What it is, how to do it and why you need to start today!
We all know the importance that food plays on our health. In fact it feels like we are constantly being bombarded with the latest trends and fads. It all becomes so confusing and it is hard to keep up. Keto diet is best (wait, isn’t that just the Atkins diet with a new outfit?) Paleo diet is best, (why do I want to eat like a caveman?) Apple Cider vinegar diet (are you *&^#ing kidding me?) No carb, low carb, only carb! It becomes information overload and we tend to just turn it off and forget about it all. The thing is, that every person’s body is different. Meaning, that there is no diet or food trend that will work for everyone. In fact some may be harmful to certain people. This information can be overwhelming and causes us to wonder what we can do to navigate the world of food in a way that works for our own body? There is an answer and it is fairly simple. Food Journaling. In this article we take a look at what exactly food journaling is, how to properly do it and why you need to start doing it today.
Most of us at one point in our lives have kept track of our calorie intake. Whether it was to aid us in losing weight or to make sure we were eating enough for our work out plan, counting calories is not a new concept. Keeping track of every calorie that we ingest can become dull, tedious and take the enjoyment out of eating. Food journaling is so much more than keeping track of your daily calories. In fact you don’t have to count calories at all. For food journaling you keep track of what you eat but you also make note of;
- The time of day. Did you skip breakfast and grab a donut mid morning?
- The environment. Was it on the run, at your desk, at a social event?
- Your thoughts, feelings and emotions before & after eating. Were you bloated, did it make you feel sluggish, did you feel guilty, were you bored?
Food journaling is not about judgment or feeling guilty or ashamed, it is about becoming aware of your relationship with food. You will start to see personal eating habits and patterns. Like eating a bowl of chips when you watch t.v at the end of the day, not because you are hungry but because you associate it with relaxing. By keeping track of what you are putting in your body and how you feel when you do it, it will help you identify food allergies and sensitivities, inflammation triggers and emotional eating patterns. It will spotlight how work, stress or certain life situations affect your food choices. Once you begin to see the patterns, you can use your journal to support change. It will help to reinforce your new healthy habits and keep you focused on long term change.
A lot of time people know what to do in order to eat better, but it’s about making the changes that will stick around for a long time. Changes that not only last a few weeks but that last a lifetime. Food journaling is an excellent place to start to be aware of the food that you are eating. It will teach you what your habits are, the choices that you are making, how those choices made you feel and what the results are.
“It’s all about the awareness of what you are putting in your body, “ says nutritionist Natalie Thomas.
“It is a mindset switch. What are we eating, why are we eating it, what is it doing to our body?”
She calls it intuitive eating. It is about making choices and being aware of our food. Understanding why we are eating in an aware state. Thomas also cautions not to feel guilty for a choice that was made in an aware state.
“ If you are at a birthday party and love cake and there is a piece of white cake with canned icing on it and you eat it, it is ok as long as you are making a choice and not doing it unconsciously.”
It really is about creating a conscious relationship with your food. Our lives seem to continuously be getting busier and busier and eating becomes just one more thing that we have to do to get through the day and oftentimes we do it unconsciously. Barely aware of what we are eating. However what we are putting into our body greatly affects not only our physical health, but our mental and emotional health as well. By making a small amount of time to bring awareness to our eating now, it could add many healthy years to our lives.
Food journaling is not something that you need to do all the time. It is not about obsessing over food. It is simply about being aware and making choices. It is recommended to do it for a week to start. If you do it right, you’ll come away with a fuller understanding of yourself and some insight into eating better. You will see the choices that you have made and be able to make new, healthier choices going forward.
