I started my personal journey to live brave and balanced by exploring my relationship with food. I discovered that food is present and supports me as I navigate so many aspects of life. When I am sad, I make comfort foods from my childhood. When I’m celebratory, I look for indulgent foods. When I feel anxious, I tend to crave chocolate, and when I’m bored, I want something salty. Where I ran into problems was when I was feeling so many emotions that I was leaning on food to help me face the day. This resulted in feelings of guilt, shame, and frustration because I was counteracting all the other healthy lifestyle choices I was making. I won’t even mention the downside physically with brain fog, weight gain, and inflammation. Once I focused my curiosity on my own food patterns and behaviors, I was able to identify, understand, and ultimately take more positive actions with my health. My consistent practice with food journaling was game changing for me because it invited me to keep track of what I ate, how I felt, helping me identify eating patterns and habits that I needed to change.
If you aren’t familiar with food journaling, it's a practice where you keep a daily record of everything you eat and drink throughout the day. In addition to food tracking, it's important to take notice of how you are feeling physically and emotionally before, during, and after you eat and drink. Through mindful awareness, you can identify habits in your eating that invites positive changes to your overall health and wellbeing.
There are many benefits of food journaling. You can use it to identify patterns in your eating habits, like when you're most likely to overeat or when you're feeling the most stressed or anxious. You can also use it as a tool for self-care by giving yourself permission to occasionally indulge or by making healthier food choices for yourself when you're feeling less than 100%. It's also a great way to measure your progress towards achieving goals like weight loss, better moods, and improved sleep quality.
There are many methods of food journaling. I use MyFitnessPal now, but I started out using a journal approach, so I could more deeply investigate my relationship with food. Food journaling is more than tracker, it is about understanding your relationship and response to food.
Here are my food journaling tips:
Write down the time, date, and location – This exercise isn’t about judgement. It is about awareness. Do you eat in front of the television or while you are doing some other activity? Do you have a natural schedule to eat at certain times even if you aren’t hungry? Taking note of your eating rituals will begin to empower you with facts about how you eat.
Write about what is happening in your life at that moment - Is breakfast stressful because you are scrambling to maintain a schedule with your family? Does lunch tend to be quick as you navigate a quick bite between meetings? Do you tend to snack frequently on days where you are scheduled back-to-back? Is dinner family focused where everyone slows down to come together and share quality time? Whether it is time dependent or influenced by other factors, you may uncover that your eating routines are reactive to however chaotic your life is in that moment.
Track what foods you ate - Are you eating high volumes of processed foods? Are you getting enough nutrients in each day? Tuning in to what you fill your body with can be incredibly enlightening as you raise your own awareness of your behaviors.
Track how you are feeling physically and emotionally right before, right after, and 1 hour after you ate - Did your boss just deliver an urgent assignment to you? Did you feel anxious and notice a fluttering in your stomach? Did you suddenly crave a bag of chips? Did you snack on those chips while you were crafting an email response to your boss? Did you complete the assignment, realize you just devoured 6 servings of chips in a 30-minute period? Are your hands swelling and do you feel bloated? Are you angry at yourself for binging on the chips? By taking a few minutes to notice and track your behaviors and feelings, you are opening yourself up to positive changes.
Be honest about your feelings - This process can be emotionally difficult as you find your eyes open to new aspects of yourself that you have kept on auto-pilot. Remember, you are your best champion for your own health so be honest throughout this process.
Food journaling is a powerful first step in living a healthy lifestyle. Through self-love and compassion, you begin to understand how you process difficult emotions, using food. Once you have this awareness, you are empowering yourself to stop and assess your choices BEFORE you make them.
It is time to break free from the hold stress has on you and live the balanced and fulfilling life waiting for you.