Why are Health Diaries so Important?
If you are like most of us, you will not be able to answer this question. The only thing we can definitely tell is how are feeling NOW, but we don’t really see the big picture or what determined our current state of health. However, A health diary can help us understand things about our dietary choices that we weren’t aware of. Same goes for the number of times you exercise and how long you REALLY do that for. You might start noticing that your sleep pattern is related to your stress levels, for example. Or you might figure out that whenever you exercise you feel better for a couple of days straight. Most importantly, it can give you an insight into why your attempts at addressing health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease seem to fail.
It doesn’t matter if you start it to keep track of your food intake or of your pregnancy, keeping a diary of your health will be beneficial in many ways, enabling you to improve your fitness and keep in shape. However, you shouldn’t see it as just a list of medical facts and calorie counts. Alongside the numbers, you should try to write down your emotions, your feelings and the circumstances. Sometimes a “sinful” entry can be accompanied by a motivational quote to do better next time, instead of a feeling of shame and guilt. You are literally recording your mistakes in order to be able to make sense of them. The more honest you are, with yourself mainly, the better you will be able to read through the lines, identify wrong patterns and correct them, leading you to lead a healthier lifestyle.
The Perfect Health Diary Assistant
You should see health diaries as personal health assistants that, when used right, can give you great insights. Here is a list of examples:
- Cardiovascular Disease Diary
- Nutrition Diary
- Gluten-Free Diary
- Physical Exercise Diary
- Sexual Health Diary
- Pregnancy Diary
- Diabetes Diary
- Food Allergies Diary
- Blood Pressure Diary
- Weight Loss Diary
- Baby Health Diary
Try to be honest and not to lie to your diary: you are in fact documenting your behavioural patterns, and if you skip a few workouts or eat too much over the holidays that’s ok, as long as you are aware of it and record it honestly.
Be as accurate as you can while writing your entry, making a note of time, weather, symptoms, medications, food intake, personal thoughts and external factors that might have influenced your health.
How to start a Health diary
There is no set rule for keeping a health diary: depending on your age / health you might need a lot of detailed information or just a couple of lines to record the day. What you are really trying to do is to monitor how you feel, and trying to link it to what you eat and the activities you perform. A health diary can be very helpful when trying to understand the causes behind a sickness or a period of low energy, and it is invaluable to help your doctor assist you and monitor your progress and the overall situation, for example during an injury recovery, a period of stress or a pregnancy.
Keep the diary always with you to be able to keep accurate records.
Always write the date in the morning, followed by a quick summary of how much you slept, the quality of your sleep and your general feeling for the day.
Keep track of any medicines or supplements that you take throughout the day, as well as of any physical activity you perform. Don’t forget to list any physical symptoms you might experience, such as headache or bowel movements.
Record what you eat. Sounds simple? Well, it is! Try to estimate quantities and to list details (gluten-free, contains nuts, etc…) if you know them, and also write down the place where you were when you had the meal or snack, it is more useful than you might think!
Did you eat alone? Or were you with someone? And how were you feeling while eating? Try to answer those simple questions and write down the answers. A depressing meal alone watching the news might not be as good as a healthy family barbecue in the garden with loads of laughs and a lot of sun.
Keep a note of all your visits to the doctor’s. Write down any recommendation he or she gives you and try to follow them in the upcoming days.
Do steps 1 to 6 for a week, and then browse back to see if you can learn something from your health diary. You might find out that certain medicines don’t go well with some foods, or you might discover that there is a supplement that really boosts your energy levels. Write down your thoughts and deductions, and try to improve
- It is important to tell the truth when keeping a diary. Write everything down and include as much information related to your health as possible. Share your diary with medical professionals, such as your family doctor, to receive input and advice.
- Talk to your family doctor if you have any questions or concerns about keeping a health diary.