What is food journaling? Of course, it’s logging what you eat each day, but I learned recently that it’s so much more than that. Since starting a food journal under the direction of a nutritionist, I’ve learned so much about myself and my psychology around food. Today, I want to share with you why food journaling is so helpful. You might have wondered if you should do it and what makes it a useful tool on the path to a healthy lifestyle. Here’s what I’ve learned.
It’s not about the food as much as it is your feelings about food. Not only do I track what I eat, I track my cravings, too. Tracking when I crave sweet things, salty things, crunchy things–basically any craving–gave me insights into what was really triggering the craving. Was it PMS? Sometimes. Was it more about external factors that influence poor food choices? Absolutely! For example the other day, it was as cold as the South Pole in my office because it’s August and office air conditioning. You know of what I speak. Around the time I noticed the chill, I wanted a cup of tea. Then I asked myself what is it my body needs right now? It actually wasn’t the tea itself, I just wanted to be warm. Previously, I would have just made a cup of tea with 2 tsp of sugar and not given it a thought. Being aware and asking myself to take a deeper look at the craving helped me identify the ingrained food response that doesn’t serve my health goals. Instead of a cup of tea, I put on a sweater. Craving gone!
Journaling helped me identify destructive food behaviors so I could change them. My Nutritionist is urging me to be more mindful when I eat, to take time to savor and enjoy, to be grateful for and to take pleasure in eating. While food journaling one day, I had a major epiphany about why it’s so hard for me to be mindful when I eat. It goes back to a traumatic experience with my abusive dad when I was about four years old. He thought I was eating too slow, and forced me to get my next bite of food ready on my fork before I’d swallowed what I was chewing. There was yelling and screaming involved, and it was so strongly ingrained in me to shovel food in my mouth as fast as possible that the idea of “mindful eating” was completely foreign to me. Having this realization has allowed me to be aware of the behavior and understand where it originated. That space for recognition helps me allow myself the time to correct myself and slow down without feeling guilty.
Journaling Helped me recognize when I actually need chocolate versus when I really just need time for selfcare. I’m an introvert, which is becoming a more accepted thing these days. (BIG YAY!!) I’ve always known I needed time alone to refill my cup so I can pour out for others. If I don’t get that time, I get grumpy. Irritable. Easily annoyed. Basically…plain bitchy. But since I’ve been living in a 10 x 12 foot shack with my husband since January, alone time is nearly non-existent. So last week when I was really craving a slice of cheesecake or a brownie, I had another epiphany! I asked myself the golden question; what is it my body actually needs right now? The ah-ha moment was the realization that when I don’t get my alone time for selfcare, I substitute with sweets and carbs. The sugar gives me the endorphin rush to feel good and relax a little, something I would normally get from a nice bath. Instead of eating something I shouldn’t, my nutritionist redirected me to take a five-minute meditation break, do some breathing exercises, or go for a quick walk. I recognize now when I feel that craving coming on that what I really need is 5-10 minutes of selfcare to give my mind what it needs, not what my body *thinks* will help.
I’ve only been food journaling for a month, but I’m excited to keep it going and see what else I learn about myself. I’ts been a big eye-opener!
Have you ever journaled your food? What take-aways did you glean from the experience?