After working with dozens of men to improve their health and well-being, I’ve discovered a very useful tool to help change deeply ingrained habits.
A lot of guys compulsively snack, eat well during the week but then the wheels come off during the weekend, or simply binge eat far more food than they actually need.
What’s perplexing is how can an otherwise smart and well functioning individual not make simple changes?
The reason is there is unconscious programming running the show.
So how can you change your unconscious programs?
Part of the answer is to make your unconscious habits conscious. To create awareness.
So how do you create awareness of unconscious eating habits? And how can you improve your eating habits in just 1-minute a day, which sounds incredibly dubious?
A photo food journal is the answer.
Of course, a photo food journal does not make the changes for you. You must be ready and willing to make the changes.
Reasons To Keep A Photo Food Journal
1. Pattern Interrupt
A photo food journal is a pattern interrupt, which means it interrupts your habit or pattern. It causes you to stop and think before cleaning off the box of chocolate chip cookies. This helps you make your unconscious habits conscious, which is huge for changing deeply ingrained habits.
A habit loop consists of a (1) cue, (2) routine, and (3) reward. A cue might be the smell or sight of a chocolate chip cookie – or it could even be a stressful situation. The routine may be you pick it up with your lunch. Then the reward will be eating it.
Taking photos of your food during the routine phase helps you create awareness so that you see how the entire habit loop works. With awareness, you can make changes.
A photo food journal is excellent to help you keep accountable.
It’s one thing to say, “I ate really well last week.” It’s another to actually see what you’ve eaten. In other words, a photo food journal is clear documentation of your eating habits. In many ways, it’s more helpful than using a calorie tracking app in that you can see what you’re eating and how you’re eating it (is the food on a plate, the size of the plate, a snack in your hand etc.)
For some, this internal accountability is enough to change their habits. For many, however, external accountability leads to more significant changes.
3. Simple & Easy
You always have your phone wherever you go, so it’s very accessible. And taking a photo with your phone takes about 5-10 seconds. So a photo food journal is simple, fast, and easy.
Calorie tracking apps can be time consuming because you must input all the separate ingredients and amounts of your meals. Using a calorie tracking app for a few days can be useful because it helps you learn more detail about your food intake.
But for many busy guys, using a calorie tracking app is not very practical and far more tedious than a photo food journal without many of the benefits.
How To Use A Photo Food Journal
There are two primary ways to keep a photo food journal.
The first option is to take photos with your phone camera, which saves to your phone library. If you take photos without saving them to a separate album, you will have a stream of random food photos along with other photos that you’re taking. It’s a good idea to create a separate food journal album so that you have all your food photos in one place.
The second option is to use an app on your phone. While there are many different photo food journal apps, the Day One journal app is very useful for a few reasons (1) it’s clean and simple (2) it captures detailed information about your posts , and (3) you can share your journal with a friend or coach. The app also works with both iPhone and Android phones.
1. Download the app
2. Start a new journal
3. Take a photo by clicking the “+” button on the bottom menu bar or the photo icon, then click the camera function. Then add a title. That’s it.
You can certainly add more detail to your posts like how you’re feeling if you want in the description. You can also click the “Media” button on the bottom menu bar to see a birds eye view of all the meal photos cleanly in one section. The “Map” button shows you where you ate your food. The “Calendar” button allows you to easily scroll by date to see your food journal on a given day.
Example Photo Food Journal From Day One
Keith Rogers who is a father of 4 from Texas completed our BuiltLean Program and lost 40lb. He struggled with sugar cravings and had a diet of many processed and heavy foods.
Keith graciously allowed me to publish one of his photo food journals so you can see what it looks like. His eating habits radically changed from when he started. He had already been sharing his journal for several weeks, so this reflects significant improvements.
Here’s a link to his photo food journal:
You can also check out his BuiltLean Program Video Testimonial on our Results page.
We gave him a title schema to create more awareness of his habits: (1) meal type (2) location, (3) emotion, (4) food quality score from 1 to 3, and (5) hunger level from 1 to 5. So an example would be “Breakfast Home Tired 3 4”.
By getting feedback on his photo food journal, he was able to make small changes from week to week that added up to massive changes.
To be clear, Keith is 100% responsible for his results. We simply provided him a system, guidance, and accountability so he could transform himself with greater success.
How To Make The Most Of Your Photo Food Journal
1. Commit to taking photos of everything you eat for 7-days (or more)
In the first week, 0% of guys who have started a photo journal and shared them with us took photos of everything they ate. Either they forgot once or twice, or felt embarrassed or uncomfortable. It’s ok if you’re not perfect, just stick with it.
There may be social situations where you feel uncomfortable taking a photo of your food. Consider making light of the situation. You are doing an “experiment”. Whether you keep a photo food journal for 1-week or a few months, it’s not the rest of your life.
Committing to a program, like our 12-Week BuiltLean Program, may help you make that shift and commitment necessary to take this seriously. Otherwise, life gets in the way and there will be a million reasons (excuses) not to keep it.
2. Consider external accountability for significant changes
You do not need external accountability to make improvements. Just keeping a photo food journal can help.
With that said, when it comes to body transformation, I’ve found that more accountability creates better results.
Taking photos of everything you eat and sending them to a coach can make even tough guys squirm. It can be very uncomfortable. By embracing this discomfort, incredible results can be achieved.
External accountability is self-serving because we have a 12-week program where you can send in your photo food journals to us. It also plain works, which is why we offer this as an option.
A photo food journal can extend to help you change other habits like drinking coffee or alcohol, or simply other habits you may want to change.
I hope this is helpful for you. I’ve had this article in my mind for some time, so I’m grateful to be able to share it with you!
Pattern interrupt sounds like a great way to increase awareness
Enjoyed the article and visuals. This is definitely worth a try.
Love this idea of Pattern Interrupt and the day one journal I think is smart. I’ve already downloaded it and will definitely be passing on these great tips.
Great, Sharon! Glad to hear you will be passing it on.
The Photo Food Journal is so simple to operate, and yet is a hugely successful means of keeping track of our – all too often – over-consumption of snacks. We can apply this terrific concept to everything we eat and become uber aware of our over-indulgence. Great idea, Marc.
I am a mom of 2 and I’ve been doing this since I had my 1st child. Either by blogging journaling, diarying, paper logging. Food is a part of our everday and is important to log and keep track for all the reasons you mentioned. In 2020 i created a calendar in Evernote that shows what i’ve eaten in weeks and months format because I couldnt find the right app. I was looking again, and That’s how I found you. I am always looking for different systems. I do use Day one and log in our meals there and meal plans but not in the way you described so I will try this new way. The Collect App is the closest thing I could find to this as well. Great thinking and you’re the only person I’ve seen talk about this!
Thanks, Jewel and I’m glad you found your own system! The other system I’ve seriously considered is the You Ate app (youate.com)