As human beings we are constantly growing, changing and transforming and so is our nutrition. The food that made us feel good in our 20’s may no longer have the same effect in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. The nutrition you need will change as your body does, age, children, illness all change your body and what you need from your food. This is why it is important to consistently incorporate food journaling into our lives. After your first time food journaling it is a good practice if you can continue to do it for the first 3 days of each month. This helps to reset you for the month ahead. It shows you where you may be falling back into old habits and how well you are doing with the new ones that you have created. If you truly feel that you could not possibly make the time to write all of this down, then try a video journal. Each time you eat something, grab your phone and record a short entry: Ate a bag of chips at 2:00pm because I skipped breakfast and lunch to prepare a presentation and just needed to eat something. Hearing the journal entry back in your own voice can be even more impactful in seeing how the choices you made affect your health.
Food journaling is not just another trend in the vast sea of diet fads. This is research about your relationship with food. It is personal and specific to your body. It is creating and cultivating an awareness around each choice that we make with the food that we are putting into our bodies. When we can stop habitually reaching for something and begin to ask why am I eating this, how will it make me feel? We ignite the process of change. For this first time it is not just about what we are eating, but why and how we are eating it. This awareness flips the mental switch in creating lasting change in your relationship with food. It will not just be another food thing that you true but a lasting mindset change on the way you look at food.
Why Eating Local Matters
Being connected to your food and knowing where your food comes from is are some of the most important things that you can do for your health, your community and the planet. Having this connection develops a healthy relationship with food allowing people to appreciate and respect that food is not indispensable. The food we eat feeds our microbes, gives us energy and nutrition, and keeps us healthy. The choices we make about our food clearly affects our health, but also have a huge effect on the world around us. If you want to support local farmers, eat healthier and more delicious food, and reduce your carbon footprint, this article will give you the important tips that you can incorporate into your life today.
The farm to table movement has swept across North America like an arctic wind, but is it rooted in truth or is it just another marketing ploy full of hot air? It turns out that “home grown” is not only better for you, but also for your community and the environment. According to the The Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment, food transported long distances is not likely to be as nutritious as food grown and consumed locally. Even though the fruit or vegetable may attain full colour after it has been picked it has not been given the chance to obtain it’s highest nutrient levels. Getting the highest levels of nutrients and antioxidants from our produce is important for the health of our bodies. So eating produce that is allowed to ripen before being picked is important. The time and temperature changes involved with food travelling around the world can equal the nutrients degrading. Meaning, getting your food as close to home as possible is the best option for your health.
Eating locally grown and raised food is not only good for your health, but also for the health of the planet. According to a study done at Iowa State University, a local carrot has to travel only 43 kilometers to reach you while a conventionally sourced carrot has to travel 2957 kilometers to get to your plate. Think about the difference in the carbon footprint of that one item and now think about all of the different foods you eat in a week. The impact on the plant can really add up. If you become more aware of where each item you buy has travelled from and only choose food from within a 100km radius that will have a profound impact on the planet.
We have come to expect to be able to buy almost any type of food from any country in the world at any time of year we want, but many of us never stop to think of the global implications of having such choices. Not only does getting food shipped around the world add to climate change, it can also have a negative impact on the environment of the country it is coming from. With the declaration that quinoa is a “superfood” the global demand for the food increased immensely. Many farms in Peru switched from what they were growing to produce quinoa. This resulted in reduced growing diversity which had a negative impact on soil quality and wildlife. It also made this superfood unaffordable to the locals who had come to rely on it. Mexico has experienced massive deforestation due to creating space for avocado plantations which require a great deal of water to grow, making the entire production extremely unsustainable. Another reason to be aware of what country your food is coming from is their growing practices. While Canada and Europe have banned many harmful pesticides many other countries have not. Buying fruits from Florida, vegetables from Chilie, and pickles from India may all contain harmful chemicals that are now going into your body. Choosing local, organic options eliminates the worry that you are putting toxic chemicals into your and your family’s bodies.
