Can journaling be a helpful tool while learning how to eat intuitively? How can you do it without tracking food and becoming obsessed? This blog post will walk you through how to use an intuitive eating food journal (food and mood journal) the right way!
What Is An Intuitive Eating Food Journal?
An intuitive eating food journal is more of like a diary VS logging the foods you eat. It’s a way for you to make observations about the connections between the foods you eat and how you feel both physically and mentally.
Starting an intuitive eating food journal, what I call a “food and mood journal”, may be a good idea for some as they start their intuitive eating journey. It can allow you to become attuned with you hunger and fullness, emotional eating, as well as develop a style of eating that fosters that mental & physical health without following diets or food rules.
How Does This Differ From A Regular Food Journal?
In a typical food journal you track what you eat including what the food was, the portion size, and even calories or macros. Typically this is done to gain control over eating habits, likely tied with some form of restriction such as only eating XYZ calories, not eating certain food groups, etc.
We know from several studies that the more you restrict a food the more you’re going to want it. Take this study about sugar for example: It was found that rats who had unlimited access to sugar and both their regular more nourishing “chow” as they called it, had a more “moderate” intake of the sugar, without binge episodes. However, those with sugar restriction and only intermittent access had more of the binge type episodes with sugar.
Additionally, this was observed in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Basically, these men were put on diets and many developed severe obsessions with food, cookbooks and recipes in general. One man ended up collecting over 100 cookbooks by the end of the experiment because he was actually obsessed with food!
Moral of the story: when food is restricted (overall amounts or specific types of foods) we want it MORE.
In the food & mood journal (intuitive eating food journal) you’re not tracking specifics about what you eat and there is no agenda for it. You’re eating foods that you want, when you want. This type of journaling allows you to simply become more attuned to your body’s cues b y observing them.
Should You Use A Food & Mood Journal?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of HOW to use a food and mood journal, let’s first decide if you SHOULD use one. I do believe that everyone can benefit from journaling, which I talk about in my post on why you need a happiness journal and also my post that includes 40+ journal prompts for mind and body- be sure to check those out! However, there may be times that you SHOULDN’T use a food and mood journal.
I’d recommend being cautious of starting a food and mood journal if you have a history with becoming obsessed with tracking, logging food, etc. You want to be sure that you’re not turning this into a form of diet and truly and just observing.
Additionally, those who are very early in their journey, who may have a lot of food rules, or have experienced loss of hunger cues due to heavy dieting or restriction may want to wait until further in their journey.
Using an intuitive eating journal is a great idea when you’re starting to implement gentle nutrition and for understanding emotional eating.
How To Use A Food & Mood Journal
Now, there are a ton of ways to use a food and mood journal, this is simply how I teach the members inside of The SociEATy to use it. Begin to experiment with different aspects of it and do what works best for YOU!
What To Write About In Your Intuitive Eating Food Journal
Here are a few things I recommend checking in with during your journal entry:
Level of hunger/fullness
I suggest taking a peek at where you’re at on the hunger scale before/after you eat. This can help you track patterns, such as always starting a meal super hungry, which could tell you maybe you need to add a snack before or bulk up your meals earlier in the day. It may also tell you that you’re leaving each meal feeling stuff, and you might decide to then begin using a mindful eating exercise.
What emotions you’re feeling
The way we feel impacts our eating habits. For instance, noticing that you’re feeling stressed/anxious/lonely/etc. Can help you identify when you may be using food as a way to cope with those emotions. Identifying them can help you to become more aware of them and explore other ways to cope with them. I have a great blog post on what to do when you’re not hungry but want to eat that can really help with emotional eating!
How you feel about the foods you’re eating
Noticing if you’re feeling guilty about certain foods or stressed about eating them can help you become more aware of your food rules. You can’t break food rules if you don’t know what your food rules are!
Once you identify a food rule I suggest working to “normalize” that food by actually eating it MORE. Plan it into your day. Feel guilty eating cookies? Add some crushed up ones on top of a smoothie, take come for lunch dessert, etc!
I also suggest working to re-wire your brain away from old diet culture thoughts by using mantras and affirmations. I have a list of my top 20 intuitive eating affirmations ready for you here!
The way foods make you feel physically
Did you notice that your tummy seemed upset? Or maybe there was a meal that you seem to always get hungry again soon after? Take a peek at the types of foods you’re eating and then make try to make a tweak to experiment with.
For example, if you tend to get a stomach ache in the afternoon and typically have a protein bar for a snack after lunch, maybe try having a new snack and observing if there is an improvement in your symptoms.
Another example would be if you are working to implement gentle nutrition and notice from observing that you’re eating mainly processed foods and not many fruits or veggies. You could try one small tweak (don’t do a ton of things at once!) like adding a serving of veggies for a snack or with a meal, and see if you FEEL a difference.
This can also be really helpful for learning how to eat intuitively with dietary restrictions, like food allergies or medical conditions!
How Often To Use Your Intuitive Eating Food Journal
I recommend using your journal in whatever way feels good to you. For some that means daily reflection, for some it may be every few days and others weekly. Here are a few ways to use your food & mood journal:
- Daily Journaling: I recommend just doing a 1x a day journal entry. No need to write in it all day long. Simply use it as a time to reflect. This can be very helpful when noticing hunger patterns, such as when you may be getting to the extreme ends of the hunger scale (i.e. hangry or super stuffed) throughout the day.
- Every few days: Reflecting every few days may be helpful if you're making tweaks with gentle nutrition and are observing their effects. Sometimes things take longer than 1 day for you to feel.
- Weekly entries: Using your food and mood journal weekly can serve as a way to just ensure you're eating in a way that makes you feel good. This may be a good idea if you've been on this journey for a while and feel like you've "got it" or are "getting it". Something I suggest to girlfriends in The SociEATy is to take your weekly "temperature" meaning on a scale of 1-10 how did you feel about your mental, emotional, and physical health this week. Using your food and mood journal weekly may help with this reflection! Then, pick one tweak you can make for the following week to improve that number!
Like I said, there are SO many things that you could journal about, but these are a few of the ones that I teach inside of The SociEATy!
Also, don’t forget about hydration! Using a food and mood journal can be hugely helpful if you’re struggling with water intake. Thirst cues are like hunger cues, we need to “wake them up”. Notice how you FEEL when you start carrying a water bottle with you for easy sipping. Do you feel better? Do you start to notice thirst cues? I talk about this more in my YouTube video on how much water we actually need a day.
A Final Word On Food Journaling
While I do believe that journaling is SUCH a powerful tool, it’s important to know if you’re using it as a dieting crutch and turning it into a typical food journal- not using it to work towards true intuitive eating and food freedom. Be honest with yourself! If it becomes obsessive or stressful, take a break from it and simply do general journaling to work through your feelings and emotions.
Have you tried using a food and mood journal like this? Has journaling helped you in your intuitive eating journal? Let me know in the comments!
I hope this post was helpful in showing you how to use an intuitive eating journal. Be sure to pin this blog post to your Pinterest board so that you can come back to it when you start your journaling!
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