Journaling is a stepping stone and can be a great way to increase your self-awareness and release stress. Splendid Spoon’s founder, Nicole, shares her story of food journaling along with a couple of tips for people to get started.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Nicole! Why did you start journaling?
Nicole: I have been journaling since I could string words together into a sentence. Maybe 3rd or 4th grade is when it really took off. When I was in middle school my Nana (my mom’s mom) gave me a five year journal. Every day for five years, I wrote down a short paragraph of the day. Sometimes it was pretty mundane. Other times it was all emotions! I still love re-reading my old journals to visit my younger self.

SS: How has journaling changed your relationship with food?
Nicole: When I was struggling with disordered eating I felt very out of control. Purging, diet pills, going long periods of time without food were all behaviors that I used to ‘get back into control’ of myself, and yet these behaviors were hidden, made me feel ashamed, and worst of all, were taking a toll on my body. I found a book called Emotional Eating, and it suggested keeping a food journal. I did this, and then I also wrote down how I felt in these moments. It was really powerful. The pen and paper became new tools for me to work with my emotions and slowly I released my grip from the destructive eating patterns.

SS: Did you journal with food before you established a mindful eating practice? Did you find this was a helpful stepping stone?
Nicole: Yes. It was definitely helpful. Any activity that increases your awareness and increases your ability to remain present is a step toward being more mindful. At that time, because food had been such a source of pain for me, I wanted to escape it. By journaling, I was able to be present to the pain in a healthy and productive way.

SS: Do you have any tips to make journaling while we eat about self-awareness rather than over critical self-analysis.
Nicole: Journaling is about releasing your thoughts and feelings. Period. My friend Katie Dalebout (who is a bit of a journaling expert!) really emphasizes that your journal entries are about the letting go. No one else is going to read your journal. YOU don’t even have to read your journal. Sometimes we DO feel critical of ourselves. Write it out. Write out exactly how you feel about the pea soup or the chips or the cupcake. Then what? Then how do you feel? Write that too. When you find a place to be totally honest, the analysis and criticism starts to melt.

SS: Can you share a simple journaling exercise we can do while we eat, if we only have 5–10 minutes?
Nicole: Keep a journal (or just a piece of paper and pen!) next to you during your next solo meal. As you are eating, try to focus just on the food — tastes, textures, smells. You will inevitably get distracted by thoughts. Whenever you notice a thought, take a break from eating to write it down. Then return to eating. This simply gives you a safe space to release your thoughts onto paper.

SS: Can you share a more in-depth journaling exercise we can do if we have 20+ minutes to eat?
Nicole: Again, you have a goal to remain present to your food — it’s tastes, smells, textures. This time, when you get distracted by a thought (a task, an idea, a question), you stop and write just as you did in the first exercise, but you push yourself a bit more for how it makes you feel.

For example: you get distracted by remembering an email you need to send a co-worker, you stop eating, you write the distraction. Then keep the pen in your hand. How does the email make you feel physically? Maybe it’s a pit in your stomach or a racing heart. And emotionally? Maybe nervous or excited. Push yourself to be honest. If you start to feel uncomfortable, note that too. Take a few deep breaths, write again, and return to eating when you feel calm again.

Eating helps the body feel safe, and feelings often bubble up at this time. If we keep eating right through those feelings we miss some of the important signals and lessons. This exercise helps you identify how feelings and emotions can manifest physically in the body.

Want to make your 9 to 5 meals even easier? Get started today with Splendid Spoon and put food stress behind you once and for all.