Food Journaling- What it does and does not do.



If you've been in the fitness game for a few seasons, then the concept of the food journal is nothing new to you. For those that don't know exactly what it is and does, a food journal is a simple log of the foods (not calories or even nutrients) that you eat during the day.

While I consider it an valuable tool, almost as essential as the Warrior20, I think that many people get slightly confused about what it takes to keep a useful food journal and how it helps you learn and grow. A list of what your food journal does and does not do:

It does promote awareness of actual (not perceived, habits). Habits like this study show that Americans are not particularly good at knowing how much of what they are eating, when.

It does slow a person down. The act of recording can reveal the automaticity of behaviors, whether helpful or harmful.

It does NOT tell you how many calories you are actually eating, or overall energy balance. This is nearly impossible to find without a barometric chamber.

It is not a precise record of all the nutrients and calories that enter your body. It can give you an idea, but it is not a tool to count calories. Even with myfitnesspal or other software that do this automatically. The same issues with calorie counting apply.

How I use AND how I analyze data from food journals:

In my opinion, the ideal use of a food journal is getting basic information about an individuals daily habits. The elegance of the system is looking only at large levers or opportunities for change.