There are a million and one books out there that fall under the “health and wellness” category in book stores and on the internet!
Books on specific types of diets that you should follow with all the science-based proof on why you should follow it, books on how to lose weight and keep it off…FOR GOOD. Books on specific superfoods that are the most beneficial to your health, books on quick fixes, detoxes and crazy exercise plans…there are literally thousands!
I’m not going to lie, when I see a book like these at a bookstore, I pick it up and give it a nice skim through to see what information it tries to instill on its readers. Some books are quite good and have great information, but most of them...
No, no..... just no.
But seeing these all these books did get me thinking... what is the one book that everyone should have? What is the best diet book in the world that would truly help people to reach their goals?
If I could only sell you one book that will do everything to help you on your journey to be healthy, lean and fit... what would I sell you?
You’ll be surprised by the answer, but to be honest, the best possible book actually contains no scientific information whatsoever.
There is not one edition, not one volume, and not one copy the same as the other. It is a book that is continuously updated…EVERY DAY! And the author is a beautiful, determined, hard worker who is about to reach their goals and become the healthiest and fittest they ever been! So what is it!?
Your Food Journal
The book I am referring to is YOUR food journal, something that if you don’t already have…you probably should!
I mean I could list about 10 to 15 must reads if you are interested in actual scientific texts that can give you an in depth look at the body and the metabolic pathways of each specific vitamin and mineral we consume.
But to be honest, I can sum all of them by simply saying plenty of plant based whole foods, do not gorge yourself, be mindful and intuitive with your body, sleep well and drink plenty of water!
The one book that you truly need, however, is a daily log of your food intake and it is truly the most important book you’ll ever need in regards to your fitness and health. There are thousands of ways that a food journal can help you and everyone uses it for different reasons!
Let me give you an example. If you've ever worked out with a personal trainer, they have probably told you to keep a workout diary to track the progress of your training, right? This is to ensure you are getting the most out of your workouts and getting closer to your goals every time you set foot in the gym.
If your goal is to gain size in your chest and you did 4 sets of 10 repetitions (total of 40 reps) on the bench press last workout at 135lbs, you know that today you have to get 41 reps or increase the weight to 140lbs in order to progress from last week. Because you recorded your previous stats, you can easily see what you must do to reach your goal this week.
A food journal works much in the same way and can have numerous benefits on you, your health, and your fitness!
Keeping track of how you feel
I personally use a food journal for several reasons, but mainly because I can always look back to a time where I felt great and I was very lean and I can see what I was eating and how much I was drinking (water of course) at that time. I also recommend making notes of sleeping and training habits, but that is advice for another day.
Let’s say that lately, I have been feeling more sluggish than usual. I don’t know what it is, I just know I don’t feel right and I don’t like feeling this way.
I’ll ask myself “what has changed?”.
I open my food journal to compare my current diet with how I was eating a bit ago and I notice some…ummm…not so great things. It seems I have not been drinking a lot of water when a month ago I was drinking close to, if not, two gallons a day.
I thought I was eating a lot of fruit and veggies, but according to my food journal I really have been slacking.
Also…what the heck? I thought I was eating enough, but oh man my portions are much smaller than what they should be considering my activity levels are much higher. Catch my drift?
I know these are simple and arbitrary examples. But pretending they were real, I could now revert back to a time I felt really good as opposed to the sluggish feeling I have had lately and I can compare the differences.
- I am currently drinking less water.
- I am currently consuming less fruits and veggies.
- I am currently having much smaller portions.
With this knowledge, I have now become more aware of my current eating habits and can make the necessary changes. I can now revert back to the way I was eating when I felt on top of the world and feel the differences!
Knowing if you are eating too much or too little
Without counting a single calorie, you can get a pretty accurate idea if you are eating too much or too little by looking at your food journal. Not one calorie needs to be counted. I’ll use yet another example…because I like examples.
You are trying to put on muscle mass and bulk up but you have been stuck at the same weight for almost a month now and you are not getting stronger on any of your lifts!
You know your training program and nothing really needs to be changed there. You look at your sleep and realize you are getting a good amount (i.e. 7-9 hours) and of good quality so not much needs to be looked at there. You also feel like you have good stress management strategies and drink a good amount of water so not much needs to change in those two areas either.
You turn to your food journal, look at your food intake and decide to add a small addition of food to each meal that would inevitably add up to a couple hundred more calories at the end of the day.
