Food & Symptom diary

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE WEEKLY DIARY (PDF)

In amongst the busyness of everyday life, it’s easy to fall into repetitive, unconscious patterns of consumption – that might inadvertently be contributing to, for example, fatigue or gastrointestinal discomfort. Writing it all down can be the first step in increasing awareness of the feedback our body is trying to send us.

Once we become conscious of our current food, lifestyle and symptoms, we can then start to think about some simple, gentle adjustments that we might try making, to support our overall wellbeing. For example, reducing our caffeine consumption if we realise that drinking more than 2-3 cups a day is negatively affecting our sleep, or noticing that we feel hungrier in the afternoons if we haven’t had a balanced breakfast. Often, it is the simplest tweaks that can make the biggest difference. And don’t forget that it’s not all about the food – relaxation, stress reduction, appropriate movement, social connection and restorative sleep are all vitally important contributors to how we feel. You can include notes on these aspects of wellbeing in the diary too, if you wish.

Please note: Completing any sort of food and/or symptom diary without appropriate professional support is NOT recommended if you have or have had an eating disorder, or any sort of excessive worry or anxiety around food. Please be compassionate to yourself and avoid using this resource if you feel it may not be beneficial for any reason.

If you have any concerns about your symptoms, it goes without saying that this should always be discussed with a healthcare professional. This diary serves as a useful piece of information to share with them if you’re happy to.

How to complete

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE WEEKLY DIARY (PDF)

1. I recommend that you print the diary off and keep it with you throughout your day. It’s usually more accurate to fill in ‘as you go’, rather than trying to remember everything that happened come the evening. If you’d prefer, keep notes on your phone or computer instead (using the headings suggested), and then transcribe or print them in the evening.

2. Write down absolutely everything you eat and drink, including rough timings and quantities (don’t worry too much about being accurate to the last gram; a handful of spinach, 2 slices of toast, 1 large mug of coffee etc. is fine).

3. Next, note any symptoms you might experience throughout the day and what time they started / ended. See the list below for common symptoms people might experience (although anything goes, so feel free to just write what you feel – it is not an exhaustive list).

4. Finally, you can record anything else that might have had an impact on your food intake or symptoms, such as how well you slept, whether you were feeling particularly stressed or relaxed, how your mood was, what sort of activity or exercise you completed, how rushed you felt whilst eating, supplements or medications you took, even the weather etc. The final column is yours, so add as much additional detail as you wish to give colour and detail to your diary.

Possible symptoms*

Gastrointestinal: Bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort or cramping, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, tongue or mouth ulcer

Appetite: Cravings, hunger, excessive fullness, loss of appetite.

Energy & mood: Fatigue or low energy levels, ‘foggy’ head, lack of concentration or focus, low mood, anxiety or jitters, insomnia or disturbed sleep.

Skin: Rash, itching, flushing, skin irritations, spots, dry skin.

Other: Headaches, head pressure, general pain, muscle or joint aches, sinus congestion or runny nose, cough, bladder or urinary changes, libido.

*Not all of these symptoms are related to the food we consume – they can arise from myriad different causes. However, it can still be helpful to note when and how we notice them, even if just to provide ourselves with a more complete picture of our current state of health.

Food & Symptom Diary

What to do with your completed diary

Completing a food and symptom diary is NOT about doing an elimination diet or identifying foods to cut out. In fact, I highly recommend avoiding any unnecessary dietary restrictions, because enjoying a widely varied diet is really important to maximise our intake of different essential nutrients and to minimise stress around food.

If, however, you feel that you might be having symptoms related to a specific food group, it’s always a good idea to speak to a nutrition or healthcare professional about your concerns. They will help you identify if there might be an underlying medical condition triggering your reaction – and can then provide the appropriate testing, support and follow-up if required.

What this diary can help us to do, however, is to identify if there are any small, manageable tweaks that we could make to what or how we are eating, that might help us feel our best. Nobody eats ‘perfectly’ or is entirely symptom free all of the time. We all have off days – and that’s both normal and OK.  So, with an enquiring and compassionate mind, take some time to re-read your completed diary and see if there are any obvious and consistent patterns. There is space on the final page to make observations and notes as you do so. Try to think about what is going well, as much as what you would like to improve upon.

While maintaining that sense of kindness towards yourself, have a think about some simple, achievable steps that might be beneficial to your overall nutritional balance or wellbeing. I generally suggest focussing on no more than three small changes at a time, as we all have limited bandwidth for making lifestyle changes. Again, there is space on the last page for these ideas.

For more information and support

While I am a nutritional therapist, I am not your nutritional therapist, so unfortunately I cannot tell you specifically what to look out for in your completed diary, nor exactly what changes to make. We are all unique individuals and will have hugely varied diaries by the end of the week.

I have, however, written extensively about my general approach to nutrition and wellbeing, so please do take a look at my books, Eat. Nourish. Glow and Nourish & Glow: The 10-day plan for lots more nutritional information and advice. Cook. Nourish. Glow and my latest book, Simply Good For You, both contain plenty of delicious recipes too, in case you’d like a little extra culinary inspiration.

For advice on how to find a nutrition practitioner to work alongside, please take a look at the FAQ pages.