Step One: Have a designated food journal that you will actually write in.
Are you a pen and paper person or are you constantly typing away on your phone? If you know you're always going to forget your notebook in the car or hate waiting for an app to work on your phone, don't use that method! Figure out what works for you, because this is a committment you are making to your health!
Step Two: Meal plan with your journal.
Plan ahead by writing all of your planned meals into your journal ahead of time. Not only does this help you get organized, but it keeps you on track. No one wants to redo an entire day of journalling because they didn't plan ahead!
Step Three: Write down all of your food and drinks before you eat or drink them.
Accountability is a huge part of keeping a food journal. Keep track of your drinks, snacks, nibbles, bites, and meals. It's all too common to forget about what you drank and picked at during the day, which can be a detriment to your weight loss and fitness journey. Writing down your meals from memory at the end of the day or week negates the point of even keeping the journal. You're likely to forget servings sizes, drinks, etc. Recording foods and drinks before you consume them also makes eating a conscious endeavor, instead of mindlessly going for what is in front of you. Don't forget: you're keeping the journal for you! Your body knows what went into it, even if you didn't write it down.
Step Four: Record your feelings/sleep/changes.
Journalling is not only for foods and drinks! Keeping track of emotions, sleep patterns, digestive issues, skin changes, and fatigue levels help you understand how your food affects your body.
Step Five: Be consistent.
Keep up with your journal! Every day, every meal, every snack. Make it a goal to get a 100 day streak on My Fitness Pal or fill up your notebook. Consistency is key to an accurate and useful journal.
Step Six: Reflect.
Look back on your journal after a week, two weeks, and month. What do you notice? Does your joint pain lessen when have curry for dinner? Are you more awake during the day when you have eggs and bacon versus a bagel and cream cheese? Do sodas cause you to feel bloated and achey the next day? It's very difficult to see patterns unless you take a step back to reflect on your journal.