Have you ever had a pesky or maybe more deep-seated health issue that you can’t quite figure out? You visit different health practitioners and they make suggestions. They may run diagnostics and offer medicine to mask the symptoms to reduce them but it doesn’t fully go away. It may even come back with a vengeance if you stop taking the medicine.



While doctors and nurses are excellent at diagnosing and prescribing, very few health professionals are schooled in the area of nutrition and prevention. Think about it, how often do we visit health practitioners seeking ways to prevent illnesses both chronic and acute? Some of us do, like regular massages or chiropractic adjustments, but typically we go for our annual check up; bloodwork, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels but it’s not to have a discussion on how to prevent allergies, autoimmune diseases, high cholesterol, high sugar, or high blood pressure. Plus, there’s a whole range of other issues our bodies experience that won’t necessarily show up or get diagnosed in a general yearly exam like the root of fatigue, rashes, acne, sleeplessness and more. This is where having a food journal can shine some light on dark areas.



In all of my years I think I’ve only had one practitioner suggest I keep track of what I was eating and it wasn’t even as explicit as “keep a food diary.” It was just “keep an eye on what you’re eating.”



We all know that if something is not written down, it’s not real. It’s not going to happen. Whether it’s a date to get together with a good friend, a goal, tracking data or anything else. Writing it down creates the movement and space for its reality.



Many answers to health challenges lie in our diet. There is a direct connection between how we feel and even how we think and what we are putting into our body as well as leaving out on a consistent basis. For example, we may think we’re eating a lot of vegetables and fruits, but when was the last time you actually counted? When was the last time you got a wide colorful variety of 7 to 13 servings into your body consistently?



When we write down each beverage, snack, and meal we have, the reality often looks very different from what we have in our mind. (Isn’t that often the case for most things?)



Now, keeping a food diary is not something we would do for an extended time like a year unless you just enjoy tracking what you eat. This is something you would do for several days or perhaps several weeks, looking for patterns.




What am I looking for?


In addition to writing down what you are consuming, you will also make notes on what you are noticing. This is the body speaking to us. Some things to consider…(this is not an exhaustive list; there may be many more things you’ll notice.) For more on how the body speaks to us, read this.

  • energy level at a particular time of day
  • if you woke up or ended your day with a headache
  • what bowel movements look like and how often
  • is there bloating or nausea
  • acne/rashes/eczema is worse/better
  • stuffy nose/itchy throat/sneezing
  • fatigued
  • difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep

    ***You will also include any medications and supplements you take and when…You get the idea.


You are looking for trends. Do you have a headache within a few hours after you drink a particular beverage or eat a certain snack? Do you wake up in the morning with achy joints? If so, when? Do you have difficulty going to sleep at night? Staying asleep?



Often, we will spot trends and notice that after eating something like dairy, you’ll have stomach discomfort or diarrhea. For others (like me) you may end up with congestion and a headache 12-15 hours later. Had I not made the dairy connection years ago after staying off of it initially for 3 full weeks (that is how long it takes to clear out of the body) I’d still be struggling each day, popping ibuprofen for splitting headaches from severe sinus congestion.



Side effects of what we eat can show up immediately, days or even weeks later. For example, a reaction that occurs within minutes to an hour like a scratchy throat, tingling in the mouth, tightness in the chest, stuffy nose, sneezing or watery eyes would signal an allergic reaction.




Symptoms like congestion, gas, diarrhea, or constipation may occur from a few hours after ingesting up to 24 or more signaling a food intolerance.



Breakouts and other skin conditions can take days or even weeks to show up or get worse, so I’d recommend tracking for at least 3-4 weeks until you find an area you want to experiment with. By experimenting, it may mean removing something from your diet you suspect is causing an issue then later, if proven to be problematic, replacing it with something else.



Keep it Simple


Whether you track in a fancy notebook or a piece of paper, it’s up to you but you want it easy to bring in your purse or bag. If you wait to write it all down at the end of the day, you’ll likely forget important details. You will want four columns or rows. The last section is for anything else that you notice not necessarily related to other three columns. It may be connected or it may not, but it’s important to include it just in case.






I notice


extra notes


While it does take some effort, a food journal can be an excellent way to be your own advocate and work towards a solution. Once you notice something, you can play with leaving out certain things, changing up when you eat, adding in healthier foods like more vegetables and fruits and drinking more water vs. other beverages.