Doing a Food-Mood Journal: Cultivating Awareness

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Doing a Food-Mood Journal: Cultivating Awareness

Food is the first to hurt and the first to help.

Fundamental to most everything I treat is how my patients care for themselves. In fact, the longer I am in clinical practice the more convinced I am that lifestyle will always offset even the best medical intervention. And what is often most within my patients' control to change is how they choose to nourish their bodies. Unfortunately, there is so much conditioning and misinformation these days about food that a big part of my role in working with patients is to get back to basics and help them rediscover a deeper understanding and connection with their food. And the very first step in that process is doing a seven-day Food-Mood Journal to see where they are at with their choices and help them make connections between those choices and how they feel in their bodies.

Here is how it works. For seven days, you write down:

• What you eat/drink.
• When you eat/drink.
• How you feel after you ate/drink -- this includes any symptoms you experience regardless of whether you think they are related to food or not.

The What

Here are some basic food guidelines as a good place to start:

1. ZERO coffee: You can have all the tea you want. The issue is the bean, not the caffeine. Caffeine is only an issue with high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and pregnancy. Coffee is highly acidic and inflammatory and can contribute to indigestion (1), cardiovascular conditions (2), inflammatory joint conditions (3), osteoporosis (4), and colon and bladder cancer (5).

2. ZERO dairy: Cow's milk is for cows, goat's milk is for goats, and human's milk is for humans. And we all stop drinking it after infancy. No species drinks another species' milk, except us. Dairy can be replete with bacteria (6) and viruses (7) that dead or alive can disrupt our health, hormone (8) and pesticide residues (9), and the list goes on. And with all the milk substitutes to choose from, there is never a better time to stop using dairy.

3. MINIMAL sugar: No more than two pieces of fruit per day. Juice is pure sugar. Sugar is inflammatory and feeds all infections including those that occur in your gut. Stevia and Xylitol are OK.

4. It is best to cook your vegetables, especially leafy greens which are very hard to clean. Cooking kills bacteria, which can upset the delicate balance in your gut, even those that are present on unclean raw veggies.

5. Eat plenty of fiber. Constipation is defined as having one or fewer dry hard bowel movements per day; 97 percent or Americans are deficient in dietary fiber (10).

6. Eat small frequent meals. Stable blood sugar stems cravings and over-eating.

7. Always choose organic, when possible.

8. A whole food plant-based diet with beans, peas, lentils, and organic non-GMO soy as protein sources is optimal.

9. Drink more water -- Women 4-7 cups/day. Men 6-11 cups/day (11), adjusting for water content in food, weather and climate.

10. Chew your food more thoroughly -- 20-30 times. Digestion begins in the mouth with your saliva coating the broken down food.

The When

1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! If you skip breakfast, your lunch becomes your breakfast, your dinner becomes your lunch, and you are more likely to ride the stimulant rollercoaster all day. Breakfast should be cooked, complex and sustaining. Steel-cut oatmeal with flax seeds and nuts is a perfect way to start the day!

2. Eating late at night, within three hours of going to sleep, is an effective way to gain weight. It takes 2-3 hours for food to pass through your stomach. If you recline too soon after a full dinner, you are likely to gain weight, not sleep well, wake up tired and full, skip breakfast and start the rollercoaster rider all over again.

The How

1. How often? Generally, three meals and two snacks works best for most people.

2. How much? The 20-minute rule. It takes 20 minutes for your belly to start to distend while eating, sending information to your brain that you are starting to getting full. If you have eaten your whole meal within 20 minutes, you have likely over-eaten.

3. How quickly? Try chewing each bite 20-30 times. Digestion starts with saliva. You'll find that food dissolves in your mouth the longer you chew, which makes your stomach's job so much easier.

4. How you feel after? This is where the first "A-Ha" moments come. When you can begin to equate your eating habits with how you feel, you have just taken your first step toward changing your life and empowering yourself.

The Why

Satisfy the body's need and the mind's want will disappear. If you are cold and I give you that beautiful watch you are craving, I could give you 12 beautiful watches and it would never warm you up. Instead, if I give you a nice thick winter coat, how important do those watches become? You see them for what they are: a distraction and compensation.

1. Eating for emotional compensation: "comfort foods" and "rewards." When cravings hit, ask yourself, "What part of me is hungry?" If the answer is your heart, you know you are about to make a questionable choice.

2. Choosing foods based on misinformation. There is a lot of disagreement about nutrition, especially among "experts." So the place to begin is by finding your own truth. And when that truth matches the latest scientific research, then that is the path to proceed on.

Evolution NOT Revolution

Diets are an external imposition of a rigid structure that has little relevancy to your specific health needs, taste preferences, and reality. They are a revolution with little lasting effect. Food changes must evolve slowly over time, be based on a willingness to experiment and question previously held beliefs, a willingness to be wrong, and a well-cultivated self-awareness to lead to what is right for you. This is the key to lasting lifestyle change. Step #1 is Doing a Food-Mood Journal!

Happy journaling!

This article is not medical advice and is not intended as medical advice and is intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to health, and is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of the information from this article.


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7. Ferrer, J. Milk of Dairy cows frequently contains a leukemogenic virus. Science 213:1014, 1981.

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