I’ve got the Do-Re-Mi song stuck in my head. I’d been asking myself where to start in upping my own eating habits, when I heard Julie Andrews’ voice:
“Let’s start at the very beginning/ It’s a very good place to start…”
The first thing my clients are required to do is keep a food diary for a few days. (Before you run and hide, grant me a moment to explain.)
You might think I’m doing this to derive all sorts of details about what you eat. Things like how many calories you consume in a day, how many grams of the right nutrients, how many servings of kale. If you’ve hung out here long enough, you know that’s not how I roll.
You might think I’m doing this to judge you on how “good” or “bad” your diet is. To peer into your life and see that you ate bag of cookies instead of supper one night. (I’ve had clients admit that they clean up their act when filling it out because someone’s going to be looking at it.)
Here’s my secret: I don’t look too closely at your food diary.
What?!? All that tracking and noting for nothing? Absolutely not. And don’t get me wrong, I do look closely in order to show you where to start.
You don’t fill out the food diary for me, you fill it out for you.
The purpose of the food diary is to bring AWARENESS to your habits. It gives a concrete idea of what you’re doing so you’ll have a reference point from which you can modify and to gauge your success.
The food diary shows you where to start.
To get anywhere, you need to know where you’re headed, but you also need to know your starting point. Want to drive to Toronto? Are you leaving from Montreal or Chicago?
Want to lose 20lbs? How much do you weigh now?
Sleep better? What’s it like this week?
Run a marathon? How far can you go today?
Create better eating habits or calm symptoms? What are you putting into your body already?
You now have a realistic picture of where you are and I have a reference point for where to start your guidelines and program.
A food diary goes deeper than what you eat.
Along with the food, you also keep track of when you eat and how you eat it.
Things like hunger before or bloating after. Things like your mood around mealtimes and through the day. Your energy, your sense of joy, your ability to focus. Did any symptoms flare up…or calm down?
What else did you do during the day? How do these eating habits differ from when you were a kid or a student or a budding professional?
You see, it’s through the food diary that your story starts to emerge. Even in the way you fill it out (or not), you leave clues to
- your relationship to food
- your relationship to eating
- your relationship to your body and its care
Keeping a food diary unlocks one of the doors through which you can listen to your body.
Whenever I track my eating habits, I notice that I hardly in a day. (Excuse me while I take a sip of water.)
I had one client notice how little she eats. By that knowledge alone, we solved the mystery of her mood swings and opened the inquiry on all the ways she’s not nourishing herself.
Another client realized how well she eats. She quickly understood that we had to then explore her “underlying struggles with food (and life)” for the source of her extra pounds.
Another saw how her digestive pain stemmed from the stresses of a toxic relationship as much as (if not more than) from the gluten.
All different. All more complex than following any diet rules or shoulds. If you want to improve any part of your life, you’ve got to know who you are, how you work and what works for you.
Only then can you know where to start moving forward.
So go on, I dare you: keep track of your eating habits for most of a week and see what you discover about yourself. I even made you this handy PDF to print out and get you going.
Do you think you eat well? Think there’s room for improvement? Let us know in the comments…then come back after a week of observation and tell us if you still feel the same way. When you share your piece, you open the possibilities for others.
Give your friends the gift of this first step by using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.