Buying local is also great for your community as you are investing in the area in which you live. One of the best ways to do this is to buy directly from small, independent farmers in your area. If you contact the farmers in advance most are very welcoming and incredibly willing to show you around the farm and explain their farming practices to you and answer all of your questions. Do they use organic or permaculture practices? Was there genetic engineering involved? How was the animal raised? What was it fed? By visiting the farm directly you can see firsthand the practices the farmer uses. This is also a fun adventure for the kids and an excellent way to teach them where food comes from and the energy that goes into producing it. Buying directly from the farmer also saves you money. By purchasing from the farmer you cut out the middleman and the transportation costs. The farmer makes more, you save and you are getting healthier food for you and your family!
It may seem like a lot more to think about when answering the age-old question “what’s for dinner?” But if we don’t start to pay greater attention to where our food comes from it will have lasting and profound effects on the health of our bodies, our local economy, and the planet. Knowing the global impact of the food that you consume helps you be able to make more ethical choices. Bringing a little more awareness to where the food you are buying comes from is a small change that creates a big difference.
Transform Gros Morne sources all of our seafood, vegetables, berries, meat, cheese, and coffee from local, independent organic or permaculture producers.
The Dangers Hiding in Your Food
Eat healthy. We see this commend everywhere. Eat healthy, seems easy enough yet when you start to dig a little deeper it is not quite so simple. Life has become complicated and that complication has reached into every aspect of our lives, including our food. What goes on the food you eat and what does your food eat? Questions many of us have not considered before.
Fruits and veggies are the go-to health food right? Well reaching for an apple may not be as healthy as we once thought. Why is that? The pesdicides that are sprayed on the plant and found in the soil the plant is growing in. Most non-organic produce is sprayed with pesticides. Pesticide’s one and only job is to kill. The etymology of “-cide” roots back to Latin, essentially meaning “to kill.” Whether it be insects or rodents it is job is to kill, and we put it all over our food. These pesticides are absorbed by the plant and linger even after thorough washing. It is unclear exactly how dangerous this is, but research shows that exposure to pesticides can cause damage to the brain and nervous system and even contribute to cancer. Pesticides are also used on crops that are fed to animals, that we eat. How do we combat this problem? Buy organic or from a farm that practices permaculture. Buying organic means that your produce has not been sprayed with harmful chemicals and the meat that you are purchasing has not consumed feed that has been sprayed. Permaculture is a design system that utilizes natural patterns and rhythms to create a self sustaining eco system. One component of permaculture is companion planting. This is where alongside your crops you plant other herbs, vegetables, flowers that help to keep harmful pests away. No need for pesticides.
Knowing what the meat that you purchase has eaten is also an important thing to know. Did you know that cows in the US are fed candy and that the US is Canada’s #1 source of beef imports? If you are attempting to limit the amount of candy and processed sugar you and your family consumes, do you want them eating beef that has been fed candy?
Researching how your food is grown or raised and what it has been fed or sparyed with does require an investment of time. However if you don’t care, you may end up spending more time and money on your health (or illness) care from injesting harmful chemicals. One of the easiest ways to find out answers about your food is to locate small independent farms in your area. Many small farms now either use organic or permaculture farming and raise their animals on pastures meaning they eat only grass (no candy!). Most of these farms are happy to answer your questions and give you a tour of their farms. Below is a list of questions to ask when contacting a farm;
- Do you practices organic or permaculture farming?
- What do you spray your produce with?
- Are your animals injected with antibiotics? (these antibotics so into the meat of the animal and then into us when we consume it, screwing up our antibodies)
- Are your animals pasture raised AND finished? (
- Why did you get into farming? (People with a passion for the industry, the earth and health will be far more likely to use none harmful methods than those who are in it strickly for the profit).
Unfortunately in many industries today profit has taken priority over health. We need to be fully responsible for our health and not simply trust that everyone has our best interest at heart. Food should be the first place that we start as it is something that goes into our bodies multiple times a day EVERY DAY. Buying directly from independent farmers also helps support a small, local business which is incredibly important. It also creates a sense of community which has been lost in our overly busy lives. We only get one body and we cant be good employees, parents, friends, neighbors or community members when it is sick. Taking a small amount of time now to find out about your food can set you and your family up for a healthy future. And what is more important then that?
