Why keep a food journal?

Do you journal?

Have you ever kept a food diary?

Everyone on my wellbeing coaching programme will be asked to complete a journal for a short period of time. It won’t be the first thing people do, but it won’t be the last. It very much depends on the individual, where they’re at, what we’re trying to achieve, their history around food and the emotions attached to it. Everyone can benefit from doing one, they’re particularly insightful, but there must be a true purpose and it’s not always suitable to thrust a diary in front of a new client and demand they keep it.

What we’re aiming to achieve is a toolkit at everyone’s disposal where they have plenty of tangible tools up their sleeve to use as and when they need for their journey. Keeping a food journal is just one of many tools. It’s not the only tool. It certainly isn’t going to be the holy grail for everyone.

One of the aims of Wellbeing Coaching for the clients who have needs in this area, is finding their food freedom. Writing a food diary therefore to some might seem counterintuitive – isn’t that yet again more rules and regulations? Yes potentially. Hence why not everyone is required straight away to do it. There’s no judgement surrounding it though, it’s not a test, it’s a tool to help, and at the right time can be incredibly powerful.

Part of the food freedom process is knowing that YOU are in control. The food journal is your tool. It’s something you can choose to do. You can choose to use it. YOU are NOT the journal. You own the tool. Not the other way around.

With the Wellbeing Coaching approach to food journaling, this isn’t weight loss, counting calories, or tracking macros; this isn’t about creating perfection, creating new rules, or following a plan. This is just one tool in the observation and awareness phase of the coaching process

Common stumbling blocks.

Many people are reluctant to write down what they have eaten during the day. A common problem is they’re simply too embarrassed to write down what they’ve eaten. Before they’ve started the process they think they’ll be judged, more to the point, they’re already judging themselves. They feel like a failure before they’ve started. Easier to ignore it and start again tomorrow right?

Make mistakes!

But we’re here to learn from ‘mistakes’. To learn from a mistake means we need to make the mistake in the first place and be aware of it. Lying in the food journal, to the coach, to yourself only exacerbates the problem. At this we are looking at keeping a food diary, as mentioned above whilst in the stage of OBSERVATION & AWARENESS. There’s no judgment, we’re not looking for perfect answers, we’re observing and we’re becoming aware of our behaviours. And that’s it. Clinically speaking, you’re collecting your own data, for yourself. It’s just data!  I often challenge clients to make that so-called mistake, remembering it’s just data! What’s the worse that could happen?  Write it down. What happened?  We learn by taking these risks, by asking ourselves questions, and actively seeking improvement.

Ok, I’ve made a mistake. What do I do now?

Ok so you in your eyes you made a mistake. Let’s take a look at all the things you do great today? What worked for you? Ask yourself some of these questions…what am I doing well?, What did go right today? Could I do more of it, what could I improve on? What could I learn from this?

Remember this is a process and nothing is overnight changes. It’s also ok for some people stay in the Observation & Awareness phase a little longer than others, and for some to keep coming back to this phase, before we can move on to giving ourselves permission, acting with kindness, and finding strategies to move forward.

Ok but I feel so frustrated.

Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll feel empowered? The removal of judgement and concentrating on the data you’ve collected is to enable you to take away the pain the guilt, the sadness and the frustration. Again, I can’t reiterate it enough, this is a process, one tool in a rather large toolkit to play with! We’re not looking for quick fixes and overnight successes. I’ve had tremendous success with clients using the food journal and other’s fight it. That’s not a problem! We work a little deeper that’s all!  If you can get comfortable with writing everything you’ve eaten down, you’re one step closer. Many won’t share with their partners what they’ve eaten, but they soon learn to trust me and start sharing their diaries, their pictures, and admitting to me, (but more importantly themselves) what the day on a plate looked life. And that’s liberating. It’s so much more empowering then saying ‘ok on Monday I’m only going to have a protein shake for breakfast everyday’ or ‘Next week I’m going vegan’. Both statements I’ve heard, they came out of the blue from clients before we’d even started the process. These arbitrary statements are made with the greatest of intentions, but sadly there’s no understanding of how to do it, why they’re doing it, how it’s going to feel. It was simply said to potentially ‘satisfy the coach’, they think that’s what I want to hear, that it makes them look like ‘good clients’, compliant and willing. But I don’t need that. They don’t need that. I need (and they need) them to be honest, open and ready to start the process…

DATA – is it really that important?

So, you’re still not convinced? Knowing the facts helps us all make better decisions. The food journal helps you collect that data about yourself and your eating habits. It tracks your consistency. It’s non- judgmental. Once we know what our habit is, we can dig a little deeper around it. Once established in journaling you can collect more data than simply a list of foods. What time, how did you feel, what was happening before, during after, how long did that meal last, did it satisfy you? For now, you’re not analysing it. You’re not changing anything. That will all come later!

In time we’ll add new ‘habits’ and you’ll be able to track for yourself your consistency! With consistency comes progress!

You’ll be able to see what is working for you, when things don’t work for you, and in time, why they were working for you!  When we gather data and evidence about ourselves, we become more aware of our behaviours and how our behaviours can take us steps closer to our goals.

How to food journal

The methods develop as we progress and are not for everyone. Once again remember, this is a short-term tool, not a life-long commitment.

However, you want the journal to be helpful, for YOU. In a nut shell…

– Start by simply recording your meals and drinks. EVERYTHING

– You’ll soon be able to record the time of day.

– In time (if necessary) you’ll be able to add more specifics, the quantities of the food for example.

– You’ll soon be able to write this down quickly and easily soon after eating. I encourage getting people to take the diary around with them.

– In time you’ll be able to add more details, what’s working, what’s not, you’ll be able to spot for yourself times of days things go awry. You’ll notice so many things for yourself. You’ll be able to celebrate the small wins. You’ll notice how you eat, where you eat.

Remember – there’s nothing good or bad, there’s no right or wrong, and we definitely are not looking for text book answers to please the coach.  

Fancy working through your food journey with a coach? Even better you get a FREE journal!  Then email today to start your coaching journey. Online applications are being accepted! katie@katiespong.com

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