How Food Journals Can Help
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You know that keeping a food diary can help with weight loss. In fact, you could potentially lose twice as much weight. (Here's How to Make Food Journaling Work for You.) The patterns that an eating diary can reveal may tell you so much more about your health, habits, and even your workouts. The trick is keeping a thorough log. "Food is just one tiny piece of the puzzle," says dietician Torey Armul, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The key to keeping a good record is to add other information." That means your appetite levels, emotions, how you're feeling physically, energy levels, and more.
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What's Causing Your Digestion Issues
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If you keep a log of your symptoms (bloating, cramping) along with your food journal, it'll be easier to see associations between what you eat and how you feel, as well as any possible food allergies, says Priya Lawrence, M.S., R.D.N., co-founder of Tried and True Nutrition. "If someone comes to me with IBS concerns or constipation, I immediately look for food allergies," she says. Keeping notes can help you make more precise connections because you'll know not just what symptoms you had, but when. And if you do any sort of elimination diet, it's crucial to keep a good food and symptom diary.
How to Boost Your Workouts
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Armul has her clients log very specific notes about their workouts, including the intensity, the duration, what they ate before and after, and how they felt before, during, and after their sweat sessions. "If you find that you're consistently feeling pooped halfway through your workouts, you can tweak your afternoon snacks to help boost your energy," she says. It's especially important to log nutrition while you're training for an event, she adds, so you'll know the best fuel for your body on race day.
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Why You've Been Feeling Lightheaded
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People don't always think to log water in a food journal, but the information is really crucial, says Lawrence. (Are you drinking enough water? Do you have any of the Five Signs of Dehydration? And no, the color of your pee isn't the only factor.) If you see that you're not drinking enough throughout the day, it could help explain symptoms like constipation and dizziness, which are both associated with dehydration.
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Your Personal Food-Mood Connection
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Some people turn to food when they're frustrated, says Lawrence, while others feel they "deserve" an indulgence after accomplishing something tough. Writing down your emotions when you log your food keeps emotional eating in the front of your mind, which can help curb binging or mindless munching. Writing can also help replace that emotion-driven indulgence. "If you feel like eating but you've just had a meal, write down your feelings instead," says Lawrence. Did you know that certain foods can actually boost your mood, too?
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Whether You're Eating the Right Breakfast
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Logging your appetite throughout the day can help you identify what foods fill you up, and which ones leave you hungry again in an hour or two (it's different for everyone), says Armul. "I ask clients to rank their hunger levels," she says. "If they're starving every day by lunchtime, then maybe their breakfast isn't effective." (Perhaps try making one of these 10 Protein-Packed Yogurt Bowls That Will Jump Start Your Morning.)
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Why You Overeat During Netflix Marathons
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"I also like the idea of keeping some notes on mindfulness," says Armul, since how mindful you are can affect your food intake. Along with a mindfulness rating, jot down whether you're eating in front of the TV, seated at a table, or standing up in your kitchen, which can help you understand why you ate more than usual or felt less satisfied than you expected.
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