As a registered holistic nutritionist and wellness coach, I see a wide variety of clients. However, most them want to lose weight. No matter what amount they want to lose, my advice remains the same: Exercise daily and be more aware of the food you’re consuming.
All you need is one simple tool: A food and mood journal. At the end of the day, it’s not about losing weight; it’s about tuning in to your body's emotional and physical needs so that you can lead a happier and healthier life. Here’s how to do it:
1. Write down everything you eat.
Tracking every morsel of food you eat may seem tedious, but it’s necessary. Be honest with yourself and write down anything that passes through your mouth — coffee, a handful of M&M’s from you co-worker’s desk or the few French fries you swiped off your kid’s plate. Hold yourself accountable and write it ALL down.
2. Reflect on how you feel after you’ve eaten — and write that down, too.
Sometimes we eat for emotional reasons, rather than to fuel our bodies. We may eat when we’re stressed, when we’re bored, when we’re sad or even when we are finally content at the end of the day.
I used to eat as a procrastination tool — I would gain 15 pounds during midterms and finals because I snacked to put off studying. It’s important to recognize these habits so you can begin to deal with them in a better way.
Write down how you feel before and after you eat. Also, log any cravings you have throughout the day.
3. After a few days, review your journal and look for patterns in your behavior.
By tracking what you’re eating and how you feel before and afterward, you will identify patterns in your habits and the moods that cause you to make poor food choices.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when reviewing your journal: Do you resort to food when you’re feeling heightened emotions? Do you rationalize reasons to eat when you’re not hungry? Are you snacking out of boredom?
These kinds of questions encourage a mindful look at what emotions are behind your eating habits. Here are a few others to consider: Perhaps you binge late at night because you’ve been eating too little all day? Or maybe you graze constantly to avoid thinking about certain things? Do you reward yourself with a treat every time something good happens, or do you punish yourself by withholding food when something goes wrong?
The most important part about the food and mood journal is that you track these patterns freely and without judgment. These pages are here to help you make the changes to your thought processes around food so you make new, healthy habits that stick. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to your journal.