Our lives are becoming ever more increasingly busy. It seems as though we have more and more things to do and less time to do them. Multitasking has become a survival tool, with eating being the easiest action to integrate into something else. We eat while driving, working at our desks, on a conference call. We so often eat while doing other things that we generally don’t even remember what we ate. What we put into our bodies and why is extremely important to our mental and physical health. That is where mindful eating becomes important. Paying attention to what you are eating, why you are eating and where it came from can have profound impacts on the food choices that you make. If one decision can have positive effects on your mental health, physical health and the health of the planet wouldn’t you want to make that choice?
Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen deeply to our body’s needs and wants. We’ve all had the experience of going to the movies with a bag of popcorn and at the end of film looking down and wondering where the popcorn went. We don’t even remember eating it! We are not eating because our body is telling us that we are we are hungry we are eating as an unconscious reaction, watching a movie which is incredibly unhealthy. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day eating, but more than half the time, we’re doing something else, too. Mindless or distracted eating, is associated with anxiety, overeating, and weight gain. Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. Like when we are bored or when we sit down at the end of a day to watch tv and relax. Our brains are often wired to associate relaxing on the couch with snacking. By bringing mindful eating practices into your life it can rewire our brains for new cues for eating that are focused on nourishing the body.
So what exactly is mindful eating? First let’s discuss what the word mindfulness means. It is an intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment without judging or debating them. It sounds simple but very few of us are ever fully in the present moment and almost never when we are eating. When we do manage to be present we are most certainly bringing a level of judgment to the moment; “I can’t believe that I just ate that entire bag of chips”, “I really should be eating healthier”, “I should not have eaten that, I really don’t feel well.” Eating shouldn’t be a fast mindless action but rather an experience which also nourishes the body. Improving the relationship we have with food can in turn improve the way we eat and our overall health.
So how do we practice mindful eating? First appreciate all of the energy it took to create this meal. The sun, soil and rain it took to grow the tomatoes. The grass that the cows grazed on to become your beef. This helps to increase gratitude for food, which can improve the overall eating experience. Next bring your awareness to all of your senses. Notice the colours, the different textures, the unique sounds of your food. See if you can name every flavor and spice that is present in your meal.
Next focus on slowing down. In our mindless eating habits we have started eating like our dogs; two quick chews and down the hatch. By taking smaller bites and really chewing your food a few more times you will be amazed at all of the flavors that are released and how much more you enjoy your meal. This is why it is important to eat when hungry, but not ravenous. If you skip meals you will be more focused on filling the void than enjoying your food.
This type of eating may only seem possible if you are staying at an ashram, how can you be expected to do this while still living your busy life? Start by mindful eating for just one meal a day. Invite your partner, kids, roommates to mindfully eat with you. Spend the first few bites in silence noticing the colour, texture, sound and taste of your food and then share what you have noticed with those that you are eating with. This can be really fun for children and a great way for them to learn to appreciate their food.
Mindful eating encourages one to make choices that will be satisfying and nourishing to the body. However, it discourages “judging” one’s eating behaviors as there are different types of eating experiences. As we become more aware of our eating habits, we may take steps towards behavior changes that will benefit ourselves and our environment. Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
The benefits of mindful eating are many and include;
- Distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers (like boredom) for eating.
- Learning to deal with guilt and anxiety about food
- Focusing on eating to maintain overall health and well-being
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure
- Appreciating your food
- Weight loss
Eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements and to each other. When we pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on your plate, from the loved ones (and yourself) who prepared it, to those who stocked the shelves, to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, to those who supported them, it is hard to not feel both grateful and interconnected. Mindful eating acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food. So we invite you to try mindful eating for your next meal. See if you and your family can do it for one meal, everyday for a week. Cultivating a healthier relationship with food is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.