A new HealthyGirl.org reader left a comment the other day asking about food diaries: “I would love to hear more…concerning food logs. I’m wondering if food logs are triggers or helpful for binge eating.”
I’ve used food diaries in a couple of different ways–and they’ve been incredibly helpful for me in my recovery. When you’re in the midst of an eating disorder you can’t always trust your own thinking, so writing down what I ate provided a necessary reality check. When I first started…a food diary, I would write down what I ate at the end of the day. Seeing a binge in black and white helped me get a true picture of just how much food I was actually eating–it helped me remember that this was serious business, and I needed to get better.
It also helped quiet that little “you suck” voice in my head that would pipe up every so often on days when even though I didn’t binge, I felt “fat” or weirdly guilty about my eating. I could look at exactly what I ate and see for myself that, while perhaps I hadn’t made the healthiest choices in each instance, I hadn’t binged. That helped me let go of the baseless guilt.
What was even more helpful for me, though, was writing my food down before I ate it. As I went along in my recovery, someone from my support group recommended that I plan my food out in the morning and write down what I was planning to eat. It allowed me to check in with my belly, with my tastebuds, with my body and decide what I wanted and needed, before the day had a chance to make me stressed or anxious.
It also took away some of the obsessing. I used to spend a half hour trying to figure out what to have for a snack: Should I? Shouldn’t I? What’s the right thing to eat? What’s the bad choice? If I planned in advance, whether it was pretzels and hummus, a pack of cashews, an apple or a cookie, I’d already decided what I was going to eat at snack time. No waffling, obsessing or in-the-moment choice-making necessary.
I did that for about two years, and it was one of the smartest moves I made. In fact, I just decided yesterday to start planning my food in the morning again for a while. I’ve been so busy (and yes, stressed) lately that I’ve been noticing some pretty strong emotional food cravings, and I’ve had some urges to binge. So, I’m going back to that tool for a bit, to help me clear food thoughts from my head and get me back to reality.
(Another thing I like about food diaries and planning your food in the morning: It gets rid of some of the lingering guilt I may have around “bad” foods. Something about actually planning, in advance, to have a piece of chocolate cake makes that mean “You shouldn’t eat that!” voice quiet down.)
Have you ever used a food diary or planned your food? Did it help? Or did it make you obsess even more?