This blog post contains my three tips to start becoming aware of what you are really eating in a day.
Have you ever seen that programme where they film participants for a week then lay out all the food they eat on a table – always to the complete shock of the individual who ate it all? Or they see a video of themselves eating a whole pizza in front of the tv but have no recollection of doing it.
So, why are they so shocked? Are they lying when they say they do not remember doing it? Honestly - no they're probably not.
We all unconsciously eat to some degree, whether that’s an extra biscuit watching tv or a few extra chips as you're making the dinner. When we do something unconsciously, we tend not to be aware of it; we have to focus on it to become aware. Think of your breathing, you do it unconsciously - without thought. But when you focus on it, you become consciously aware of your breathing pattern. Stop that focus, and you continue to breathe, you are simply no longer thinking about it – that is the power of our mind.
It's the same when you find yourself staring in the fridge thinking what was I looking for – but then nibbling on something whether you wanted it or not, or when you eat that sharing size bag of crisps to yourself while you're watching tv.
These are mostly unconscious actions – we are not stopping before we eat and saying do I need this now? Am I hungry? Is this the best thing for me now? Let’s face it if we had to do that every time then eating would become a pretty intense and time-consuming event.
But for people who significantly overeat, or turn to food as an emotional crutch, the first step to changing their behaviours and patterns around food is to become consciously aware of their eating. It takes a bit of effort, but with that effort comes change.
Here are three steps you can start today to bring awareness to your eating patterns.
Record what you eat in a day. You can use an app such as MyFitnessPal; snap a picture on your mobile or write down what you eat in a food diary.
Review what you ate at the end of the day. The key here is not to judge yourself. You are becoming aware so you can understand what triggers your overeating, not to feel bad about yourself.
Look for patterns around your eating habits. Are you eating more comfort foods late at night when you are bored or tired, are you going without food all day when you are busy only to binge later when your will power has fled. Or maybe you are an unconscious snacker always having something at hand to nibble, but with no real awareness of the number of snacks you have.
Becoming aware here is the most important step; you can not have change without awareness.
I advocate food diaries for clients taking my emotional eating freedom programme because it allows us to see behavioural patterns. For example; the cravings for carbs when you have not slept well; or the extra glass or two of wine after a stressful workday. Identifying these emotional triggers means we can work on releasing those emotions and find healthier alternatives.
Track your eating for at least 5 days and see what insights you get about your eating habits.