Using a Food Diary to Lose Weight and Feel Better

Eating smaller portions at meals helps your metabolism to keep functioning at a high, healthy rate. You should feel energized after eating a meal. Feeling tired or lethargic after a meal is a good indicator to you that you ate too much.

Eating too much food forces your body to direct all of its energy to try and digest all that you took in. Feeling tired and lethargic after a meal can also be an indicator of food allergies as well but we’ll talk more about that later in this section. But if you keep the amounts of food you eat at each meal down, your body will be able to handle it better and digest it better.

Unfortunately, this “Supersize it” society we live in serves us portions that are much too large. Compare this to the serving sizes in other cultures and it begins to explain why obesity is such a prominent problem in this country.

When I was traveling in Europe recently, I was amazed to see the amount of food that was served in restaurants. It didn’t look like much when placed in front of me but when I finished the dish, I felt satisfied without feeling stuffed. The food tasted delicious and I felt fantastic afterwards because I didn’t overindulge.

Using a food diary is a powerful tool to help you learn about nutrition and about your own body. Most food diaries only have you log the types of food you eat, the amounts and when you eat them. Tracking the following information about yourself will also help you make better food choices for yourself as well as possibly uncover any food allergies or sensitivities you may have.

Before you eat your meal, take note of:
1) how you are feeling physically relative to your hunger
2) how you are feeling emotionally at the time.

For physical feelings, you might write down: “starving” or “not hungry” or “ready to eat”. Emotionally, take note of what you are feeling and sum it up in just a few words like “rushed” or “anxious” or “bored” or “excited”. One or two words will be fine – it doesn’t need to be a long “Dear Diary” entry for it to be effective.

And then after your meal, do the same thing about a half hour or an hour after you have eaten.

Do you feel “full”, “satisfied”, “stuffed” or “still hungry”? Do you feel “energized”, “content” or “lethargic or tired”?

Practice with it for the first few weeks. You will get better at being able to come up with 1 or 2 word descriptions as you become more aware of your feelings around eating. After a few days, start looking at your entries and look for trends.

You may need some help with this or maybe you will need more days for you to see them, but you may start seeing patterns like:

“Every time I eat breakfast, I seemed rushed” and maybe you could make some more time for yourself in the morning to not have to rush your meal. That is better for you digestion as well as your mind.

Or “it looks like every afternoon after I have big sandwiches at lunch, I feel tired and sleepy” and maybe eating a lighter meal with less bread might make afternoons more bearable and might help you decrease your caffeine intake.

Or “wow, when I have fish and salad for dinner, I always have energy in the evening and don’t snack as much” and then that just might be something you want to do more of.

This tool helped me identify a pattern that after pursuing it further, turned out to be a gluten sensitivity. I realized that I felt lethargic after eating a lot of white carbs as well as feeling gassy and bloated. Switching to gluten free foods has made a huge difference in my comfort level as well as my energy levels and you may make similar discoveries about yourself about certain foods by using this tool.

So pay attention to how you feel after your next lunch. That afternoon slump you feel could be a sign that you simply ate too much food for your digestion to handle, rather than a sign that you need another cup of coffee. Pay attention to how you feel after your next dinner. That “food coma” you go into afterwards is also telling you to lighten up on the portions.

Try serving yourself a much smaller portion at your next meal. Even though it might look like it is nowhere near enough food for you, try it out and see how you feel. If you don’t feel full after you are finished, wait 10 minutes before you go get a second helping. Most of the time it takes a bit for that food to hit bottom for you to feel satisfied and full. If you are still hungry after this time, you can get more, but really honest and ask yourself, “Do I really need more, or do I just want more? “ There is a difference.

*Exerpted from the Being Well Lifestyles Home Study Course by Dr. Jay Warren.

Drawing on over two decades of experience as a hands-on holistic practitioner, Dr. Jay Warren is a primary healthcare provider and licensed chiropractor in the San Diego area. He has spent tens of thousands of clinical hours helping his patients achieve their optimal health potential through holistic approaches bolstered by years of personal experimentation, education and research. Dr. Jay creates customized plans integrating exercise, nutrition and stress management strategies to overcome a myriad of health challenges. For more information, email or visit

About the Author

Dr. Jay Warren has been a prenatal and pediatric chiropractor for 17 years. He is also the Wellness Care Coordinator at the CAP Wellness Center in San Diego, CA where 90% of his practice is pregnant or postpartum women and babies under one year old. Dr. Jay is a proud member of the ICPA and APPPAH (the Association or Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health) and the host of the podcast “Healthy Births, Happy Babies” in iTunes. His online program, “Connecting with Baby” guides pregnant women through processes to strengthen maternal bonding for a happier pregnancy, gentler birth and easier post-partum experience. Dr. Jay is also the proud father of his 3 year old son, Niko who keeps him very busy (and happy) outside of the office.