The answer of course is yes, we do, but your health is very high on your priority list, so if you want answers as to why you might be feeling the way you do – keep a food journal or food diary.  There are some great apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose it! which make it very convenient to track, but a good old fashion composition book for $.99 works great, too.   (By the way, it won’t matter if you Google Food journal or food diary, you will get the same suggestions.)

Eliminating Foods That Are Not Good For Your Health

In the last 10 years, I have worked with over 10,000 people on their weight loss journey.  My weight loss program involves a very strict diet which eliminates all processed foods, chemicals, food dyes, preservatives (as best as we can in this country), and almost 100% of the five major allergens: soy, dairy, nuts, gluten, eggs. My clients are on this type of diet for about 6 weeks.  So, you can imagine, if they are playing full on and stick to what I ask them to do, their bodies are really cleaned out!

Within the first week of the program, they are having lots of detox symptoms like headaches or being achy, and then in the second week, good things start happening.  They feel better, they are sleeping better, they have more energy and they did not think it could happen on the calorie amount they were taking in.  Are my supplements and what we recommend great? Of course, but is the entire reason they feel so good?  Nope.


keeping a food journalThe FDA’s list of additives to our food supply (chemical, preservative, food dyes) tops out at 3,000.  The side effects list of the additives allowed is astronomical.  The US still has ingredients in its food supply which are banned in many places in the world.  If a kid eats a bowl of Kraft mac-n-cheese and a Ballpark frank (without the bun and ketchup) he is combining 9 different chemicals in one meal, add a Gatorade, please!  What kind of bodily reaction can we expect from this type of chemical cocktail?  And what about adults?  Let’s mix in a few pharmaceutical drugs to that meal and see if we can get a science experiment to happen in the gut like the volcano project we all tried in middle school. (Thank you “Fun with Mama”)

Do people know that sucralose, (aka Splenda) breaks down into methanol which turns into formaldehyde after it is swallowed?   Your body has no enzymes to break this down, why would it?  Humans don’t naturally have formaldehyde as part of their natural make-up.

Food Journaling Helps Track the Culprit of Your Aches & Pains

So, let’s get back to the topic of keeping a food journal.  After a program like mine, or any fast, elimination diet, ayurvedic cleanse, etc., the person’s body has been cleansed of many of these food toxins (not heavy metals though, that is a cleanse all on its own).   These types of regiments support the body in releasing impurities and toxins that are stored.  Once they are gone, you can now judge what was actually causing the aches pains and inflammation versus something you ate causing you to have aches pains and inflammation.

Two perfect examples.

Greek Yogurt

After I came off my program, I was allowed to add in small amounts of dairy.  Greek yogurt is one of my favorites, so I was very excited.  I added my own stevia and fruit (never get the ones that have fruit already in them, they are way too high in sugar).  About 30 minutes later I was walking down the stairs and my knees were aching and sore.  I had not felt that in months, but because I was eating “healthy” Greek yogurt didn’t think it came from what I ate.  It went away within a few hours and I didn’t think anything of it.

I did not have the yogurt the next day for breakfast and didn’t even think about the fact that my knees didn’t hurt, but when I added it the following day, there it was again.  At that point, I knew what it was and I could not have Greek yogurt anymore unless I wanted inflamed sore knees.  The crazy thing is that I can have half-and-half and cheese without achy knees.  So, by keeping track of the exact dairy I ate it helped me pinpoint the problem faster.

Pre-cooked Chicken Roasters

keeping a food journalA client of mine just came off the program and told me at the Transition class that she clearly knew that she could not eat the pre-cooked chicken roasters from the store.  She had not eaten one of those in at least 6 weeks. When she grabbed one for dinner out of convenience after a busy day at work, she said that night before bed her hands were swollen and she could not get her rings off.  She didn’t immediately link it to the roaster, but that was the only thing new she added into her diet since coming off the strict part of the program.  She had a cold chicken sandwich for lunch and she saw it happen a few hours after lunch, she then put two and two together.

I am not sure what type of seasoning is used with those chickens, nor am I sure of the quality of that meat or the food the chickens are being fed, but whatever it was, bothered her.  Some people might have thought that they needed to see the doctor because their hands were swollen, but watching what we eat is one of the best things we can do to have and maintain good health.

