You may not have heard of a mindful eating journal, but I know you’ve all heard of food journals. Most of you have probably kept one at least once. Myfitnesspal, LoseIt, Weight Watchers- there are tons of options out there. Food journals are the most common way to lose weight based on what I see with my clients when they first start nutrition counseling. I think people like the idea of having “data”. It feels like they’re accomplishing something if they can see what they’ve done. It’s the same concept with fitness trackers. I don’t disagree, it’s why I’ve tried them in the past. I like to see the numbers and feel like the numbers are getting me somewhere. But this can backfire. Mindful Eating Journals are different.
Mindful Eating Journal vs Traditional Food Journal
So what is a mindful eating journal? It’s a type of food journal, but without the measuring and counting. No tracking calories or macros. No whipping out the measuring cups every time you eat like you do with a traditional food journal. With a mindful eating journal, you’re tracking something different- your hunger. It sounds too obvious to be real right? For so long we have been focusing on forcing upon ourselves the amount of food that apps and diets tell us we need to eat, that we forget about our internal guide. Our hunger and our desire to eat are the BEST ways to determine how much to eat and when. I do agree it helps to have guidelines and meal plans, but keeping track of your hunger will allow you to learn your cues again, and this is so important.
How to Get Started
When you first begin your mindful eating journal, the goal is to simply notice and become aware of your patterns. Do you normally become starving by lunchtime? Do you normally eat lunch before you even become hungry? Or overstuff yourself at dinner? Noticing these patterns will help you adjust. Once you know these things about yourself, you can make changes to your day to help prevent it. For instance, if you notice you’re starving by lunch every single day, you can add a morning snack, or increase your food at breakfast. If you notice you’re overstuffing yourself at dinner, you can backtrack throughout your day and see if maybe there are foods you’re missing that are making you feel deprived.
Things to Consider
Hunger isn’t the only thing you can track in a mindful eating journal. You can also track your stress level, your energy level, your emotions before you eat, and your reason for eating. You can track how the food made you feel in the moment and how you felt after. I often have my clients also track their physical symptoms. Do you feel bloated after a meal or have digestive issues? That’s particularly helpful for someone experiencing IBS in order to find out what their triggers are.
Tracking all of these things will help you learn about your habits, your cues to eat and drink, and how what you’re eating affects you physically and mentally. Being aware of these things can help you make changes based on YOUR body and lifestyle, as opposed to following the next big diet trend, and doing this can help you break the diet cycle once and for all.
How to Keep a Mindful Eating Journal
The simplest and most inexpensive way is to take out your Notes app on your iphone, and create a new note. Title it “Mindful Eating Journal”. Then click the + and “take picture”. Take a picture of each meal and write a brief note under each picture, and just keep it running. You could also download an app to help you. To see which apps I like to use with my clients check out my Best Apps for Mindful Eating article.
Mindful eating can be a big change. You don’t have to do it alone! Find a Registered Dietitian in your area, or if you’re interested in working with me specifically, click below to learn more! As a reminder, I do accept insurance, and I have a few package options to choose from including my transformation program, general nutrition counseling, and my new meal planning service!
If you’re interested in more tips, recipes, and inspiration, click below to get my 5 Steps to Take Now to Stop Calorie Counting For Good!