Are you looking for a way to use your bullet journal to track your Functional Medicine food plan? You’ve come to the right place.
Why Not Just Track Calories?
Calorie counting may have its place, but in Functional Medicine, food QUALITY is paramount in making good food choices. When we focus heavily on calories, we can miss the mark as all calories are NOT created equal. Food is information. It sends your body messages and your body responds at a cellular level. A cupcake with buttercream frosting sends a much different message (and elicits a completely different response) than leafy greens topped with a clean protein and some olive oil.
Quality tends to play second fiddle to that holy grail of the bottom calorie line and we can be tempted to prioritize the lower-calorie, less nutritious options. I’ve used My Fitness Pal and LoseIt quite a bit in the past, but I don’t like the impact that using them has on my food choices or my thought patterns. After using them for a while, I noticed that I begin to have more obsessive thinking around food.
My thoughts begin to look like this. If I skip the oil on my salad for lunch today, I can “afford” to have a slice of leftover cake after dinner. But in reality, I can’t afford to make that swap. I NEED that olive oil on the salad to absorb the fat-soluble nutrient goodness in all those veggies, to raise my good cholesterol (HDL), and to fuel my brain! That slice of cake will get me nothing but empty calories, inflammation, brain fog, and a higher fasting glucose level. NOT what I want or need. Instead, I need to change the way I think and choose to enjoy the olive oil. The resulting blood sugar stability and mental clarity it provides will make me a much happier person. And then I can absolutely treat myself to some dark chocolate after dinner.
Know thyself: I won’t make the best choices while counting calories.
Then How Do You Keep Calories in Check on a Functional Medicine Food Plan?
Many food plans from the IFM (Institute for Functional Medicine) do target a calorie range based on gender, weight, activity level, and the person’s goals (i.e. maintenance, weight loss, weight gain, muscle gain, etc). Calories are a factor, just not the ONLY factor in promoting optimal health. Almonds are great for my mind and body, but noshing on multiple handfuls throughout the day will not help me reach my goals. So the IFM uses serving sizes instead of calorie counting to give flexibility in food preferences and keep calories in check. The serving sizes distributed among food categories (protein, not-starchy vegetables, legumes, etc.) also promotes a balanced macronutrient distribution (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and plenty of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients).
So, How Can You Use a Bullet Journal to Help You Stay on Your Functional Medicine Food Plan?
I was in a quandary as to how to hold myself accountable and to actually know if I was sticking to my plan or not. Keeping track of my servings in each category would help me to ensure that I’m balancing my macronutrients. Tracking the colors of the fruits and vegetables would encourage me to get a range of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals each day.
Why the colors? Phytonutrients – the plant chemicals that give plants their color, aroma, and flavor – are critical to health and healing. You may have heard of carotenoids, antioxidants, or resveratrol. These are just a few of the many phytonutrients that we know about and are learning more about every day. They are a critical part of all of the IFM food plans and a foundational principle of functional medicine.
I haven’t found an app to track servings or the colors that I eat each day, although I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. But since I’ve been relying heavily on my bullet journal lately, it seemed like the best way to track these things.
The monthly spread allowed me to track with tally marks to save space. I also wanted to write down my weight and fasting glucose level. I’m not diabetic but I do tend to sometimes experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, which is diabetes’ alter ego). So I use a simple glucose monitor to keep an eye on my fasting glucose as a gauge of how well my food is working for my body.