The Benefits Of Keeping A Diary

Last week I was privileged enough to hear Dr Libby Weaver speak in Adelaide.  Dr Libby is a Nutritional Biochemist, speaker and author who speaks on Women’s Health. Dr Libby has a fantastic way of making the complexities of our body more easily understood and speaks to groups throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Whilst I won’t go into all her key messages in this blog, one of the most relevant points she made applies to both women and men and that is “…innately, on the inside, we know what is and isn’t in our best interests when it comes to the foods and drinks we consume.”

What I love about this is that when it comes to the foods we eat, we can kid ourselves that we eat well and continue to put up with the bloating, fluid retention, aches and pains, extra weight, poor complexion and low energy or, we can get real with ourselves and admit that maybe we are consuming too much carbohydrate/chocolate/alcohol/coffee/fast food/sugar and not enough fresh vegies/water/fruit/herbal teas/organic meats….. you get the picture.

So which camp do you currently live in? Denial?  Ready for Action? Or Still Sitting On the Fence?

When I first meet with clients or prospective clients, I usually ask them about their nutrition. Sadly, despite their belief that they eat really well, when we take a closer look, despite their best efforts, some poor choices have crept into their eating habits on a regular basis.

Now if you haven’t read my ranting before, I’ll say it again – weight loss, creating more energy, managing blood pressure, avoiding type II diabetes, relieving aches and pains and improving your health is every bit as much about what you are feeding your body as it is about moving your body.

For those clients who are willing to look at their food consumption, I usually ask them to complete a diet diary over 10 consecutive days. Why 10 days? 10 days is an adequate time frame to determine how much variety a client is getting in their diet. Yep, variety plays a part too. It’s very common for people to eat roughly the same 10 foods day in, day out, depriving their body of key nutrients.

So how do Diet Diaries work? Initially, it’s about creating awareness – the first step to changing something is to become aware that it is happening. For some of my clients, just the act of recording what and when they eat is enough for them to realize they need to make better choices – whether I look at the diet diary or not. Sadly, many people just shovel food into their mouths without giving much thought to the nutritional value let alone the taste of the food.  A diet diary requires you to stop and think about what you eat as you record it in the diary. Do you eat the kid’s leftovers without even thinking about it and then sit down to a meal yourself? Do you find yourself snacking whilst cooking dinner?

My clients tell me that one of the benefits of a diet diary is that they often find themselves re-thinking whether they will eat something they inherently know is not good for them, knowing they have to write it down in their diet diary. That in itself can be enough to break a pattern of poor choices and provide motivation to make better choices.

The second step is to look at the variety of nutrients consumed over the 10 days. If  you’re not eating a variety of foods and a rainbow of vegetables each week ( a variety of colors), you’re probably missing out on some key nutrients and left unchecked, nutrient deficiencies can result in chronic health conditions.

Finally, a Diet Diary should have a section to record how you feel upon waking in the morning. There is often a direct link between how you sleep, how you feel upon waking, and your previous evening meal.

Analyzing all this information and looking for patterns can provide some interesting insights to what’s going on with your eating and whether you might be accidentally sabotaging your best eating efforts.

You don’t need a formal Diet Diary to get the benefits of focusing more closely on what you put in your mouth. Just grab a notebook and get started. Write down everything you eat and drink, the date and time, how you slept and how you felt upon waking for at least 10 days then review your diary looking for links between what you eat, how you sleep and how you feel.

The bottom line with a Diet Diary is to create awareness between what you put into your body and how it makes you feel. Even if you believe you eat well, give it a go, you might surprise yourself!

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