food and activity diary

Using a Food and Activity Diary as a Self Monitoring Tool

Most people believe the key to weight loss is eating healthier food and increasing exercise. However, we often underestimate the influence of our mind. Which is why a food and activity diary proves to be useful for my patients.


The Emotional Side to Eating

Eating can be very emotional, which results in a complicated relationship between what we eat, our brain and our emotions. Overeating is not always caused by our body demanding food, but because our brain does. It is easy to forget those added tasters while preparing a meal, or those one, two or maybe three biscuits. Sometimes it may be nibbles a patients has eaten on-the-go because they were in a rush.

The trouble we are faced with here is those forgotten extras soon add up. The calories have the potential to put the patient in surplus and develop unhealthy behaviour’s that soon become habits. Here’s a simple solution –  help patients become more mindful of what we are eating by keeping a food diary! 


 What Do Patients Record?

My patients record what they eat, at what time, the location, who they’re with, and how  it made them feel. This enables them to identify whether they were physically or emotionally hungry. It has also helped some to realise that they eat if they are are bored, or out of habit, such as having snacks while watching TV.

The advantage of patients having the capacity to record how they felt after eating is imperative. It allows them to make that connection between what you eat, how you eat it, and how your body feels afterwards. The aim is that they will learn to listen to their body and its signs of satisfaction, rather than experiencing an uncomfortable fullness.  

I always emphasise the  benefit of being specific and honest when recording a food diary. Being specific is probably one of the most key aspects to an effective food diary. It is easy to say, “I had a sandwich for lunch” however, it is the content, size and whether that sandwich was homemade or shop bought that is crucial information. This is fundamental for understanding how to make healthier swaps and reducing portion sizes.

food and activity diary

Supporting Patient’s With Their Food Diary

I  will discuss a patient’s food diary with them one-to-one. This has shown me the side-stepped recording patients have when they had a takeaway, or what they ordered when they ate out at a restaurant. I encourage my patients to be honest in their recording,  to make the tool more beneficial.   

Including a section that allows  patients to record their physical activity on a given day has also been useful. Patients identify whether or not they have eaten more or eaten foods they consider “bad” that day because “I have exercised”. It is important  patients don’t use the fact they engaged in exercise or physical activity as a means of justifying or “cancelling out” the food they ate that day. Keeping a food and activity diary allows  patients to manage their relationship with food through noticing their eating trends and  becoming aware of  their feelings and decisions they have around food and activity.

Rebecca Poh works on the Adult Weight Management team as a Weight Mangement Practitioner. Rebecca has a MSc in Human Nutrition and loves keeping active by running, hiking and walking her dog. 

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