Before anyone freaks and thinks I’m backsliding (of which I do plenty but today is not that day), this is an entirely different kind of food journal. A few weeks ago when I panicked about gaining 15 pounds in 2 months, one of the things I realized was how mindless my eating has become. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of reading up about the study of “mindfulness.” Apparently it has huge applications for depression, anxiety, and eating issues – all of which you know I struggle with. It sounds hokey when you first read about it – exercises include thinking about thinking (whoa, like meta, dude!) – but hundreds of research studies support it and when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Especially when it comes to food. We live in a society that encourages us to completely lose contact with our food while we’re eating it. It’s not uncommon for people to not even realize they’ve ingested something until they see the pile of wrappers in front of them, despite having obviously chewed and swallowed it all.
But tuning in to my food and to my eating is hard. Really hard. I’ve found myself being really resistant to it – defiantly reading a magazine or working on the computer so I don’t have to pay attention to my food. And then I have a day like today where every time I ate, I ate way past fullness. I ended every meal feeling bloated and uncomfortable and sad. Yet I still couldn’t make myself focus. So I am bringing out the big (mindful) guns: a food journal. Except this time instead of writing down all my food, I’m writing about how I feel about my food. At the end of each day I jot down how I feel overall, how I felt before, during and after eating, any physiological issues (illness, period, extra hard workout etc), any cravings, and any upsetting thoughts – all without judgement.
This isn’t an exercise in self-recrimination. Honestly I’m not exactly sure what this exercise is, exactly. I’m hoping that it will help me see some patterns. I’m guessing that a lot of this has to do with my girly hormone cycle – it’s gotten a lot more intense since getting the Mirena IUD out (which I’m going to say for now is a good thing as I think it means my actual hormones are kicking in now) – but one of the joys of hormones is that they never feel like “just hormones.” It feels really real in the moment. I’m also guessing I’ll find some more connections between my emotions and how I eat that particular day.
In the past when someone has asked me if I am an “emotional eater” my response has always been “Duh, yes! Isn’t everyone?!” I know there are some people out there who see food purely as fuel and nothing more but for the majority of us, food is intimately connected with our emotions. This isn’t a bad thing (survival 101?) but understanding the interaction would be very helpful. So that’s why I’m doing this. And, one of the great things about keeping a mindful journal is that I still get to write other stuff not just about food. (Because that’s what I need in my life is… more writing?) ANYHOW. I think this is going to be quite illuminating.
What’s your opinion on food journals? Incidentally, I’m not saying they’re bad for everyone – I know lots of people for whom they’ve been wonderful tools – just that they were bad for me. Do you keep any kind of journal? Have you ever practiced mindfulness in any aspect? Are you an emotional eater? Got any tips for me?? I’d love any advice you can give me!
*Not that I blame my teacher for my eating disorder. She wasn’t particularly kind or sensitive but, as they say, genetics loads the gun and my genetics were a fully automatic AK-57. All she did was put my finger on the trigger. [Update: Apparently the gun is an AK-47? I think I was confusing it with Heinz 57 sauce. Guns + steak sauce = Texas’ new state motto? Thanks to the two of you who loved me enough to e-mail me and correct me. No thanks to the rest of you who just snickered. Or craved steak.)