Food diaries have been used to keep people on track with their eating habits and to count and manage calories, but when you think about it, they’re actually not so great after all. And when in the hands of someone with obsessive tendencies, they’re pretty dangerous.
I might be a little biased, but I’ll be frank: I’ve struggled with eating disorders in the past, and for me, I know that if I write down every bit of food that goes into my mouth, I’ll obsess about it all day long, and I’ll likely keep decreasing and decreasing the amount of food I’m eating total in order to drop a few pounds. And boom—hello eating disorder, old (not so) friend.
And even for someone who has never had body image problems, the idea of starting a food diary can definitely lead to obsession and unhealthy patterns in those who don’t expect it.
That’s why I am turning this article into an essay on my viewpoint of why I am *so* over food diaries.
They don’t consider the types of foods, just the calories
To eat healthier and lose weight, it’s about piling on whole foods, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and good fats, and avoiding processed, high-sugar foods and “junk” that don’t do our bodies any good. Yes, you’ll want to lower caloric intake for the day to drop pounds, but you’ll likely do that just by eating better foods.
Yet, some of those foods are burned off through digestion and don’t get stored as fat on the body, so it’s really not just about the number of calories but also the quality. A 230-calorie candy bar doesn’t affect your body the same way a 4 oz. piece of salmon does for around the same number.
Instead, it’s better to focus not on calories but more so eating pure, high-quality foods that are rich in nutrition and still pack a ton of flavor.
They bring up bad habits
Another issue? Food diaries can make you become obsessive over calories! If you are thinking about all the foods going on your plate and are not losing weight or getting the results in the amount of time you want, you might think you need to eat less. And less. And less. And that can make you think about every morsel that goes into your mouth and stop eating when you’re hungry and low on fuel. This creates bad body image and will actually slow your metabolism, thus stalling weight loss long term.
They don’t pay attention to other factors
Weight loss and better health isn’t all about dieting—it’s also about the holistic approach, looking at other factors in your life that can be causing you to retain water or mindlessly eat. For instance, food diaries don’t look at stress levels, your emotions, how your sleeping habits are, and whether or not you feel fulfilled in your career and relationships.
Instead, you’re better off keeping a self-care diary, where you simply report how you are feeling each day—looking at the things that make you feel happy, what makes you feel less supported and enthusiastic, and what you most desire each day to feel fulfilled before bed. This way you can focus on self-improvement from healthier angles, and you’ll likely find that food choices and “diet” will follow suit.
How I really feel about food diaries
Basically, I am totally against them. I think it’s also natural to not have every day be “perfect,” where you eat super clean and avoid all sugar and high-fat fried foods. It’s okay to live! For me, I follow an 80/20 rule, where I eat clean in the week and have fun on the weekends, digging into pizza, French fries, a few bites of dessert, and a couple of tasty cocktails.
And you know what? If I had to write down all the crap I eat on Saturday in a food diary, I would feel disgusting on Sunday. Who wants to feel disgusting and guilty for enjoying their lives? (No one, is the correct answer here.) With the wrong mindset, diaries can allow you to beat yourself up, as you’re examining every little thing, every single day.
Life needs balance—find a new way to eat better and get fit while building yourself up.