Three weeks ago, when I decided that writing about the process of following an intuitive eating plan and trying to reduce my emotional eating would be an incentive to actually carry out the process, I had a lot of misconceptions. I would have said that I ate when I was stressed, although part of me knew that other emotions also demanded snacks. Journaling and mindfulness has given me some insight into situations I didn’t expect.
The Caffeine Connection to Binge Eating
For the past few days, I’ve been writing about my realization that I am over-caffeinated and burnt out beyond crispiness. My caffeine consumption has risen by leaps and bounds as my to-do list has gotten out of control. The caffeine kick in early afternoon gets me through mid and late afternoon. The problem is, when I crash, I tend to seek out snacks to get me through the afternoon.
When I look back to some of my realizations, I had a point where I was frustrated because I couldn’t tell the difference between some of my emotions. Was I eating because I was hungry? Tired? Bored? Stressed?
I know realize that a lot of my confusion works in with the caffeine-ism. When I couldn’t tell if my eating binge was connected to anxiety or exhaustion, the answer was “caffeine.” The caffeine left me feeling anxious and as it burnt through my system, I felt exhausted. So, if I couldn’t discern the difference in emotions it wasn’t just based in a psychological issue, it was grounded (coffee pun intended) in a physical situation.
Through the process of intuitive eating I am trying to become more aware of my body’s signals of hunger and satiety. If I start my morning drinking coffee on an empty stomach and then going for a three or four mile walk, I am depleting my body’s resources before my day really gets started.
While through my journaling I was looking for issues of hidden anger or low self-esteem that made me eat, I was ignoring some basic body awareness. So, try this – keep a food journal. I know, you’ve tried keeping a food journal before and it was a hassle writing down that you ate three French fries off your kid’s plate so you stopped keeping the journal. Of course, the purpose of a food journal is to make you more aware of what you are eating.
Conscious Eating and Keeping a Food Journal
In The Seven Secrets of Slim People by Vikki Hansen and Shawn Goodman (HaperCollins, 1999), they recommend that you keep a food journal that records the time you ate, what you ate (quantities are optional), how your body felt, and what your mind said. By recording what your body felt you become more aware of how your body reacts to different food. Does your heart race after eating a donut? Do certain foods make you feel bloated? Check in twenty or thirty minutes after eating to judge how the food you at made your body feel.
Then, record what your mind said about what you were eating. If an hour or two after eating a garden salad you are recording that your stomach is growling but your mind is telling you that you are fat and deserve nothing more than a few leaves of lettuce, you have a conflict. After a week or two, look over your food journal and evaluate how you can tell the difference between body and mind messages.
By keeping this type of food journal, you can become more aware of how different foods react in your body and how your body and mind use different tactics to communicate messages about hunger and what you think you should or shouldn’t eat. This journal allows you to move beyond examining emotions to looking at how various foods feel in your body.