“One part of wisdom is knowing what you don’t need anymore and letting it go” - Jane Fonda
I first went to Weight Watchers in 1978 and learned to keep a food journal to track what I ate. Each time I started a diet or began working with a nutritionist, I started a food journal. When I stopped the diets, I stopped tracking. Food journals were a tool for weight loss, and I needed every tool I could get my hands on. I came to believe merely writing down what I ate would lead to weight loss. When the scale failed to follow my effort, I abandoned the journal and the diet until the next attempt, the next diet, and the next food journal.
When I signed up for Weight Watchers again nine years ago, one of the first strategies I adopted was keeping a food journal. On and off, I detailed what I put into my mouth. I tallied points and looked for patterns as I tracked and charted my weight. Sometimes my food intake correlated with weight loss, and other times it didn’t. I still have the stack of journals on a shelf. They illustrate my gradual shift from processed foods to nutrient dense foods, my exercise regimens, and other aspects of my weight loss journey, while also emphasizing my obsession with weight loss.
There are hundreds of thousands of articles on the web about the benefits of food journals for weight loss, many offering detailed directions for keeping a food journal. It may be a good first strategy, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose and you eat mindlessly or are disconnected from your body’s signals of hunger and satiety. A food journal helps to awaken consciousness around food, awareness of portion sizes, and accountability about what you eat. But it can also keep you from connecting on a deeper level with your body’s wisdom.
A couple of years ago I stopped keeping a food journal. I stopped tracking food and thinking about food. At first I was terrified my weight would soar when I stopped tracking, as it had in the past. But it didn’t, and soon I felt liberated, because for the first time I could remember, I didn’t think about the points in each bite and how it would affect my weigh-in. I started paying attention to hunger signals from my body. A year ago I slowed down my eating speed and started checking in with myself to gauge how much I wanted to eat. Finally I stopped weighing myself, as I trusted my body to know how much to eat.
Last month I met with a local herbalist to discuss a couple of minor health issues, and she suggested a food journal again, this time to determine whether something in my diet may need tweaking. I had made the same recommendation to others, so I understood the wisdom in her suggestion. I note what I eat, and I also note unwanted symptoms. It does not feel oppressive or obsessive, because I am not trying to accomplish any goal except to gather information. I am letting my body be my guide for the month. I’ll let you know how it goes.