Tracking your food — and calories — is often the first piece of advice you hear if you want to lose weight. Mobile apps are available to monitor everything from Your macros For your workout routine by syncing with fitness trackers and other tools. And while there are some advantages to keeping track of your meals with a food diary, checkout excellent Paying close attention to everything you eat can affect your mental health. Which begs the question: Is tracking food really for you?
The intent of writing a food diary should be To determine the relationship between your symptoms (such as weight gain or stomach discomfort) and eating patterns, he explains Rachel Beagon, MS, RDNHe is a health and nutrition expert and executive coach. “While it is important to take a diary immediately after eating, to accurately record details, it is best to review the data at longer intervals to identify patterns, eg on a weekly basis,” she says.
Begon adds that keeping a food diary provides the opportunity to identify patterns and habits that need changing and take steps toward making those behavioral changes over time with the help of a professional. “If you find yourself obsessing over what you eat, or the act of keeping track negatively impacting your life or work in any way, this is a sign that food diary may be harmful rather than helpful.”
What are the benefits of a food diary?
There are benefits to practicing food journaling, limiting the number of times you think about food by forgetting about digital trackers and choosing a good old notebook and pen so you don’t have to worry about annoying notifications is your best bet, he says. Abby Langer RD, Abby Langer Nutrition Company Owner and Author Good food, bad diet.
Here are the benefits of keeping track of what you eat:
- Determine sensitivity. When you think you might have a file food allergy Or intolerance, a food diary is a great way to keep an eye on what you eat. Keep a record of the foods you eat and how you feel throughout the day. When symptoms appear, with the help of a registered dietitian, look for patterns in your diet and your symptoms. Together, Langer explains, you can effectively eliminate foods that cause you distress.
- Discover the cause of basic digestive problems. Himali Patel, Do, A doctor at One Medical in San Francisco, recommends patients keep track of food if they experience symptoms like Digestive problems or frequent headache. Simply track what you eat and write down how you feel after eating certain foods. I found this can be helpful in establishing the relationship between what you eat and how you feel as a result.
- Understand eating habits and encourage weight loss. Tracking your food can help you identify patterns by diving deeper into your eating habits and allow you to be more aware of your food choices to reach your goals, Begun explains. A food diary can be especially useful for patients experiencing weight loss by highlighting foods that may contain them. hidden sugarsOr it is over-processed or consumed frequently, adds Dr. Patel. But for anyone with a history of an eating disorder or anxiety, Sari Chet Ph.D.a clinical psychologist, encourages working with a mental health professional when tracking food for weight loss.
- Help make connections between eating and emotions. Langer says that keeping a food diary can be a useful tool for someone who struggles with emotional eating, especially if they are taking notes of how it happened. Feel while eating certain foods. “A food diary can show a person what they’re eating—it’s very easy to forget. Those bites, the tastes, SnacksAnd all of these things can add up. When you’re journaling, don’t forget this kind of thing,” she says. Additionally, your doctor may also suggest food tracking if you’re dealing with overeating or if you suffer from restrictive eating behaviors because they’ll help you work out issues with this It’s, Dr. Chet explains.With your doctor’s guidance, together you can monitor your emotional triggers and make sure you’re not engaging in something unhealthy. Habits.
What are the negatives of a food diary?
Although tracking food in the short term can be a healthy way to find patterns in your diet so you can make much-needed changes, the actual act of counting calories and food in general can be detrimental to your mental health.
These are the cons of keeping track of what you eat:
- The behavior may become obsessive and/or lead to an eating disorder. Dr. Patel notes that food tracking is a signal food stimulants Or to understand how food affects your body in a short period of time (which you define as less than seven days). Often times a food diary can become an obsessive daily practice, which can lead to this disordered eating patterns. If food tracking is causing unhealthy behaviors such as skipping meals, cutting out food categories unnecessarily, avoiding social plans, or interfering with your daily life in general, you may want to step back and seek professional help, Begin warns. Dr. Chit adds that It does not recommend the use of food tracking for weight loss or weight maintenance for anyone with a history of eating disorders or very anxious Without the guidance of a doctor or mental health professional. She warns that this could lead to serious food restrictions or increased anxiety if not done properly under supervision.
- Turn to the phone app for help before your doctor. Langer explains that your doctor or a registered dietitian is necessary to guide you when keeping a food diary, but a phone app or algorithm can’t accurately determine your calorie needs. Everyone needs different calories based on their health, activity levels, and how metabolize Foods — things a phone app can’t take into account, she explains. Be sure to speak to your doctor, mental health professional, or registered dietitian before opening the app to start tracking.
- You lose the joy of eating. Counting calories with an app can often frustrate finding exactly Mix foods to match your daily calorie goals. In addition, it can be difficult to record specific foods you may be eating outside — which constitutes an unnecessary level of social stress, says Langer.
- You may lose contact between your body and food. Dr. Schit adds that it’s important to be aware of how you feel when you keep track of your food, and not many apps allow for those notes and looking at the bigger picture to identify triggers and emotional eating. This is why it is helpful to use a traditional notebook to make sure you can think about your eating. Although food jotting can be more in tune with your body, Langer cautions that cutting back on your meals can cause the opposite. If you are only aiming for calories or precise The goal instead of focusing on how Feel When you eat, it may cause you to lose sight of the connection between your body and what you eat.
Are there alternatives to a food diary?
If tracking food isn’t for you, there are other great ways to reframe the way you think about eating to make sure you’re making the best choices for you. To start, Langer suggests focusing on building a coil nutritious plate at every meal.
“Make your meal around it protein and vegetables, and add carbs afterward, she says. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and then add a high-quality source of protein. Some high-quality protein sources include chicken, tofu, and salmon. She adds that it’s important to eliminate distractions when eating, eat a variety of foods, and not eliminate foods unnecessarily (like dairy or gluten) unless you have a real allergy or intolerance.
Langer also emphasizes the importance of intuitive eating by listening to your body. If you notice signs of hunger or changes in your body weight or energy levelsYou will know when you need to eat more or less foods. Begun agrees and encourages talking to a registered dietitian for support and reading many books It can introduce you to the topic.
And if you’re struggling to achieve success on your own, Dr. Chet encourages you to seek help from a professional outside source. There are therapists who specialize in helping people lose weight and maintain it in healthy ways, especially using cognitive behavior Psychiatric treatment. There are also therapists who specialize in treating an eating disorder and can help.
If you think you have an eating disorder and need support, contact National Eating Disorders Association Helpline At (800) 931-2237. You can text it to 741741 to send a message to a trained crisis counselor from Crisis text line Free.
Arielle Weg is Associate Editor at protection She loves to share her favorite wellness and nutrition interests. She has previously managed content at The Vitamin Shoppe, and her work has also appeared in Women’s health, men’s health, cooking light, my recipes, and more. You can usually find her taking an online exercise class or making a mess in the kitchen, creating something delicious that she found in her cookbook collection or saved on Instagram.
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