easier to create valuable and realistic goals. This second part is key, particularly if you're trying to lose weight or minimize specific health risks. Understand how you eat, and you'll more likely set incremental goals that build momentum and lead to lasting results.

What's the Best Way To Start Keeping a Food Journal?

For the best results, it's a good idea to use a dedicated writing space. While you could jot down notes using your phone or a random notepad on your desk, having an organized destination for journaling will help you stick with it. We offer an easy-to-use template that you can download here. You can also buy a premade food journal. Three of our faves include:

  • Cossac Fitness Journal and Workout Planner2
  • GymPad Workout Journal and Fitness Book3
  • BookFactory Food Journal4

For many, food journaling is a simple, straightforward way to get honest about their health and improve digestion. When you're ready to start making some positive changes, sharpen your pencil or uncap your favorite pen and start taking notes