Based in Kansas City, KS, Cara is passionate about helping people rediscover joy in eating deeply nourishing meals without restriction or fear, and enjoys candid conversations about the food system, nutrition, and cooking. She has been featured or quoted in Bustle, Forbes, Well+Good, Women’s Health, US News, and many more. Check out her work and learn more here.
How the Feelings Chart and Way App Help with Food Journaling
When it comes to dieting aids, most people would tend to think of fitness trackers, gyms, and calorie counting apps. Would it surprise you to learn that one of the most effective aids for developing your own way of eating is a journal? Especially when combined with handy tools like the feelings chart and the Way app. And that’s because the key to healthy eating is a healthy relationship with food, and the key to that is learning about your emotional eating motivators.
Emotions and Eating
Very often, hunger may be driven by emotional factors, rather than by the need for calories or nutrients. It’s a surprisingly complicated issue. The simple act of eating might seem to numb negative emotions, or even change them into positive ones. It can strengthen social bonds. It releases hormones that can fight stress. The way we were introduced to food in childhood creates emotional eating influences of all different kinds, too. It’s simply a matter of common sense that you need to take your emotional eating motivations into account if you want to develop a healthy relationship with food. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s almost never helpful.
The Food and Feelings Journal
Before talking about what a food and feelings journal is, let’s talk about what it isn’t. A food and feelings journal is not about obsessively keeping track of what and how much you’ve eaten throughout the day. That’s counterproductive. It will only create feelings of stress and anxiety that will drown out whatever your more natural food-related feelings are. No, your focus in this journal should be on your feelings about the food you eat, not on the food itself.
Next, let’s talk about how often to write in the journal. There are a couple of different ways you can go about this kind of journaling. One is to do it once a day, at the end of the day, after you’ve eaten all the meals you are going to eat. This will let you get the writing out of the way all at once and may help keep you from obsessing too much over what you ate. However, you may forget some details that way. You could also write in your journal after each meal, to make sure your insights into your feelings are fresh, though that is a lot of journaling for some people.
On the other extreme, it can also be helpful to do your journaling to just once every few days. Sometimes, feelings can take a while to develop. If you try to analyze them too quickly, you might miss some important things. Waiting a while to journal about everything over the course of a few days can help you gain some perspective on it. Of course, you run the risk of forgetting about important details that way, too. If you aren’t sure what frequency is best for you, just experiment with different approaches until you find one that works for you.
To get the most out of your food and feelings journal, use some or all of these writing prompts. They can help you record the most important things you need to keep track of to figure out your emotional eating motivators and patterns.
- How hungry or full did you feel before you ate?
- What about after?
- What were you feeling when the food cravings hit?
- What were you feeling after you ate?
- How did you feel about the foods themselves?
- How did eating make you feel physically?
- Did any memories come up while you ate or afterward?
- If so, have you felt them before? When?
- What were you doing when you got hungry?
- Did you go to a specific location to eat?
There are other things that you could ask yourself as well, in addition to these questions or instead of them. The important thing is establishing the habit of asking yourself questions about your feelings and trying to examine them.
The Feelings Chart and the Way App
There is, of course, a lot of thinking about your feelings involved in all this. And it can be surprisingly difficult to pin down exactly what you’re feeling at any particular moment, especially if you have a lot of distracting things going on. And then, too, many people aren’t ever taught the skills that go into analyzing their feelings. It’s not a skill set that’s valued much by modern popular culture. You may not find it easy to identify the subtle differences that distinguish different emotions from each other. An emotions chart can help with that.
A feelings chart is meant to help people learn to identify and analyze their own emotions, to help them learn to listen to their feelings better. You can use it to help get the maximum benefit out of your food and feelings journaling.
The most popular feelings chart is made to be tackled in steps, to help ease you into emotion identification, making it easier to identify yours. It’s divided into three concentric circles. You start by looking at the one in the center. It has several basic emotions of the type that are easy to identify, such as angry or happy.
Once you’ve named the most basic, dominant emotion that you’re feeling, look at the middle ring of the chart in the place near the central emotion you identified. There are several sections there, each with the name of a variation of the basic emotion you identified. Use these names to ask yourself questions about the emotion you are feeling, like “Is this anger more a feeling of irritation or of upset?” Once you have identified the subtler type of emotion you are feeling, you repeat the process again with the outer ring.
A great companion tool for the feelings chart is the Way app. It has a number of different pathways, such as the Body Feels Pathway, that are each divided up into many different sessions. It’s designed to guide you through learning how to listen to the cues and signals your body uses to communicate with you. It can teach you the skills that can tell you where to start looking on the feelings chart, and even that you need to start looking in the first place.
Learning to Listen to Your Feelings
After you have spent some weeks journaling with the assistance of the feelings chart, it’s time to start looking back over your entries. See if you can find any patterns, clues about the kinds of emotions that make you eat, and the situations that trigger these emotions. In time, you’ll be amazed at the amount of insight you develop about your emotional eating motivations.