What diet is best for me? or, How to use a Food Journal

What diet is best for me? 

Which supplement should I take?

How do I know which brands are best?

These are such common questions, and very good ones to be asking.  The problem is, there’s no right-and-done answer.  People are complex organisms, and what works for one individual may not work so well for the next.  Bio-individuality explains the differences in individuals as well as the plethora of supplements on the shelves and the number of diet plans that all seem to work for somebody.

How do you find what will actually work for you?

The honest truth is that no one knows but you. 

Your body is unique, and like no one else’s. You have different parents, different eating and stress patterns, different energy levels, different chromosomes from every other person on this planet.  We are all similar, yet each of us is a one-off creation with custom requirements.

The only way to know what your body needs is to test and see what works and what doesn’t.

It’s simple, yet very scientific.  Experiment, observe, and document – the fundamentals of science are the basics of keeping a health journal.  Writing down what you observe – a journal – is key to gaining success in personal health.

Basically, you need to note what you do and how you feel each day until you get a clear picture of what foods cause fatigue or constant cravings for more, and which ones energize you.  It’s important to note the times of everything, even if it’s just morning or evening.  You will begin to see how particular foods impact you.  You can also note exercise and sleep, as foods often affect the quality of both. Moods are very important to watch.  I was in high school when I noticed that I often fought with my mom in the mornings before school, leaving me crying bitterly all the way to school. By the time I arrived at school, I was exhausted and snacking on my lunch, leaving me not enough food to get through the day.  It didn’t take long to isolate a particular breakfast cereal which caused me major mood swings – which combined with a milk sensitivity to ruin my day.  When I ceased having cereal with milk for breakfast, all that drama ceased.

It’s not difficult, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re just looking for patterns.

First thing in the morning, note your baseline: how do you feel before adding food? Fill in the time and whether you’re energetic, motivated, well-rested or feel run over by a truck.  Then have breakfast and note what you had, and how you feel immediately afterward. Are you satisfied? Or are you craving sweets or something else? If there was much time between waking and eating, note the time you ate. One or two hours later, note again the time and how you’re feeling. Are you tired, or still energetic? Grouchy or content? Needing a cup of coffee or a treat?

Repeat this for everything you eat for one week, including the weekend: the time, what you ate, and how you feel, both immediately and several hours later. Put each entry on a new line to make it easier to spot similarities. Figuring out supplements will require you to treat them like a food, isolating different supplements from each other by several hours or alternate days. You will begin to see patterns after several days (maybe sooner!) of how each food or supplement impacts your energy levels and moods, both immediately and over time. Bloating and nasal stuffiness, for instance, often happen hours later or the next day.

As you begin seeing that protein for breakfast leads to a productive day, or a smoothie turns you into a snackaholic, you will learn what works and what doesn’t.  Experiment with new eating patterns.  Pretty soon, you will have a custom-made, workable diet plan that is tailored to your individual needs.

You don’t have to do this forever – just until you find what you’re looking for. The more you track, the better picture you will have. And keep in mind, as your needs change, you may want to repeat this exercise to see why old patterns are no longer working. Fine-tuning is part of staying healthy over the long term.

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The first journal I used for my son. It took years to correlate foods and moods because I didn’t note times of both. It still helped me find intolerances and develop a diet for him.

Let me know if you try this, and what you find!!

 

I found this post really fun inspiration for watching my health:  http://steadystrength.com/10-motivational-nutrition-quotes/