Tracking what you eat is not a new phenomenon. Dietitians around the world have been following this method for the last few decades. While food journaling was mainly used to track calories, there are many other pros to the process. The art of food journaling is very simple and if done regularly, can create wonders. However, it is essential that you know more about mindful eating before starting this process.
What exactly is Mindful Eating and how does it coincide with Food Journaling?
Mindful eating, simply put, is being aware of what you eat by listening to your body and mind. Rather than letting your environment dictate what to eat and how much to eat, you listen to your body and its needs. This might mean eating dal, chawal, sabzi or eating a cupcake, because your body wants it. Mindful eating is being encouraged over fad diets these days, given that there are several studies that show its benefits, with respect to everything from combating disordered eating to weight loss.
Mindful eating is really important when it comes to starting your journaling journey. Remember, the aim is not to eat less. Journaling is done, not to make you guilty about your food choices, but to track and be aware of what you eat. Here are a few tips to start off your food journal:
A. Customize your Journal
On each page of the journal, draw a table with two separate columns for the time and food consumed on that particular day. Customize it according to your goals, by adding more columns like amount, calories etc. Remember, this is your journal and there is no rulebook. You can tailor it to your needs, wants and goals.
B. Settle on the type of journal you are going to use
Depending on your convenience, you can either choose a written or an E-journal. Written ones seem much more personal, but e-journals work too. However, once you start with one, do not switch between both. Tracking becomes much harder if you do that.
C. Don’t stick to adding details only about your food intake
Add in information about your water consumption, sleep cycle etc. Along with food, these factors too are essential for the healthy functioning of your body. You can use the food journal to set daily goals for drinking a fixed amount of water or a fixed portion of nuts and dry fruits.
D. Make your journal attractive!
You should be motivated to write in the book and should continue to do so for long. Make sure you illustrate plenty and make the book attractive and colourful. Putting efforts into the journal can motivate you to use it more.
E. Make daily mini achievable goals
Do make a small achievable goal for each day and jot it down on your food journal. One example could be to challenge yourself to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Short term goals can help you achieve your final, long term goal.
F. Be diligent and stay true to yourself.
Don’t skip writing details in the journal because you are ashamed of what you eat. Remember, there is no shame in eating food. Don’t let that discourage you from writing every day. Remember, consistency is key.
PROS OF FOOD JOURNALING
1. Helps you track calories
Tracking calories can be done for several purposes. This could be for weight loss or even weight gain, where many people struggle to consume calories and hence, resort to journaling in order to see where they are lacking. Jotting down the food consumed and its amounts makes calorie tracking much easier.
2. Track your allergies and intolerances
Food allergies are life threatening and can harm a person if not diagnosed correctly. Journaling can help you figure out what exactly is giving you the particular reaction. This is the same with intolerances. Several foods can cause bloating, heart burn, diarrhea and other symptoms. Tracking your meal cycle is the best way to figure out what is causing this reaction.
3. Helps you keep up the meal timings
The time at which you eat your food is crucial, since it can influence the quantity of food you eat at your next meal. Eating food every 3 hours helps in maintaining your blood sugar levels and prevents you from overeating. Tracking your meal timings helps in setting it right, since timings form the crux of many health problems and can even stop you from achieving your health goal.
CONS OF FOOD JOURNALING
1. Can trigger disordered eating
Some individuals with a prior history of disordered eating can have a relapse if the journaling is done improperly. Since food journaling requires one to note down everything that is eaten in a day, there is a chance that this can be triggering for some. Consult with your physician or dietitian before you start journaling.
2. It can be tedious at times
If you are striving to achieve a long term goal, results may come very slowly. This can make the whole process of journaling seem very tedious. Writing in your journal everyday can then feel very tiring and you might feel like you are reaching nowhere. Remind yourself of your final goal and proceed!
From the pros and cons given above, it is obvious that the relationship between mindful eating and food journaling is very high. Finding a balance between both is essential before starting to journal; however, there have been many instances where people have achieved mindful eating through food journaling. Looking beyond the calories and carb counting, food journaling not only makes you introspect about your own health, it also gives you a much needed sense of responsibility towards your own body.