Many people use journaling as a form of expressing and reflecting on their feelings. It can be used to explore ideas or clear your head of mindless clutter. Journaling can also be a written record of your life. But can journaling help you make progress with intuitive eating? Yes….and no.
Let’s start with an unhealthy version of journaling. I initially started journaling as an extension of my experience with Weight Watchers. If you are familiar with Weight Watchers, they have you count points rather than calories. It’s really the same thing; you’re tracking your food for the purposes of weight loss. So, I started a journal in the form of a food journal. I initially used the Weight Watchers online system, but stopped after a few months because I could easily keep track of the same information with a pen and a notebook and save the monthly fee.1 I became a bit obsessed with my food journal. I would write down what I ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for my snacks, which means I either had to know or figure out how many “points” each item consisted of. I would then write down my total “points” for the day and what I did for exercise. This was always something I had to do before I went to bed everyday to make sure I was on track. Then every Monday I would write down my weight to keep track of that. Data, data, data! When you think of journaling, you may think of something more therapeutic and cathartic. This was neither. This was something that took up an immense amount of my time and was more on the obsessive than not. This type of journaling is not part of IE; it is the opposite of IE.
Here’s how journaling can help you with IE.
- You can use journaling as a way to keep track of your feelings. People often use food to cope their feelings, so don’t feel bad if you are one of these people. I was one of these people. Hell, I still am to a certain degree! When I had decided that my dieting had gone too far, I gathered a team of professionals around me to help me repair my relationship with food and my body. I started seeing a dietitian and she asked me to take a baby step in my recovery, and it was decided that I would not keep a food journal. Well, I have a bit of a rebellious side,2 and I decided to modify that request. I still wrote in my journal, but instead of writing down food and calories, I wrote down my successes and challenges for the day. Many of my entries were related to my feelings about food and my progress. The second most proud day I had was when I decided that I no longer needed the support of the journal. It had become more of a chore than anything else. I was most proud of myself when I decided it was time to recycle all of my journals! Now that was liberating!
- You can also use journaling to help you get more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues. Many people, including myself, get so out of touch with what gentle hunger and gentle fullness feels like, that it takes conscious effort to relearn those cues. Before you eat, try writing down where you are on the hunger scale.3 Your goal will be to have some hunger rather than be famished because you’ll likely overeat if you are too hungry to begin with. If you notice that you don’t have hunger and still eat, then maybe you are eating for a reason other than physical hunger. That will take more exploring on your part. Once you have the hunger thing down, move on to focusing on your fullness.4 Again, if you are eating past comfortably full, then there is a reason for it. Don’t fret though! Naturally intuitive eaters sometimes eat when they’re not hungry and eat past fullness. Because IE is about flexibility, you don’t have to feel guilt about your eating.
- Journaling can also be helpful in learning about which foods keep you satisfied and for how long. I notice that food that contains fat and protein tends to hold me longer than a piece of fruit. This information is doubly helpful because I now know what I need to eat if I’m in meetings for the next 4 hours (e.g., Greek yogurt with nuts) and what I need to eat if I just need something to tide me over to dinner (e.g., an apple).
- Use any combination of the above or come up with your own use of a journal that helps you reflect and become a more intuitive eater. Do what works for you!
So, can you use journaling to help you be an intuitive eater? The answer is “yes” if you use it in a healthy way. If you have obsessive tendencies and feel you will channel that obsession into journaling, then journaling may not be the best method of reflecting on your experience. Journaling should be something that helps you reflect in a positive way so you can learn from your experience and move forward.
In what ways to do you use journaling? Do you find it helpful? Please share your thoughts and experiences about journaling in the comment section below.
2Sorry, Barbara! I know I was a bit of a pain.
3The IE version is on page 70 of the book in case you’re wondering.
4The IE fullness scale on page 126 is exactly the same as the hunger scale. The only difference is you are examining your physical sensations with a different purpose.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
You’ve made it this far. Now subscribe for regular updates. It’s easy! And you get a FREE Intuitive Eating quiz when you sign up!