In an age of digital everything, tracking your food habits has never been easier. With a plethora of health and fitness apps, and with technology like Fitbit and Apple Watch keeping up with your health can be done completely digitally.

Is there still benefit from keeping a pen to paper food journal? Experts are giving a resounding “yes” to that question.

In The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size, New York City artist and author Julia Cameron details how writing in a journal can improve one’s relationship with food. Cameron says writing three “morning pages,” which are stream-of-consciousness and handwritten, about anything that’s on your mind.

“Instead of eating, you discover what’s eating you,” she told Karen Springen inNewsweek. “Write in the morning about the day you’re going to have. And during the day keep a food journal of everything you eat. It’s a little bit slower than working on the computer, and you tend to become more in touch with your emotions.”

Forbes describes four reasons why paper food journals beats digital:

  1. It helps us to mine our deepest thoughts and aspirations, thereby creating new neural pathways to create positive change, observing and documenting along the way.
  2. It is a form of mindfulness training, which despite the overuse of the term these days (for everything from doodling to depression) is actually an effective mind-body technique, much like yoga. At its root, mindfulness is simply staying in the moment and acknowledging one’s thoughts and behaviors and calmly accepting them without judgment.
  3. It causes us to slow down and pay attention, allowing a visual clue to inner and often rote cues. Hungry or stressed? Impulses tell us to grab that comfort food as quickly as possible, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
  4. It gifts us with a pause, unlike hands on a keyboard with fingers flying as speedily as thoughts. Have you ever dashed off an email, hit “send” and instantly regretted it? I rest my case.

Ben O’Mara, who lost a significant amount of weight by simply hand-tracking his food intake, agrees. He told The Guardian, “I choose to ink the pages of my dog-eared diary. It’s the best health technology I’ve found yet.”

“In an age when health is digitally quantified, where the electronic streams from our daily lives are collated and analyzed in the cloud, my pen and paper seem old-fashioned–even to me. But I’ve kept this tome precise: I match each yogurt, bowl of soup or glass of wine with a calorie count, and at the bottom of each page, a calorie total for the day,” he concluded.

Do you have a food journal? If so, what are some tips you can give others to encourage them to start?

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