One of the greatest gifts my yoga practice has given me is insight. It has allowed me to open myself up to vulnerability, to love and be loved, and to take better care of myself by helping me understand what I need. I'm a firm believer that we cannot be of service to others unless we are first the fullest, greatest expressions of ourselves.
One way to get to know yourself better is by journaling. The writing process allows you to release thoughts and feelings that take up space, to make room for greater transformation and change.
To become a more intuitive eater you must learn about your relationship with food. Food journaling is a significant step in taking your healthy eating habits to the next level. Below are four ways that you can use food journaling to help you become a more intuitive eater.
1. Track feelings after eating.
I grew up in Wisconsin on a diet of meat, cheese and empty carbs (I love bagels!). However, by 2pm every day I was usually left feeling sluggish and bloated. It was only recently that I came to the conclusion that I am lactose intolerant, and this realization only took place because I started to pay attention to my body. I would be doiong ok until I had a big bowl of mac 'n' cheese for lunch, then suddenly it would feel like someone was blowing up a big ol' balloon inside of my belly.
Eat a meal, and then take a few moments to reflect on how you're feeling. Then write it down. You'll begin to notice patterns as you look back on your week and come to realize that maybe you immediately feel like taking a nap following every big glass of milk or heaping helping of lasagna.
2. Note the time of day you eat.
Ayurveda teaches that even the time of day can have an effect on what your body craves and how your body digests what you decide to consume. What do you crave when you first wake up in the morning? Your mind may be screaming, "Chocolate bear claw!" but your body is most likely craving something a little lighter. Try a steaming cup of yerba mate with some raw honey and lemon upon waking, and go from there.
Lunch is typically the heaviest meal of the day, as you've been immersed in activity all morning and still have the rest of the day to go. Grilled chicken and steamed veggies will give you the energy your body craves to make it through the rest of your day, while your usual PB&J sandwich and bag of chips may just load you up with sugar and carbs and have you crashing a couple of hours later. It's all about experimentation, so be open to trying new things, reflect on how you're feeling, and remember to write it down!
3. Eat with the weather.
Another key component of Ayurveda is, "Like heightens like." If it’s hot outside and you eat a steaming bowl of chili, you’re only going to grow more agitated as you flame that internal fire.
Maybe you're trying to be "good" by having a salad for lunch every day this week. However, if it's cold outside, your body may be trying to warm you from the inside out. Try some hot soup instead, reflect, and record how your body responds. It will nourish and warm you, and will be more easily digested at this time of the year than would a cold, wet bowl of greens.
4. Be aware of other life events.
If you already have a daily journaling ritual, you may begin to see some overlap in your food journaling. Other factors in your life have as much to do with what your body craves and digests as the time of the day and the weather. Are you on your moon cycle? You may be craving warmer, more comforting foods. Stressed? Tired? Take note of how you're feeling before consuming a meal, snack or even a beverage. Taking care of yourself means taking care of your soul and your mind as well as your body.
So go finish that project you've been procrastinating or go apologize to your sister, then decide if your body is still truly craving an entire box of thin mints. If it is, that's ok! Life is for enjoying, and those things are delicious! After being honest about WHY you want to eat an entire box of cookies, though, you will be in the right state of mind to limit yourself to a cookie or two, rather than eating all of the cookies.
You deserve to be your best-functioning self, and the world needs your full expression of passion and creativity. Nourish and take care of your body, and your body will take care of you!