Assessing Your Diet

Basket of Vegetables

Well, doesn’t that sound boring? I can see why you would avoid this task in favor of, say, cleaning the chicken coop or maybe even organizing the garage. It’s something that makes us feel ashamed, maybe embarrassed, and uncomfortable.

Let me see if I’ve got this right – when you start looking at your diet, you start getting all judgy about it and start comparing your diet to what other people eat. You look for recipes online and see how awesome they look and then see how icky yours looks. You see your takeout food as grossly inferior to home cooked. You decide that you’re not doing enough and EVERYONE else is doing awesome.

Then you sink into depression and go eat a pint of ice cream, which, by the way, only makes you feel worse about it. I do things a bit differently. When I’m working with clients, I never ask them to share their tracking log with me. I do ask what a typical meal looks like, but not because I want to shame them. I am curious about the variety of foods, their nutritional status, and the presence of any potential food sensitivities.

The other thing I’m looking for is to see what kinds of foods are regular players in their diet. Sometimes this can indicate a food sensitivity (we tend to have negative food issues with those foods we ‘just can’t live without’), or more importantly, a lifestyle choice that needs some attention.

People who eat pasta a lot might just really like it, or they have time constraints, and pasta is a quick, easy meal. When clients eat out a lot, it might mean they feel crunched for time, or it might be that they’re uncertain in the kitchen. Both are key bits of information when building a dietary strategy. This is one of the reasons I never do standalone programs without a personal consult with me. We all have different constraints on our life, and I want all my clients to be successful, which means personal attention, and a personal strategy.

Doing a dietary assessment can become an overwhelming activity if you’re trying to uncover too much all at once. Of course, it would be awesome if everyone kept a list of what they ate, how it made them feel, how much they slept, their exercise levels, their blood sugar, and their mood throughout the day. That’s not going to happen for most of us (including me).

I try to make it as easy as possible – and keep the focus as narrow as needed to get the right information. You see, there’s a lot of things going on that affect how you feel. It’s really best to NOT try and fix them all at once.  Sometimes, fixing one thing, like a food issue, can resolve several complaints at the same time. And, you need to build up on the healing processes. Adding turmeric as an anti-inflammatory won’t work very well if you don’t figure out what’s causing the inflammation and reduce or eliminate it.

Perhaps I’ve convinced you to start tracking your diet. I certainly hope I have. Knowledge is so powerful. The best starting place for assessing your diet is to simply note how you are feeling in the 2 hours after your meal. Are you feeling satisfied and comfortable, or do you feel bloated and gassy? Are you still hungry or craving sweets? How’s your digestion? Rumbly tummy or loose bowel movements? Are you energetic and awake, or has the meal pulled you into a slump?

You don't need a fancy log to track this information. Just set a reminder on your phone for 2 hours after you eat and then notice how you feel. If you feel great, then what you ate is probably okay for you. If you’re not so great, consider what you ate and see if you can do differently next time. The advantage to this kind of diet assessment is that you probably haven’t forgotten what you ate two hours later, and you can more accurately remember any problematic foods.

If you are taking on a new practice of diet assessment, I’d love to hear from you. You can share your experience in the comments below, or send me a note by email. I’d be happy to see if we can figure out what’s happening for you.