While there are some basic health ideals that are generally good for everyone, how a person should apply these can vary drastically. I firmly believe that things like avoiding grains, eating more vegetables, sleeping enough, and drinking enough water are good for everyone, but there are also many variations within a healthy paradigm.
The best way to figure out what will work the best for YOU and your family, it is very helpful to keep a health journal that chronicles food intake, supplements, exercise, illness, and sleep. There are many advantages to keeping a health journal, including:
- It Will Help You Notice Patterns: If you occasionally get allergy symptoms, skin rashes, have trouble sleeping or other minor health troubles, keeping a journal will help you notice factors that cause your symptoms. You might notice that you don’t sleep well after eating certain foods, forgetting to take magnesium or watching TV late at night or that you sleep better when you spend time in the sun, drink enough water, or read a book before bed.
- You Can Notice Foods That Aggravate Your System: If certain foods cause allergy symptoms, bowel disturbances, or other problems, you’ll be much more likely to figure out what they are if you are tracking your food intake (and your kids!). It gives you an easy record to go back and reference when you have a reaction.
- You Can’t Change What You Can’t Measure: There is a reason body builders and fitness pros keep a detailed food and workout record… you can’t change or improve what you can’t measure and you can’t duplicate success if you don’t know what is causing it. Keeping track of your food, exercise, and health info will help you get realistic measures of your food intake and health changes so that you can find the specifics that work best for you and repeat them.
- Keep From Falling Into A Rut: Journaling will help you notice when foods or lifestyle factors lead to you getting off track or binging. Maybe that handful of chocolate chips leads to binges or lack of sleep makes you more likely to cheat. If you know this ahead of time, you can work to prevent it by avoiding the circumstances that cause it.
- Easier to Stay On Track: Even if you are just journaling in a notebook by your bed, writing things down provides a layer of accountability and a reason to stay on track. If you really want to stay accountable, keep a journal in a public place so that you are also accountable to others and you’ll get encouragement and support along the way.
- See How Lifestyle Factors Affect Food Intake and Vice Versa: Diet plays a tremendous role in overall health, sleep, skin condition, and bowel habits. Similarly, lifestyle factors like sleep, stress, hormones, and exercise play a tremendous role in how much and what type of food our bodies want to consume. Tracking all of this will help you see which diet and lifestyle changes are the most important to make other health changes easier.
- Have an Objective Record: From a medical standpoint, having a detailed health journal is very helpful in cases of illness or allergy to pinpoint cause. It will also be helpful for you to see objectively over time how changes have affected your health and how your health has improved.
Statistically, you are more likely to stick to changes if you track and write down progress. There are apps for this on smart phones, online forums, websites like FitDay.com for tracking food intake or good old-fashioned journals.
What to Record
Especially if you are trying to make health changes, the more information your record, the better. These are the things I’ve found most helpful to journal:
- Food intake
- Water and liquid intake
- Illness, allergies, or reactions
- Pain or fatigue
- Hormones: monthly cycle, stages of pregnancy, etc.
- Skin changes
If you haven’t journaled before, I’d suggest trying it for a few weeks, you might be amazed what you discover!
Do you keep a journal? What changes have you noticed from it?