I firmly believe you should eat for energy and happiness. This means that you should feel good about what you choose to eat both before, during, and after you eat it. Now, wait a moment! If you just made a painful moaning noise, don’t despair! We are all very hard on ourselves. I continue to be amazed at how most of the time when I ask patients what they eat or drink, the response takes the form of, “probably not enough of ________.” I didn’t ask them how the (impossible) perfect human would judge their choices, I only asked for a little insight as to what those choices were. We have these big brains that are capable of extraordinary thoughts, so we think we know exactly what we should be doing. But, we can simultaneously use that big brain to make fabulous excuses for doing else wise, and then make ourselves feel bad about those decisions. It’s just not fair. While you are partaking in the journey laid out in these posts, I challenge you to step outside of that overly judgmental you, and be an impartial observer. Just tell that irritating, nay-saying, Debbie Downer voice to go for a long walk and preferably, never return. Aim to exist in a place of quiet where whatever you decide to do is just that, plain and simple and without judgment. Yes, some people can go places driven by guilt and negativity (i.e. the internal or external coach yelling all your shortcomings in your face), but how much fun is that? And how sustainable? I think you can get somewhere amazing and stay there if you feel good about yourself along the way.
So, how do you feel about your food? A good way to start thinking about this is to keep a food feeling diary. If you made the moaning noise, go back and read the first paragraph. On paper, a word document or some fancy phone app, create a 4-5 column chart. The first column is for listing the food item that you ate. Because we tend to eat things that have many different ingredients, try to list all the big ingredients you can identify. For example, instead of writing “turkey sandwich,” try “packaged turkey on multigrain bread with tomato, lettuce and mayo.” Add notes about what was organic and what wasn’t, if that is part of your own personal food journey. Now, the fun part: next to each entry, you will log three faces that are smiley, neutral, or frowning. Put down one for how you feel when you decided to eat that item, one for how you feel while eating it and one for how you feel 20 minutes later. Or perhaps you’re a sticker person who uses farm animals in place of frowning faces and super heroes for smiley faces. Not a fan of faces? Use words or make check columns. Get creative and add colors and notes! Feel free to introduce a 5th space for whether you were able to successfully quell the judgmental voice, or if it interfered. After even just one week, you have enough data to start analyzing which foods make you feel good, and which foods are potentially detracting from your health.