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The Role of a Food Diary in Beating Bulimia

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/23/2010

Many eating disorder treatments are including a recommendation of a food diary and bulimia is no exception to this. It is a tool that can be used to track food habits and abuse, stress triggers, and emotional responses to food or weight on a daily basis.

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    The Role of a Food Diary in Beating Bulimia

    A food diary and bulimia go hand in hand when treating Bulimia Nervosa. A daily food diary can be instrumental in showing patterns of eating abuse and bringing stress cues to light for a person with this type of eating disorder. It is much easier to find ways to improve nutritional health when food deficiencies or surpluses are listed in black and white.

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    How is a Food Diary Used

    In order for the food diary to be effective, it needs to be filled out in real time. Entries should not be filled in at the end of the day from memory. One reason to avoid doing this is because it's easy to forget to list foods that were eaten at specific times. Another is that people tend to be more truthful in real time. It's much easier to pretend foods weren't eaten if the plate isn't right in front of the person at that moment.

    Food diaries are used to keep track of foods and eating habits on a daily basis. Keeping an honest diary helps to find food patterns that can be addressed and changed. This type of diary can also show, over a period of time, if certain stress factors are contributing to food abuse.

    Once patterns have emerged and been identified, problems can be addressed one at a time by checking off a list contained in the food diary.

    Here are a few things that may be listed on a food diary:

    • Date and time to help keep track of patterns
    • Food eaten and approximate amounts
    • Feelings before eating
    • What was going on before eating
    • Was the person alone when they ate
    • Did they purge after they ate
    • Feelings before purging
    • Were they hungry, bored, angry, or sad
    • Physical activity throughout the day

    This list contains common data that food diary and bulimia sufferers will require for efficient and effective data collection to assist in their treatment. Food diaries may vary for each bulimia sufferer.

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    Is a Food Diary Necessary

    While a food diary may not be absolutely necessary for treatment of the eating disorder, many physicians recommend this self help treatment for their patients. It is a tangible way to keep track of what the patient eats, when they eat, and the feelings and stresses that may surround the episodes of binge eating and then the purging.

    When a pattern emerges, it is much easier to address issues as the proof of the need is listed there in black and white for the patient, the family, and the physician to see.

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    The Benefits of Keeping a Food Diary

    Some of the benefits of keeping a food diary are being able to address issues as problem patterns emerge. Binge eating triggers can be recognized and addressed. Behaviors can be learned to avoid or confront issues that are brought up.

    When it comes to the food diary and bullemia, another benefit is that the eating disorder sufferer cannot refute pattern issues when it is clearly seen on the food diary. It is difficult for a bulimic to hide unhealthy eating habits if they are being honest in listing everything eaten during the day in their food diary.

    It is also a great way for the bulimic to prove that they are trying to get better. When daily binging and purging episodes lessen, it is clearly seen on the food diary. It is a wonderful way for the patient to prove to themselves that they are doing better and to show off to family members, friends, and even medical personnel. While a food diary may show days where the patient has slipped backward into bad behaviors, it also validates the days when the person with an eating disorder goes through a day without binging or purging.

    This validation helps the eating disorder sufferer celebrate the good days and gives them a push to try even harder on days when it isn't so easy to be positive and keep themselves on track.

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    References

    Kansas State University - Eating Disorders: Bulimia: http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/topics/eating/bulimia.html

    Help Guide.org - Binge Eating Disorder: http://helpguide.org/mental/binge_eating_disorder.htm

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