I love the idea of journaling one’s lifestyle (fitness journal, wine tasting diary, recipe log…it all sounds amazing!). A food journal, however, has always seemed a bit laborious and depressing, especially if said journal involves tallying calories and grams of this or that macronutrient.
It wasn’t until I read Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore (founder of natural skin care company S. W. Basics), that I seriously considered starting a food journal. She advises keeping a food journal (without specific caloric information) and using as a wellness tool—rather than a weight loss tool. By recording meals, drinks, snacks, and stolen bites over the course of a week or so—the food journal doesn’t have to be a constant staple!—one can notice food patterns (both good and bad) and spot inflammation-triggering foods.
Grigore explains that food sensitivities can subtly but surely wreak havoc on skin: “Sensitivities to different foods are at the root of bad skin because they trigger low-level immune responses and, therefore, inflammation.” When we’re not looking at our eating patterns closely, these low-level reactions often go unnoticed since they’re, well, low-level. A little bloating here, a dull headache there—we often chalk these irritating (but not debilitating) symptoms up to a long day or a bout of stress, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could live without them, despite the inevitable stress of everyday life?
How to keep a food journal:
Grigore advises keeping a food journal for at least three days, but preferably two weeks. Everyday, write down everything you eat and drink. This includes supplements and anything you nom for “just a taste.” You don’t have to show it to anyone, so don’t hold back!
In addition to recording all you ingest, take note of physical symptoms, moods, and what your skin is up to. For example, a typical entry may look like:
Feeling pretty good until 4 PM—then I hit an energy slump. Started to feel irritable then. Felt more positive and relaxed after a green smoothie of spinach, avocado, and pineapple. Skin has been crazy oily, but not breaking out.
Finally, add any information that you think is relevant. Have you been sick? Are you travelling? Have you been exercising more or less than usual?
How to spot problem foods:
Inflammation-triggering foods may include any not-very-healthy food that keeps popping up in your journal. (Most of us have them—until recently, mine was daily coffee.) Also keep an eye out for processed foods since we may eat more of them than we realize. Are there any foods—even healthy ones—that make you feel slightly crummy after eating them? Finally, what is your diet lacking? Chances are, Grigore quips, you’re not getting enough veggies.
What I’m hoping to learn:
I’m usually pretty conscious about what I eat. I plan my meals and make snacks ahead of time. Also, being vegan means that I pass up about 99% of random food offered my way. The delicious-looking (but non-vegan) cookies my coworker made? I ate them with my eyes only. Sigh. In other words, my food journal will probably be a pretty predictable and boring read.
Still, I’m hoping that if I do have any food sensitivities to food I eat regularly, I’ll figure it out. Grigore points out that over consuming a particular food can have inflammatory results—even if you don’t have a long-term sensitivity to that food. For example, maybe I don’t normally have a sensitivity to bananas (that I know of!), but I eat them a lot, like every morning and occasionally in the afternoon. Mmm, bananas. I’ll guess we’ll find out.
Will you take to food journal challenge with me?
Photos: Clarice via Flickr, Mary Hood