5 Red Flags After a Meal

Having a clean slate is the best and easiest way to be able to recognize patterns or reactions.  I always tell my clients to watch for the five red flags after a meal:  tired, hungry, achy joints, gut issues, or weight gain the next day.  “After a meal” I explain, means 1hour, 3 hours, the next day.  Symptoms could happen within a few minutes of eating something inflammatory, so keeping track of time frames will be important also.

1. Tired

The first red flag is being tired after eating.  This could happen for a few different reasons, and nothing I am writing about is limited to the indicators we have seen, but in general is what I will express for this blog. So tired could be something that you have eaten which completely dehydrated you.  Dehydration will cause drowsiness (and headaches).  Maybe there was too much sodium or maybe there was an additive that drowsiness is a side effect.  Tiredness could come from portion sizes which are too big or maybe you ate something high in sugar that causes you to crash an hour later.

2. Hungry

What if you’re hungry? Hunger could also be caused by crashes with blood sugar levels.  Isn’t it crazy how you can be hungry an hour after eating a huge container of Chinese takeout?  Too much white rice, anyone?

3. Achy Joints

keeping a food journalAchy joints or achiness, in general, is usually caused by inflammation.  Inflammation causes so many issues!  Just check out Doc of Detox, he’ll put you in your place about inflammation!  I do believe that people should pay attention to this issue very carefully.  I love the Blood type diet for that reason.  There is a lot of validity behind Dr. D’Adamo’s work and even if you use it as a guide to help you understand where you might be going wrong, then it was worth it.  For example, according to Dr. D’Adamo’s work, Blood type O’s will find cabbage, cucumbers, and cauliflower highly inflammatory.  This would explain why so many people can’t lose weight or are sick even though they eat “healthy.”  Maybe those healthy foods are not so healthy for them.

4. Gut Issues

Gut issues are really a no-brainer.  Listen, people, if you are burping and ripping raspberries after you eat and the smell you pump out could clear a room, then what the heck are you eating it for??  Do you know the damage you are doing to your gut if that is what is coming out of you?   And here is the thing, if that is happening to you after you eat pretty much anything, then you better get to a natural gut specialist and start taking probiotics, digestive enzymes and anything else they suggest!  Continual gut inflammation leads to lower back pain, hip pain, menstrual issues, autoimmune problems, and so many other things that you would never realize was connected!

5. Weight gain

keeping a food journalSo, I am a huge proponent of getting on the scale daily.  I am not obsessed about the number and you shouldn’t be either, but I tell my clients the scale is your tool to understand how the outside world is affecting you.  It is not a biofeedback machine that lets you know how sucky you are and how the number you see should be connected to your self-confidence.  But it will tell how your lifestyle and your environment affected your body.

So, when one of my clients sees a two-pound gain in one day and they call all freaked out I say, “Oh My God!  Did you eat 7,000 calories yesterday??”  and of course, they say no.  Then I explain, there are 3500 calories in one pound of fat, so did they gain fat or was it inflammation?”  Of course, it was inflammation.  Was it something they ate, or maybe it was too much sodium (table salt), high humidity level, stress, medications, medication changes, menstruation, not enough sleep…all these things will affect the scale.

Even if you haven’t done a strict regimen first, keeping a food journal is a must if you are seeing things in your body, or noticing lower mental sharpness, or having mood swings or emotional changes that are starting to cause you concern.  If kept well, your food journal will help you recognize patterns and important time frames which may help you identify some of the causes of your issues without having to visit a doctor and get pills for something that is actually food and lifestyle related.

Sample Food Journal Entries

So here is what I recommend to my clients with a few examples.  You will want to make sure you write down what was in dishes that have multiple ingredients.

Date/weight/daily water consumption Time Identify whether it was a meal or snack Food items – include condiments Drinks – alcoholic and non-alcoholic List any of the five red flags either before or after and time frame you experienced it


6 am Coffee with Splenda/coffee mate – hazelnut
10:30am Snack Apple with PB Another coffee Tired before
1:30 Lunch Wrap from food vendor – chicken, rst peppers, mozzeralla, pesto, curly fries w/ketchup Diet soda Tired around 3 pm. Wanted to close my eyes for about 10 minutes.

Remember, patterns are what you are trying to figure out. With all the stuff we are exposed to in this country, it is very likely that if you clean up your diet or just eliminate a few things, you will see major differences in your health.  Keep a food journal for two weeks and see if you notice anything.  I bet you will!

Nan DeGroat

CEO of Breakthrough M2& Founder of Alula Wellness