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Starting a food and mood journal can be a critical initial step to eating more mindfully and trusting your body. It can help us understand how we respond to food and other lifestyle factors. We can then use our discoveries from the journalling process to optimise our habits and live happier lives.
We’re so thrilled you are reading this article on your journey to becoming a more intuitive eater, so without further ado – let’s get started!
A food and mood journal is a tool used to document what you have eaten measured against your general mood changes and feelings throughout the day. Tracking your food habits this way may help you notice general patterns of behaviour around food, why you may be craving particular foods or perhaps notice common themes in what increases the likelihood of eating particular foods over others. It can also be a significant starting step towards achieving more balance in your food choices.
You are welcome to adapt food and mood journalling any way you want in a way that works best for you. The key is to make the process an enjoyable and freeing one to let in curiosity and awareness around food, let go of restrictions or guilt, and simply seek to acknowledge and understand the body.
In short, no. Traditionally used food diaries, such as 24-hour recalls or food frequency questionnaires (FFQ), are used to calculate what foods and quantities we consume over a given period. Whilst they are a popular approach in the clinic, they have been shown to increase anxiety and stress around food and may lack validity. (1,2,3)
On the other hand, a food and mood journal aims to create compassion for your body by being honest and non-judgemental about your diet and lifestyle. It is simply a strategy we can use to connect with what we are eating and reflect on how foods make us feel.
Some of the following situations may not be the best in which to introduce a food and mood journal:
If you show severe signs of disordered eating, a food and mood journal may not be advised for you as it can potentially complexify your relationship with food.
Journalling can be time-consuming, and it can lead to us scrupulously checking calories and nutritional information, thus affecting what and how much we eat. This may drive someone further into their eating disorder and could even be more triggering than helpful.
Whilst some people in the stage of recovery find them a valuable tool to improve their awareness of their body, this may not be the case for everyone, so it is essential to approach this step from a place of consciousness and care.
In this case, it is best to consult a healthcare professional who will be able to assess and advise what is best for you in your journey.
If it is not deemed suitable for you, remember there are still plenty of other excellent tools you can use to heighten bodily awareness, and food journaling may even be one you come back to in the future.
This is entirely up to you and whether you find it to be helpful. Journalling can be quite a task in itself, so it’s important to make it manageable and sustainable.
Start small – we recommend trying this activity consistently for a week or so and see if you notice any changes or patterns. You can always add or take away what you choose to record and streamline this with your goals and outcomes. No day is the same, and understandably, you may not always want to record every meal due to time restraints, mood changes or lifestyle. For example, journalling your meal may be the last thing on your mind when you are out for dinner with friends at the end of a long week, and that’s okay! In fact, we urge you to savour the moment!
This is the fun part! You can absolutely tailor your food and mood journal to yourself and what you would like to explore within yourself. You could opt for a more written style or a table layout and keep it as detailed or as minimal as possible. You could handwrite it in your favourite notebook, use a tablet or computer, or even voice record your answers. Some ideas for the headings or columns you could include are:
Whilst the above are more food-specific, some further journal questions you could also ask yourself at the end of the day or week for an overview could include:
Priya Chotai, BSc ANutr
EHL Team x
Embody Health London champions food freedom, positive body image, mental health and emotional wellbeing through a uniquely blended scientific and holistic approach. The EHL team specialises in treating chronic dieting and eating disorders by coaching clients to build confidence and reduce anxiety around their eating habits and food choices.
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