I’ve been working with my nutritionist for awhile. First, we started with my mindset, being okay with who I am right here and right now. Not putting off goals and life just because I carry extra pounds, being happy and enjoying life and food because life is meant to be enjoyed. Once we felt like I was doing okay with that step, we moved on to mindful food tracking. This can bring up so many emotions for a person who’s been dieting or “trying to change her eating habits” for years. It can bring up memories of Weight Watchers journal and points, failed attempts at “watching” what I eat and about lying about certain foods on those journals because people will see them, people will judge me, people will punish me for enjoying chocolate. This was different. It was just for information to start seeing how my body reacts to hunger. How my body tells me it’s hungry. It was about learning and exploring and being curious.
Information vs Judgement
To track your food, mindfully, you need to be in the right frame of mind. This isn’t about judging yourself, beating yourself up for eating, or about calories. The type of tracking I do for hunger and fullness cues from my body. I believe that each of us is different. I believe that our bodies react differently to being hungry and being full. The problem with distorted eating (binge eating, binging-purging, or not eating) – it causes the body and the mind to stop talking and then you can’t really know what your body is trying to tell you.
Start with a goal and keep it simple. I started with wanting to figure out my hunger cues, then I moved on to the other side of that coin – fullness cues. If you’re trying to see how balanced your meals are or why you’re raiding the office fridge at 3 PM then you’ll have different goals and different things to track.
Once you have an idea of what you want to track, think about how you want to track. Online app, spreadsheet, or a simple notebook? I have used all three and while I’m using a shared google sheet with my nutritionist now I really like simple notebook the best.
I started with Time, Food, Hunger/Fullness on a scale of 1-10 (for me, 1 on hunger was going to eat my own arm off and 10 was not hungry at all and 1 on the fullness scale was I still need so much food and 10 was going to need a wheelbarrow to get me away from this table full), and then a space for journal or notes. I have just recently added a space for tracking my daily movement.
I keep it easy and simple without measurements. I’ll write for breakfast: 2 eggs, sausage veggie patty, coffee, half and half, sugar, and grape tomatoes. Then I’ll write I had a level 5 hunger and afterward, I was at a 7 for fullness. I ate breakfast at 8:12 AM and in the notes column I marked down that I finally remembered to put down the phone for the entire time I was eating. I also marked down that I went for a 10-minute walk this morning after I put my son on the school bus. Done.
- There are charts online with the hunger and fullness cues and I have one somewhere, but actually I had more fun when I wrote one for myself with funny sayings and things that might happen – like eating my own arm – it helps me connect better to the scale and to what I’m personally feeling, but I had to work up to that.
- If you are unsure about what you’re feeling then wait five minutes and check in again. I know they tell you to drink water if you think you’re hungry and it’s not time to eat, but I’m not sure I agree with that – that seems like old school diet talk. If you’re hungry, you are hungry. Hunger and the feelings associated with it are so hard – it took me months to finally figure it out and some days I still miss them. Fullness was a tiny bit easier, but not by much. I’ve been working on this with my nutritionist for a year and a half and I still don’t feel like an expert on my own body’s cues.
- Start small, if writing down what you’re eating is too triggering for you, then just write down time and hunger or fullness levels and a maybe a sentence about where you are or what you’re feeling – maybe even one word. 8:12 AM, hunger 8, stressed – done! At least you are bringing some attention to your body and your feelings before you sit down to eat.
- Because for me, this is what it’s really about. Bringing some attention to your body so you’re not a floating head. Please tell me I’m not the only one that doesn’t fully live in side her body and walks around totally disconnected most of the time? I mean, I’m getting better about this, but still – I run into walls, knock into tables, and think I’m smaller than I am because I’m not fully embodying my self.
- Slow down when eating. This was so hard for me and some days it’s still so hard for me, but if I can be present with my meal, say thank you for the farmers and the animals (since I’m not vegetarian or vegan) and the truck drivers and my husband for buying the food and my stove for working, then I’ve slowed down enough to not be rushing into my meal. I also try to put my fork or spoon down sometimes and check in with myself. Is the food tasty? Am I still hungry? What am I feeling? I put the utensil down and look out my window, think about my day or my son and something funny he said. I put an intention into my day of peace and joy and happiness. It works, because food should be eaten with JOY not with punishment…but more on that in another post.
So what do you think? Have you ever tried tracking your eating in this manner? Does it work for you or do you find yourself slipping back into old destructive habits? Hiding what you’re eating from the chart – which no one should see if you’re doing this for yourself – but I know that feeling, oh I shouldn’t write down the Peanut Butter Cups I just ate, because those are “bad” and I will be a “bad” person because I ate those. That’s bullshit and I’m here to tell you that, if you want to track that you enjoyed every last bite of those PB Cups, then write them down. If you ate them and barely remembered, write that down too so next time you buy them you’ll slow down and enjoy them. I’m not telling you not to eat them, because chocolate is a major food group for me and I need it a few times a week in some way or another. Enjoy life…and that includes food! Thoughts?