How a simple Food Journal can change your life ☘️
If you read my blog regularly you might know by now that I’m big into journaling. Whatever it is that I’m struggling with at present, journaling always brings conscious awareness into the matter and finds me the solution. That is, if I’m willing to listen to my inner wisdom rather than my monkey mind, reasoning and kicking and screaming. Truth may me uncomfortable at times…
For me, having a food journal replaced all other journaling. What, how and when I eat has the biggest impact on my body, my mind, and ultimately my life. Especially as I’ve been dealing with a rather sensitive stomach for over 20 years. If I take good care of myself, I could move mountains. If I don’t, I am miserable and every little task seems like a burden.
This needs to be said right off the bat: Food journaling is not about counting calories. It’s about connecting the dots between what we eat and how we feel throughout the day. For me, and many of my yoga clients who want to change their eating habits, keeping a food journal makes it clear how our eating patterns are inextricably connected with every other aspect of our lives.
If you have ongoing digestive issues, or you’re eating in a way that you’re not satisfied with, you have to acknowledge your habits first before you can change them.
Without guilt or shame or judgment, there’s empowerment that comes from just writing it all down and observing your behaviour.
The first thing I ask every one of my clients, before we even talk about sugar cravings, oat milk lattes, or what to make of celery juice, is to start a food journal. That way we can jump right in without having to mentally recap a week’s worth of meals.
But the bigger benefit of keeping a food journal has nothing to do with me or my tricks. It’s that journaling is a MINDFULNESS PRACTICE.
The only way to make a significant change - from the way you treat yourself and your loved ones, to how you speak, behave, or eat - is to be aware of your actions in the first place. You may be surprised to find that simply writing down what you eat and how you feel before and afterwards, will make you much more conscious of your trips to the office kitchen or your treat cabinet. And there’s science to back this up: Studies show that simply self-monitoring - without making any deliberate changes to your diet - is associated with a healthy weight, whether you need to lose weight or, like in my case, gain weight.
Another great benefit is discovering patterns in your daily routine. While what we eat is critical, I often find that WHY and HOW we eat is just as (if not more) important:
Do you hit a slump every day at 4pm and eat something you don’t really want? Have you slept enough? Are you tired and hungry two hours after breakfast? Or maybe you get home from work feeling so hungry that you eat a bag of crisps while making dinner, and by the time it’s ready, you’re no longer hungry?
If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, or if similar ones come to mind, keeping a journal might help you understand the relationship between food and other areas of your life. And it can enable you to make small changes that may have a HUGE impact on your life (getting adequate sleep and ALWAYS having breakfast has been my game changer).
When we refuse to isolate nutrition from the rest of our lives, we get the bigger picture.
WHAT, WHY and HOW we eat is deeply connected to everything else we face on a daily basis. Your journal will reflect that.
It’s not about counting calories, or being paleo, vegan or whatever label you choose. It’s not about macronutrients, micronutrients, or any other complicated equations.
The real idea is positivity.
It’s important that we look at our inputs from a place of love, rather than guilt or shame. We all encounter situations and circumstances (wedding weekends, after-work drinks, family affairs) that challenge our ability to make healthy choices. Instead of getting down on ourselves, we need to think of these challenges as opportunities. When we observe our habits closely and carefully, we can discern how we react to certain triggers and better prepare for them. Which doesn’t mean we always should or need to make the healthy choice. We are simply cultivating conscious awareness about the choices we make.
In addition to being a place to write down what you eat, you can create a personal journal that has space to record your sleep, exercise, mindfulness practices, the number of vegetables you consumed, how many coffees you had, whether you had enough water, what you’re grateful for, and more.
My personal food journal isn’t your typical food-tracking tool at all, it’s a lifestyle exercise. And it’s certainly not about weight loss or weight gain (although that might be a side effect if you wish). The goal is for the foods you eat to tick all the boxes:
Delicious, nourishing, healing. And supportive of the life you want to live.
And I get it: Writing down everything you eat can feel like a cumbersome, annoying endeavor. Sometimes it’s easier not to think about what you ate, why you ate it, or what you could have done differently in a day. On days when I go unconscious and don’t treat myself well I soooo don’t want to write this down, it’s painful. But this where the magic happens. And the cost is teeny: 3 minutes a day and maybe a little discomfort. The benefits of keeping a food journal most certainly outweigh those trade-offs.
Give it a shot and commit to one week with your food journal. You might even find some empowerment in putting it all onto paper. And if you need any guidance or advise, just drop me a line. I’d be so happy to hear from you.