One of the best ways to lose weight is to become more conscious of what you’re eating and why you’re eating it. Take the first step and keep a food diary. This has been proven in countless research studies to help people lose weight. Once you start to see in black and white how much you’re actually consuming, it triggers some hesitation and second thoughts before mindlessly snacking or going back for seconds and thirds.
Remember, no shame, guilt or judgment. Think of yourself as just gathering information without judging yourself. You’re just becoming more aware of what is going on when you eat so that you can pause, consider and make a conscious choice of what you want to consume.
How Do You Start?
Apps are ok, but research has found that using old-fashioned paper and pencil to jot down and keep track of what you’re eating is more effective at keeping you accountable to yourself.
Use a notebook or make a spreadsheet you can fill in. Jot Down:
- Every meal
- Notice any feelings
Then as you start recording your intake, most people start noticing patterns after they eat. After awhile, you’ll probably find yourself stopping and pausing before you eat or drink just because you know you’re going to write it down.
This helps with awareness. Some other things to consider:
- Notice any emotional triggers that lead to eating
- Are there certain times of day that area associated with a “Go To Snack”
- Do you need a daily treat at the coffee shop?
- Do you have “trigger foods” those that you must have every day?
- What foods or drinks do you look forward to most or every day?
- Is there a candy jar at a co-worker’s desk that you find yourself standing next to every day at 3?
- Too busy to cook, where are you picking up meals?
- Is there an after-dinner snack or drink routine?
- Take a look at each day
- Are there patterns?
- Remember be kind to yourself and just notice what’s going on
Be Kind To Yourself while Getting Honest
After a few days you’ll start to increase your awareness about when and why you’re eating. Be gentle with yourself. Remember this is a process and it takes about 3 weeks to change patterns.
Ask yourself what unmet needs might be providing a challenge to healthy eating. For me, when I was tired after long days, then chocolate was the antidote. When I woke up, I knew a mocha would get me started in a happy place. When I was exhausted from long days and cross-country travel, I figured I owed myself a treat: hello brownies.
It took a while to notice that chocolate was the substitute for many of my unmet needs for sleep and self-care. I also started practicing more mindfulness and meditating which helped me pause and consider before eating and drinking.
Am I still challenged when it comes to eating and maintaining a healthy weight? Yes, but now, I’m more aware, finding other ways for self care and not using food to quench the unmet needs in my life.
I hope you’ll consider keeping a food diary and I’d love to hear how it worked out for you.
For more on Mindful Eating
This article on mindful eating from Healthline is also very helpful.