Why starting with a Food Diary is a MUST…Its NOT What You Think!
The food diary is perhaps the most important tool in recovering from problematic eating. It is used not to count calories but to get conscious! This tool breaks the “highway hypnosis” of a food trance. The trance you go into just before a binge. It will help you understand how you use food in your life. Problematic eaters use food to disconnect; therefore, it is essential to implement strategies such as this one to connect with the present moment and, in turn, with yourself. To change your eating habits, you must shift the thinking that surrounds food and your life. The food diary is the first tool in this process. It records exactly what you are eating from moment to moment as well as where you eat, how you eat, when you eat, and what your feelings are during the eating session. The focus isn’t on the actual foods as much as on your feelings while eating and the amount you need to eat in relation to those feelings.
Although it may feel difficult and even “punishing” to write down and record your food and feelings during each eating episode, this step is essential when looking at what is “under” your eating and identifying the root causes of your problematic eating. Be gentle in this process, but also be as honest and as clear as you can.
Use the example provided and record everything you eat (not just things you feel happy about eating). If things feel “off” with food, continue to stay with the process. Write in your food diary as soon as you have eaten and be as clear as possible.
Writing down your comments about what was going on when you were eating is the most important thing here!
Rather than focusing on calorie counting or dieting, you should focus on eliminating dieting and normalizing your eating so your daily eating routine begins to look like a more regular pattern of three meals and two snacks per day. If you have used a “food log” to some capacity in the past, please let that go, as this process is used to “get present” rather than to “figure out” the food. “Getting present” is about being conscious from one minute to the next, throughout the day, so you are able to make decisions with food that you are happy with.
- Record the time you eat.
- Record what you eat and drink—and roughly how much. This task isn’t about adding up calories. Just write down the amount you are eating as accurately as possible. This detail is helpful in determining whether you are eating enough food at each sitting. It is also important to list all substances you ingest (alcohol, drugs, vitamins, health products, etc.) to understand whether they affect how much you eat.
- Discern whether you have overeaten. Recording whether you feel you have overeaten is important in the pursuit of giving your body the adequate amount of food in the long term.
- Consider how you are feeling and what your thoughts are when you are eating. How did you feel before eating? Were you anxious, depressed, or angry? Also, do you feel full, starved, or somewhere in between?
- What “triggers” might be present (interpersonal, emotional, and environmental)? For example, “I ate a box of cookies. I felt anxious, upset, and angry. (Trigger: “I had an argument with my husband.”)
Following is an example for the layout of your food diary in a notebook. Begin now.
- What was consumed?
- Did I overeat? Did I undereat?
- Feelings and thoughts:
Important Information on Food Diary Journaling:
This is NOT a diet record! I have said it, but I want to make this clear. You are not to approach this task as though you are marking when you were “good” or “bad” with food. This old way of thinking may surface as you undertake this task. Your challenge will be to face this with an entirely new perception.
This is about conducting a behavioral experiment with yourself.
It is about looking into situations and eating episodes as an investigator- noticing when you had an easy or difficult eating episode. It is imperative you keep your judgements to the side and be VERY gentle with this. Do it for at least 10 days.
The food diary is probably the most difficult of all the exercises- but it is incredibly important to do for at least 10 days. If you bring in judgement it will be hard to complete. Be compassionate. Just notice and let it go, moving on to the next meal and being very loving with yourself. It is not about “obeying” the rules here. If you eat something you shouldn’t, then notice how you beat yourself up. Write down the negative thoughts you immediately think to yourself, rather than writing down whether you ate well or not. This is the goal- to look at your thinking- NOT the food.
After monitoring your eating for a few days, you can look at the diary and begin to identify patterns in your eating. Record anything that you notice:
- Are there times, places, or people that trigger binges, restrictions, or other problematic eating?
- Do any specific situations trigger binges or restrictions?
- What types of food do you eat during binges? Do these foods vary?
- Are some foods triggers?
- Are there any foods that help avoid overeating or restriction?
- Are there long periods of time when you eat nothing at all?
- Are your eating times more than four hours apart in a single day?
- Are days or hours of strict dieting often followed by days or hours of bingeing?
Creating a regular pattern of eating is the goal here. Therefore, the diet mentality is one that the food diary will uncover, and restrictions of any kind will begin to become apparent.
It is important that feelings and emotions are recorded here. Noticed thoughts can also be recorded for observation.
An Extra Intention
Also begin to pay attention to how much more present you are with people throughout this process. Do you find that you are able to hold conversations easier when you have peaceful days? Can you listen with less anxiety? What are you experiencing? When we find ourselves disassociating with people, we come to see that we are replicating this behavior in our relationship with food.
* This is taken directly from "Food Freedom", our 12 Week Program to Heal Problematic Eating. our next start date is in April. If this speaks to you, and you are tired of being tired, and are ready to heal, contact me immediately to get yourself on the list for our next course starting soon!
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