Jan 2022
Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

Discovering a Better Relationship with Food

It seems there are so many new things to do, implement, research and remember to get the most out of this new "tool" your surgeon made for you! Adding one more thing to the list, like writing down or recording everything you eat, might feel like yet another task at an already overwhelming time.

And yet, I suggest that keeping a food diary is up there on the list of "to do's". We will also explore the "WHY".
If you're a regular BN Healthy blog reader, you'll know that I feel strongly about the WHY. This knowledge helps you commit more fully. When you know what the research on food diary keeping has found, what it's all about and how you will benefit over the long term.

I always tend to start with the research first, glean whether it's a yay or a nay or a good spend of your precious time, and will the process help you fast track your way to a healthy weight?

Several studies have shown that people who keep food journals are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
A researcher from Nourish by WebMD uncovered that people who kept a food diary six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less.

I hope I now have your full attention!

For bariatric patients, the initial few stages generally go: 

Pre-op diet: geared more at making sure the surgery is safe than actual weight loss.
The stage immediately following surgery is typically clear liquids,
followed by purees,
then soft foods in small portions,
and finally a healthy diet that suits your smaller stomach, made up of foods you tolerate well.

Keeping track of your nutritional requirements is a big deal after gastric sleeve and bypass. Your team will give you some targets to aim for every day to ensure you maintain healthy levels of all your nutrients to prevent deficiencies.
Mapping out and recording what it will take for you to meet your goals for protein, carbs, and fats is crucial, and you will come to see that planning is the key to success every day. Keeping an accurate food diary can prevent a lot of guesswork. It maps the timing and volume of your meals and records your fluids and multivitamin intake to keep your nutrition on point.

Not only is a food diary a form of accountability, if you add in extra notations for things like:

  • Rating of hunger,
  • Non-hungry eating, 
  • Emotional state,
  • Where you eat your meals and how you feel afterwards

Recorded regularly, the information from your food diary will give you insight into what is working for you or things to do more. It also highlights what's not working: things to moderate or avoid or try again at a later stage. Importantly, it will disclose patterns in your eating behaviour and your reactions to certain foods.

Let's look at the HOWs of keeping a food diary:

1. Work out your goal. 

Your surgeon has likely given you a goal weight - and yes, you probably had Weight Loss Surgery to lose weight, but it's also good to think about "non-numbers goals."
Take a deeper look at why you had the surgery?
What were the most important things for you to gain from the process?
Energy, confidence, quality of life, play with your kids or grandkids, take up a sport you used to love.

2. Set an end date.

Without this - there's no immediacy, and this is needed to keep the ball rolling when things get tough. Is there a special event you want to attend?
An event you want to enter?
Maybe it's just a particular outfit you want to be able to wear by your next birthday.
Whatever it is, it has to motivate you. It can't be something you are doing for anyone else.

3. Don't wait, record your food intake immediately, or you'll forget important information.
4. Be consistent: record everything you eat and drink.
5. Be Honest about your food intake and not feel bad about it.
6. Show it to your dietitian so they can see patterns and areas that might need a minor tweak.
7. Find the most effective way to record your food - paper and pen, dictation, phone app etc.

Here are some examples you might find helpful:

Super Simple

Download the pdf


Download the pdf

A 2020 study confirmed that food photo diaries are the best option for food tracking because they are more precise.
It takes the burden off of you to log every ingredient or weigh your meals.
It provides an archive of relevant dietary information for your nutritionist.
You can take a photo of each meal and make an album for each week - then send it to your practitioner to assess.

More specific options can include symptoms data and suggestions:

  • My symptoms App - covers IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), and other food intolerance tracking
  • Healthy Food diary app: Eat the Rainbow
  • The one I particularly love is The Gut Stuff Gut Diary for Gut Health.  It's a simple, comprehensive booklet with some sound advice on gut health
  • Another fabulous option is the Rise Up and Recover App for eating disorders like anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia. This one was designed to support self-monitoring within the framework of cognitive behavioural therapy to overcome eating disorders. It also provides access to support and medical help in the nearby area.

These are just a few ideas for you to explore to find your preferred style of recording your meals, supplements and water.
Overall, keep your eye on the goal by regularly revisiting your "WHY" and reassessing as things change.
Ensure you've chosen a method of diarising that is handy and doable.
Record your wins, your reflections and learnings so you can find patterns and trends that will help you stay on track.
Try new foods often and track how you feel about them.
Note your portion sizes regularly, so you can see if you are eating enough of the right macronutrients and including a broad range of foods to support your new healthy lifestyle.

Jacqui Lewis
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine 

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