By small addition, I mean going from 1 cup of rice to 1and an 1/8th cups of rice. Going from a 1/4 cup of oats to a 1/3 cup of oats. Going from 1 cup of melon to 1 and a 1/4 cup of melon.
As you can see, miniscule additions to each meal that certainly add up. After a few weeks of monitoring, as you need a few weeks to see some changes, you are finally getting stronger on all your lifts and you are slowly increasing muscle mass again; a couple hundred grams at a time!
Now you have made some serious progress!
On the flip side, you notice that you have, well, gotten more…how you say…fluffy, over the last little while. You don’t understand because you feel your training is good, your sleep is plentiful, and even you eat pretty well.
Why are you gaining fluff?
You revert to your food journal and you notice that you were a little overzealous with your portions the last little while.
Breakfast 2 Months Ago
- ½ a cup of oats
- of chia seeds
- 1 banana
- ½ a cup of berries
= ~ 450 calories
Breakfast for the Last Month
- 1 cup of oats
- of chia seeds
- of hemp seeds
- 1 banana
- ½ a cup of berries
- 1 cup of raisins
- of peanut butter
= ~ 890 calories
I mean, this is just breakfast! Imagine overdoing the zeal for lunch, dinner and some snacks too. That all adds up!
Now, I just put the calories there as an approximate to visually show that there is a massive difference in the portions, but you don’t have to even count the calories to know there is a lot more in breakfast number two.
Now that you can visually see the big difference in portions, you can adjust accordingly and get back on track!
Keeping a food journal is one of the best ways to stay accountable. No excuses.
You can look through it and realize that the last three times in the last two weeks, you went out to a fast food joint to eat. You can look through it and realize that you had two of your “cheat meals” last week and you were only supposed to have one. You can look through and realize that you ended your night with a big bowl of ice cream almost every day last week.
By keeping a food journal, you stay more accountable for what you consume. You become more aware of your food choices. You become more conscious of the relationships between why you are eating, what you are eating, and the time you are eating it.
You can start seeing the relationships between food consumption and daily events.
For example, you see that days you are much more stressed are also days you opt for cookies instead of fruit. Maybe the days you and your significant other had a bit of a disagreement are the days you usually overeat. Maybe even the days that you are extremely happy, you find yourself eating sweets as a reward.
You can start to see these relationships more and become more intuitive about them in hopes to control them a bit better!
Don’t get me wrong, nothing is wrong with rewarding yourself on a job promotion, a good grade on an exam, but being more aware of your food choices when you reward yourself is important and staying accountable with a food journal is how it’s done!
Just by staying more accountable, your journey to being healthier and fitter becomes much easier. You become much more aware of your eating habits and you become much more conscious of your diet.
Have you ever found yourself feeling bloated or sluggish one day, but light as a feather the next?
Chances are this is down to an underlying food sensitivity. As we already know, foods that are perfectly healthy for some people are not tolerated quite so well by others.
The problem is, without keeping a food journal it is very hard to work out what foods are causing you to feel bloated, gassy or even constipated. Most people can't even remember what they had to eat for lunch, let alone the day before!
However, when you keep a food journal you can make a note of when things aren't feeling quite so good. So if you wake up one morning with stomach cramps, jot it down in your food journal and take a look at what you had to eat the night before.
Imagine it was a big plate of pasta with chick peas, mushrooms, spinach and a rich tomato sauce. But was it the pasta, or the spinach, or maybe even the tomato sauce that caused your digestion to flare up?
You're not sure... so you scroll back through the pages to see when you last felt like this. Sure enough, a few weeks ago you felt bloated after eating some home made falafels for lunch. It must have been the chick peas!
So you use this knowledge and take it easy on the chick peas for a few weeks. You don't suffer from any bloating during this time. Looks like you have a sensitivity to chick peas and you should probably avoid them for a couple months to allow your system to heal.
Later in the year you start introducing chick peas to your diet again. Now you have given your body a break, it no longer treats chick peas as an inflammatory food and you can eat them without issues!
And none of it would have been possible without a food journal!
As you can see, keeping a food journal is near paramount in achieving your goals. It is the best possible book you could ever have because it will tell you a heck of a lot about your eating habits, why you are progressing or regressing, why you feel the way you do, and can build more positive relationships with your food through self-awareness, mindfulness, and accountability. I definitely keep one and is something I always recommend my clients to keep as well!