It’s no secret that diet culture has a way of hijacking behaviors, making us wary of everything we do regarding health and fitness. Take food tracking, for instance. The mere mention of it might raise eyebrows, thanks to its association with diet culture but here’s the thing—we have the power to redefine and reclaim these behaviors for the better. Diet culture doesn’t get to own things like food tracking!
In fact, food tracking, or what I prefer to call food journaling can be a game-changer in healing your relationship with food. It’s not about tracking your macros to figure out what you need to remove from your diet. It is about helping you build intuitive eating skills. It is also a powerful tool for the professional you are working with as it provides a clear snapshot of your eating habits. This helps them offer valuable insights to tailor your support and guidance effectively. All in all, when done properly, food journaling can be very helpful in identifying the root of your challenges and overcoming them. In this blog post, we are going to unpack the downfalls of traditional calorie counting as well as explore a new way of food journaling that is much more effective.
The Downfalls of Traditional Food Tracking
Obsessive Calorie Counting
Food tracking apps often encourage users to meticulously log every calorie consumed, which can lead to obsessive behavior and an unhealthy fixation on numbers. This hyper-focus on calorie counting can overshadow the intuitive cues of hunger and fullness, potentially leading to disordered eating patterns.
Despite their precision, food tracking apps are not foolproof and can sometimes provide inaccurate nutritional information. The same goes for nutrition labels. You may struggle to accurately estimate portion sizes or find it challenging to log homemade or restaurant meals accurately. These inaccuracies can skew perceptions of food intake and nutrient balance, leading to frustration and confusion.
Counting calories requires time and effort, from logging every meal and snack to inputting nutritional information manually. For busy individuals, this additional task can feel burdensome and unsustainable. Over time, the commitment associated with food tracking may lead to burnout and discouragement, making it challenging to maintain consistency.
A New Perspective: The Power of Food Journaling
Your new food journal should contain a few key tweaks. Ideally, it includes a place for documenting your hunger, fullness, and satisfaction level as it relates to the food just consumed. You can download the Revolution Health Food & Feelings journal HERE!
In addition, you want a place in your journal where you can document your FEELINGS around food. For example, do you often feel shame after consuming certain foods? Are there meals that make you feel more at peace? What food rules are consistently coming up? You want to reflect on these thoughts, not just simply the calories you ate. Starting to make sense why I prefer the term food “journal” right?
Next, we will discuss the specific ways a food journal can help you on your path to healing your relationship with food and your body.
How Food Journaling Can Transform Your Relationship with Food
Track Quantity of Food
One major benefit of food tracking is to bridge the gap between what you eat versus what you think you might have eaten. Many times we believe we are overeating but when we take a closer look at our journals, this isn’t the case. Sometimes we are undereating which is very important to address. You don’t have to write specific amounts and you certainly don’t have to count calories. Tracking specific food items and overall what you ate is enough for a big-picture view.
Assess Overall Patterns
Food journaling will show you recurring patterns in your eating habits which then helps to understand why you are struggling. Examples of these patterns might getting overly hungry and then overeating at night or specific food cravings when stressed. Once the patterns are identified you can then come up with a strategic plan to prevent them.
Identify Food Rules
I can’t tell you how many times I mention food rules to clients, and they tell me they have none. After food journaling for a few days, they always to come light. We begin to see how these rules dictate our food choices, when they often come up, and why. Once we uncover our food rules, we can then start challenging them head-on.
Track Your Hunger and Fullness Cues
The hunger scale is a wonderful and simple tool for learning about and understanding your unique hunger and fullness cues. Before eating, you want to work on pausing and allowing yourself to think about how hungry you are. Then after eating, you’ll want to notice your fullness and how much you enjoyed the meal. Adding this process to your food tracking helps you tune into your hunger and choose meals that satisfy you.
Final Thoughts in Embracing Food Journaling
Overall, I do believe food journals can be a powerful tool in understanding your relationship with food. While diet culture has given them a bad reputation, there is a way to reclaim this tool to be supportive and empowering. Food journaling is not a punishment; it is a path to freedom. Plus, it doesn’t have to be long-term. 5-7 days is plenty of time to notice patterns. So, grab your pens and start journaling your thoughts and feelings around food- NOT the calories.
If the idea of food journaling feels triggering, talk it through with your provider. They are there to help you weigh the pros and cons and guide you in determining if it should be part of your healing journey.