A mindful eating journal can become your new best friend. Best friends tell you “like it is” – and they compassionately help you to see all sides of a situation. Similarly, a mindful eating journal can show you what food choices are working well for you, and those that are not.
Mindful Eating Journals are different
Unlike a food diary, which tends to focus on counting portions of foods and kilojoules (calories), a mindful eating journal explores your eating habits and drivers (reasons) for eating.
I understand that you may have bad memories of keeping food diaries because they focus on reaching a set target of food portions or kilojoules (calories).
And when you didn’t reach the target, you felt like you had failed.
A mindful eating journal takes a different approach. It helps you to create space to connect with, observe, and transform habits.
It digs deeper into your relationship with food and encourages you to become more aware of your eating patterns and food choices at the time of eating in a kind and compassionate way.
The big difference is that mindfulness encourages you to observe rather than judge.
Of course, if an eating habit is reducing your experience of health and happiness, then you work towards transforming the habit.
Does this make sense?
10 Benefits of a Mindful Eating Journal
The following benefits are based on research, as well as my clients’ experience of keeping a journal. (The benefits are not listed in any order of priority.)
#1 Observe the range of foods that you eat.
This is particularly important if you are unsure of what you eat, and/ or eat differently every day.
In my 25 plus years talking to people about what they eat, they struggle to recall everything that they ate or drank yesterday, let alone last week!
How can you include a wider variety of foods that support your personal values and health goals, if you don’t know what you are eating?
#2 Observe how much you are eating
I know this could be pushing the panic buttons within your head and heart.
But there is nothing judgemental about this statement.
It doesn’t mean that you are a “better” person because you are eating the right amount of food for you, or a “bad” person because you are eating too much or too little.
Learning how much you need to eat is not just about food—it takes into account how active you are and how much sleep you have had.
There is a myth that we need to eat the same amount of food every day, but this is not so.
Your mindful eating journal helps you to connect with your natural hunger and satiety signals (see below), so you become more confident choosing how much to eat.
#3 Track your natural hunger times
By knowing when you are hungry, you can work towards adjusting your meal times to better suit your hunger cycle.
Now, this comes as a surprise to many of my clients because they have grown up with an idea that we have to eat at set meal times.
The body likes routine, but the meal times that best suit you may not have been the ones that you grew up with or currently have in place.
#4 Identify non-hunger eating
We eat for many different reasons, not just hunger.
Non-hunger eating can arise through boredom, emotions, and stress and through becoming linked with other activities such as watching TV or reading.
We also eat because it is our meal break at work or school.
Stress and emotionally driven eating can be difficult to transform on your own, as you probably already know.
You get stuck in a cycle of feeling good when you eat well, and then when you reach for comfort foods, you feel like you have failed.
If you would like to know more about breaking this cycle this, click here to book in for a complimentary Eating Profile call.
#5 Connect with your drivers for eating
Eating for You has nine drivers for eating, that help you to understand your reasons and motivations for eating.
- Physiological Hunger
- Body Image
- Spiritual and Ethical Beliefs
- Food Knowledge and Skills
- Emotions and Stress
These drivers are all interlinked.
By keeping a journal you can identify which of the drivers are supporting you, and those that are reducing your experience of health and wellbeing.
Join me in a complimentary Eating Profile to learn what drives your eating. In the call you will receive one do-able and actionable step to take you away from the frustration, overwhelm and guilt of not knowing how to change the way you eat for good.
Eating for You is about lifelong changes to the way that you eat. Click here to book.
#6 Identify food and eating rules
Journaling helps us to dig a little deeper into where our habits came from, so we can assess whether the rules are still useful to us today.
Types of eating rules include:
- Eating everything on your plate
- Eating all of your main meal before having dessert
- Eating at set times of the day
#7 Notice how eating with others compares with eating alone
Often we eat differently when eating out, with friends and family, compared to when we eat alone.
We can eat different foods and different quantities of food.
Would you like to know how this impacts your food choices?
#8 Observe how different food choices make you feel
Food impacts our physical and psychological wellbeing.
Chocolate is a great example: In one situation it is the cure for all stress experience. But at another time it leads to feelings of guilt and failure. For another person who doesn’t like chocolate, they experience neither of these feelings.
Different types and quantities of food can lead to increased alertness and energy, or lethargy or gut discomfort through bloating, pain, and excess gas.
Journaling helps to reveal these relationships.
Once you have a better understanding of what is happening, you can introduce alternative eating and lifestyle choices.
#9 Check whether your perception matches reality
Depending on the day, and how you are feeling, you may only remember all of the “bad” choices, and another day you may totally forget these.
A mindful eating journal doesn’t encourage you to assess your choices as good or bad, rather make a note of the choices that support you and those that don’t.
It helps you to create a picture of your patterns of eating, and how you can work towards changing the picture to one that you are more comfortable and happier with for the long term.
Expectations of what, how and when you should eat, and what you should look like are not helpful, because they are usually based on what is right for someone else.
#10 Assess whether your new eating choices are working
You invest your time and effort into uncovering your eating habits in your journal.
You then introduce alternative choices for the habits you want to change e.g. reduce non-hunger eating, and improve the physical and/ or psychological impact of food.
Now, you want to know whether these new choices are working.
By journaling, you can track your progress and most importantly how you are feeling.
You gain the most insights and get the most benefits by keeping a daily journal.
I encourage you to establish a relationship with your new best friend that helps you to transform your relationship for good.
Often you will connect with and observe your triggers or drivers for eating, but get stuck with the transformation part.
Or you may make changes for a few days or weeks, then fall back into old habits.
Am I right?
If you are wanting to get started with an approach that leads to life long change,