The Food Journal That
Can Change the Way You Eat
This needs to be said right off the bat: Food journaling is not about counting calories. What it is about, says wellness coach and RASA founder Mia Rigden, is connecting the dots between what we eat and how we feel throughout the day. For Rigden’s clients (goop staffers included), keeping a food journal makes it clear how our eating patterns are inextricably connected with every other aspect of our lives.
If you have eating habits that you’re not so satisfied with, you have to acknowledge them before you can change them, Rigden explains. That’s why she made The Well Journal, a notebook that’s so gorgeously and thoughtfully designed, we actually want to tally up our meals (French fries included). Without guilt or shame or judgment, there’s empowerment that comes from just writing it all down and observing.
The Well Journal
The Unexpected Power of a Food Journal
The first thing I ask every one of my clients to do—before we even talk about sugar cravings, oat milk lattes, or what to make of celery juice—is start a food journal. Why? Well, for the sake of our meetings, so that I know what they eat and can make suggestions. If we have only an hour together, I want to make sure we make the most of the session and can jump right in without having to mentally recap a week’s worth of meals.
But the bigger benefit of keeping a food journal has nothing to do with me or my tricks; it’s that journaling is a mindfulness practice. The only way to make a significant change—to the way you treat your partner, the amount of “ums” you use in a sentence, or your eating habits—is to be aware of your actions in the first place. You may be surprised to find that simply writing down what you eat will make you much more conscious of trips to the office pantry or handfuls of bar snacks. And there’s science to back this up: Studies show that simply self-monitoring—without making any deliberate changes to your diet—is associated with weight loss.
Another great benefit is discovering patterns in your daily routine. While what we eat is critical, I often find why and how we eat are just as—and often more—important. Do you hit a slump every day at 4 and eat something you don’t really want? Are you tired and hungry two hours after breakfast? Or maybe you get home from work feeling so famished that you eat a bag of pretzels while making dinner, and by the time it’s ready, you’re no longer hungry.
If any of these scenarios sounds familiar or if similar ones come to mind, keeping a log might help you understand the relationship between food and other areas of your life. And it can enable you to make small changes that can have a big impact. When we refuse to isolate nutrition from the rest of our lives, we get the big picture: What, why, and how we eat are deeply connected to everything else we face on a daily basis. Your journal will reflect that.
I created The Well Journal as a way to connect the dots between what we eat and how we feel. It’s not about counting calories or macronutrients or any complicated equations; the real idea is positivity. It’s important that we look at our inputs from a place of love, rather than guilt or shame. We all encounter situations and circumstances—wedding weekends, after-work drinks, or trips back home—that challenge our ability to make healthy choices. Instead of getting down on ourselves, we need to think of these challenges as opportunities. When we observe our habits closely and carefully, we can discern how we react to certain triggers and better prepare for them. Which doesn’t mean we always should or need to make the healthy choice.
In addition to being a place to log what you eat, The Well Journal has space to record your sleep, exercise, mindfulness practices, the number of vegetables you consumed, if you remembered to take your vitamins, what you’re grateful for, and more. This isn’t your typical food-tracking tool; it’s a lifestyle exercise. And it’s not about weight loss. The goal is for the foods you eat to tick all the boxes: delicious, satisfying, nourishing, and supportive of the life you want to live. That’s when the magic happens.
And I get it: Writing down everything you eat can feel like a cumbersome, annoying endeavor. Sometimes it’s easier not to think about what you ate, why you ate it, or what you could have done differently in a day. But the cost is teeny: ninety seconds a day and maybe a little discomfort. And the benefits of keeping a food journal outweigh those trade-offs.
If you’re interested in giving it a shot, commit to one week with your food journal. You might even find some comfort—or empowerment—in putting it all to paper.
Mia Rigden is the founder of RASA and the creator of The Well Journal. She is licensed as a holistic health coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute’s program in classic culinary arts. Rigden holds a BA in English literature from UC Santa Barbara, and she is currently wrapping up her master’s degree in clinical nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.