In the past I’ve written about how you should not track things like macros or calories if you are working on intuitive eating. I absolutely stand by that assertation, however there are some things that could be useful to track with intuitive eating. An intuitive eating food journal can be as simple as keeping track of whether you ate when you were hungry or not hungry. It could also be more complicated, tracking not only levels of hunger but also satiety, foods consumed (foods only–no calories or macros), feelings leading to overeating, physical sensations related to the foods eaten, etc.
Those of us who are recovering from any type of eating disorder could easily fall into continuing the unhealthy patterns by taking tracking too seriously and counting calories. However, tracking just the foods you ate and whether you were physically hungry or not when you ate them can actually be beneficial. This type of tracking can help you ensure that you are eating only when hungry, provide you a resource to look back on to identify trouble areas and help you work through your feelings when you are struggling to eat or avoid overeating.
Some tips to help you keep an intuitive eating food journal:
1. Track your level of hunger for each meal and snack. Use a simple scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being famished, 3 being moderately hungry and 5 being full. Aim to eat when you feel like a 3 as much as possible.
2. Track the satiety that each meal provided. Use as smiley face to indicate that you felt satisfied with the meal and a frowning face to indicate that you did not feel satisfied by what you ate.
3. Write down each food as soon as possible after eating without assigning a caloric or macro value to the food. This will help ensure that you are not eating mindlessly and forgetting about it. If you are attempting to make a healthy change in your diet, it will also help you visualize how healthy your diet is overall.
4. If you are having feelings, including boredom, that are influencing your decision to eat (or not), write them down. Are you snacking on potato chips while you watch TV or reaching for chocolate every time you get stressed out at work? Writing down the feelings and taking 10 minutes to reflect on it before deciding whether to have that snack can not only help you cope with your feelings in a healthy way, but it can provide you some much needed time to let the cravings and feelings pass without acting on them. This can also help you identify and work on any troubling patterns with emotional eating.
5. Write down any physical sensations related to the food you ate. This can help reinforce your resolve to avoid troubling situations in the future. For example, in a moment of emotional distress it can be difficult to remember that every time you binge eat your stomach hurts and you regret it after the fact. Writing it down every time can help reinforce the idea in your mind. If you are trying to make healthy changes in your diet, this can also help you identify food sensitivities and reinforce healthy choices. For example, tracking every sugar crash can help you to cut back on sugar.
I have looked for a good food journal app and unfortunately, most of them include calorie or macro counting. I suggest using a small paper intuitive eating food journal that can easily be taken anywhere in your purse. This way, you won’t be tempted by a tracking app to count calories, you won’t be dependent on an internet connection, and I find that the physical act of actually writing it out helps make the journal feel more real. You can use colored pens, writing unhealthy foods or strong emotions in red to call your attention to them later on when you review, and to make the entries feel more real and urgent in the moment.
Do you have any other tips for keeping an intuitive eating food journal? Leave me a comment!
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