When you say the words “Food Diary” you are often met with a raised eyebrow or two. It veers into the territory of the obsessive eater.
However (and it’s a big however) there is a massive difference between mindfully monitoring what you eat and calorie counting. These seemingly similar tracking methods are in fact entirely different things that also create entirely different results.
I was a calorie counter from way back. Every little crumb that crossed my lips was meticulously documented. I reduced the concept of food to a tiny little nutritional measurement that – while yes, important – is not the be all and end all of a meal. Calories are one piece of a very complex and beautiful puzzle. Among the jigsaw pieces are macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat), micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and water. Beyond that – and this is the clincher – we also need to think about how our completely unique bodies react to these foods. Because we are all different. Diets don’t come with a ‘One Size Fits All’. And get your crystals out, because yes there is also a spiritual component to eating. Connecting with the moment, being grateful, enjoying your food guilt free – it all counts.
Calorie counting left me feeling caged and depressed. It made me stressed about everything I ate and as I explained over here, when you are stressed your digestive system gives up the ghost.
Food journaling is a whole new kettle of wild-caught fish. A Mindful Eating Diary is a tool for self-discovery. It empowers you to notice patterns, realise your behaviors and attitudes and uncover telling habits which could be undermining you (think, eating on the run).
What’s so good about it?
These babies are Enlightening (with a capital E). I have spoken about my love of journals as a discovery tool here before. While meals are generally pretty easy to remember when you are thinking about what you have been noshing on, the seemingly arbitrary snacking can be easily forgotten. When you write everything down it is driven home pretty quickly where you are slipping up.
I know that when I looked over mine I realised that I would often mindlessly snack on my daughters unfinished meals. You know I hate waste! Just this little epiphany gave me the consciousness to change the habit.
A Mindful Eating Diary can be like a really good murder mystery. At first you have no idea what is going on – nothing adds up. Then all of a sudden, after a few days and clues, you start to see a pattern within the pages.
For me? It was realising that I was cranky and stressed between 3 and 5 (when my daughter is a loony) and then hey presto, I developed major cravings for wine at 5pm! Since this I have realised I need to learn to either calm her down or burn her out. So in the afternoons now we go for a nice relaxing walk to the park. She burns the energy off and chills out on the way home. And like that, the wine cravings are gone. (almost).
Somehow when your goals and actions are all staring at you from a page something about their tangibility just urges you on. A mental visualisation of some new jeans is great but when it’s just floating around in your head it pales in comparison to a cheese platter that is floating around in front of your face!
The food diary is a great touchstone for reminding yourself of how much you have you have already consumed that day, and whether the cheese platter is going to get in the way of your goals or not. If not, have an extra slice of camembert for me!
Great tool if you want to see a professional
These things can come in handy. If you ever look for professional help from, say, a Holistic Lifestyle Coach (boo yah!), Naturopath or Doctor you can show them exactly what you have been having!
My gift to help get you started…
So, I am not going to tell you how awesome this thing is and then leave you high and dry. Below I have made you your own printable Mindful Eating Diary! Start with a week and print 7 copies off and keep it with you.
There are spaces for you to include what you have eaten throughout the day, your exercise, as well as rating your sleep, energy and water consumption. But my fave bit about it is there is room at the top and bottom to declare your intentions and set your affirmation for the day.
It’s a pretty awesome little tool if I do say so myself. Enjoy and please feel free to share it around!
(click the link to download it and print)
Some tips on journalling
- Try to be reasonably accurate with your guest-imations of portion sizes.
- A word of warning, I decided I would eat from one of my small bowls instead of my plate to reduce portions. A month later I measured it and the small bowl fit exactly the same amount of grub as the large plate. Crockery can be deceiving.
- Don’t lie to your journal. Be completely honest. The times that you eat foods you wish you hadn’t are where the breakthroughs happen!
- Take it everywhere. At the time you don’t think you will forget, but by the end of the day it can be hard to remember everything.
Life is exactly like the nutritional composition of ‘food’ – there is much more to it than calories.
Use this as a tool, don’t allow yourself to get too focused on it and relax.
It’s when you relax that the real changes happen.
Please feel free to share this link and this tool with as many people as you know. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Have you had any success with food journaling?