If you often use a general statement like, “I want to eat better,” this post is for you. If you often say something along the lines of, “I don’t remember what I ate this week,” this post is also for you. If neither of these applies, still stay tuned! We all have valuable things to learn from a food journal.

Download YMCA Food Journal

The idea of tracking something with pen and paper sounds archaic, right? But, writing things out by hand helps us pay closer attention. We can have vague ideas about our health habits until we actually see them on paper. Then, the truth often doesn’t match the story we’re telling ourselves.

That’s why we’re fans of this 7-day food journal. If you want to "eat better," first you have to see what you are currently eating. A week’s time gives you a solid snapshot to start with and practical info to use in creating more specific, healthy goals. Give it a try this week, and glean some of the following.

7 Things You Can Learn:

  1. Learn how to clarify a short-term goal. The first page of the journal asks you to set a goal. A weekly goal like this is a great way to take small, achievable steps toward a long-term plan, and it gives you a set time to evaluate how you’re doing. 

  2. Learn how you feel before and after certain foods. Ever feel sluggish or not quite like yourself after meals? A food journal can help you identify which foods are helping and hurting your body. Sometimes simply cutting out a certain food or food group can work wonders for your physical, mental, and emotional state. Or if you’re having more serious health issues, a food journal can serve as a helpful tool to take in and discuss with your physician.

  3. Learn how much you’re eating. Often we have a vague idea of how much we ate over the past week, thinking things like, “I didn’t have too much sugar.” But what does that mean? A food journal shows you in black and white the actual amount you are consuming day to day. You’ll be able to see if you’re consistent throughout the week, and make some guesses as to why you might eat healthier or unhealthier on certain days. 
  4. Learn what you’re eating. Similar to the amount you’re consuming, a food journal also helps clarify what you’re consuming. There’s a tendency to have selective memory when it comes to sugary treats and other items we’re trying to limit in our diets. It’s also good to note your fruit and vegetable intake. Are you happy with it? Do you want to find ways to include more? Use the journal for insight.

  5. Learn how much water you’re drinking. We can’t say it enough: water is key to a healthy lifestyle. Set a goal to check off all the water intake boxes in the journal. Plus, if you want to focus specifically on H2O, take our 30-day water challenge.

  6. Learn how physical activity fits into your week. There are two additional areas below the food list. One is for you to write out what time(s) and for how long you exercised. Eating well and getting enough exercise go hand-in-hand in a healthy lifestyle, so it's worth your time to use this area to track your physical activity and see where you can make adjustments. 

  7. Learn how much sleep you need. The other bonus section lets you track your sleeping habits for the week. This is another area that can have a big impact on our health without us realizing it. You first need to see a clear picture of how much you're sleeping to be able to determine what amount you want to start aiming for on a nightly basis.

Lastly, use the notes section at the bottom of the journal pages to write down any observations about how you’re feeling and what is/isn’t working well for you. The more you put into this practice, the more you'll get out! Invest a little time into tracking your habits, and see what you can learn to create a healthier future.

Working toward a weight loss goal?

Stay accountable and inspired with the YMCA’s Weight Loss Program. This 12-week course offers weekly small-group discussions and tools to help you design a unique plan, track progress and set yourself on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Learn More.