Keeping a diary of your food intake can be daunting. What can be worse is trying to go back through what you've entered to find answers.
For those of you highly experienced in Excel or computerized spreadsheets, this may be easier for you. For those of you who like to use pen and paper, this might be more challenging.
First, you'll want to have a small notebook that you can carry around with you 24/7. It's often hard to remember everything you ate, everywhere you went, and everything you did if you're just recording it at the end of the day.
For accurate results, you will need to be detailed.
I recommend that each new day start at the top of a new page. It may take you several pages to note everything for the day, depending on how big your notebook is and how small you write. You will want to be as detailed in your notes as possible as this is your original notes.
At the beginning of the notebook, inside the front cover (or if you have a way to mark the outside of the notebook) put the start date make sure to include the day, month, and year, and when you fill up the notebook mark on the front cover the end date of that notebook.
Each entry should start with the following:
- The Exact Date
- Time of waking and how many hours of sleep
- Mood upon waking
- Weight (try to take your weight measurement before eating or drinking anything for the day, even before water. If you go to the bathroom first, make sure you continue to do so with each weigh in.)
Other things that you may also want to include are:
- Waking Temperature - Get a basal thermometer, and keep it right next to your bed with your notebook. When you just wake up, roll over, grab your thermometer, place it under your tongue while you lay there and wake up for a couple minutes. This will also help you (if you're a woman) know when your ovulating.
- Waking blood sugar - If you suspect any kind of blood sugar issues, head to your nearest pharmacy and buy the cheapest blood sugar testing kit - make sure the strips are also cheap as that is where most of the cost will come from. If you're doing this, you may want to also test your blood right before eating meals and 2 hours after eating. Eating allergens can affect your body's ability to utilize sugars, so I actually advise this for pretty much anyone who is suffering.)
- Daily Pollen Count - record the pollen concerns for your area.
- Exercise/Activity - What kind of exercise did you do and how much? Did you do something odd or unusual that you don't do every day, such as clean the toilet, mop floors, travel, etc.?
- Places - Did you go someplace outside of your normal? Grocery stores? Did you go clothes shopping? The air sometimes at certain places can cause reactions so keeping note of these things can help.
- Symptoms - Any symptoms that you experience, even if you don't think it's a symptom. If you notice it, write it down along with the time you noticed it. For example, if you notice that you're tapping your pencil on your desk. You may not always do it, but sometimes you do, write it down (it can be a sign of jitteriness). If you stumble into your coffee table, write it down. If you notice your mood changes, even if you think it might be due to a co-worker (unless it's real normal thing - like you're sad but you just heard your dog died. Being livid at your co-worker for pronouncing your name wrong, you should probably write that down.) At least at first, you never know what is going to be an actual symptom and what isn't. Allergic reactions do a wide range of things in the body, so something you may have attributed to something else may actually be an allergic reaction.
- Bodily Functions: While urinating is likely not to be a big deal, you should at the very least record your bowel movements. If you have any gastronomical reactions to your allergens, then this will help give you more information. You'll also want to record information about your stools such as the Bristol Stool Scale.
- Household Products: Did you change your laundry soap? Bath wash? Dish soap? Make sure to record those changes as well.
When recording your food, you'll want to note exactly what you ate and when. This includes brand names, ingredients, what recipe you used, etc. Anything that goes into your mouth should be recorded with a time stamp, including gum, candy, medications.
Once you've started recording this information, make an Excel document (or get a big sheet of paper, or write really small) with a row along the side for each symptom you want to monitor, mood, weight, blood sugar, reactions or no reactions, and so on. Along the top, you'll record each day. It is through this documentation that you'll see the patterns start to happen. It is also easier with this to see when the last day you experienced a particular symptom so you can go back to your food diary and compare or contrast the specifics of what went on, and start to trace it back to the cause.
Good Luck, and Happy Recording!