I am by no means a journal keeper. I've never understood why people write down all their thoughts for posterity - not till I started blogging, anyway :-) But I am a list maker - you know, the kind of woman who uses the task feature in Outlook - religiously. They've been known, in certain circles, to call me the Sticky Note Queen. I write down what I've got to do, whom I've got to see, what I want to buy.
And if I forget that back-of-an-envelope list on the kitchen counter when I leave the house, well I spend my entire walk reconstructing it in my mind. (In between thoughts of sex with Clive Owen in the emergency-button-stopped elevator of a fancy hotel in Stockholm while wearing a sexy merry widow from Agent Provocateur, avec easy access stockings and garter bien sur.)
What? It's my fantasy. Can't a girl be stream of consciousness once in a while?
Anyway, if that got your heart pumping, this'll cool you off. Let's talk food diaries, shall we?
You know that recent, big ass, serious post about my parenting struggles? Somehow, exceedingly strangely, it was the prologue to this one. See, mothering was the thing that destabilized me (arguably, I was a biochemical pile of sugar, sitting on a picnic table, waiting for a rainstorm) and abuse of food was a prime mood-altering mechanism.
What happens when you are stressed out of your mind constantly and you can't sleep because every time you do you are awoken, mid-REM, by piercing screams for attention and nourishment and you're doubting your every instinct - one of which is to run away to Tahiti - and you can't stop the stroller for 5 minutes lest the theretofore slumbering, gorgeous baby wakes and demands - you got it, food or attention - and those stolen moments with a magazine and a coffee are simply a dim memory, as is stringing together an articulate sentence and the laundry is piling up as are the dishes because you don't have 5 minutes to do anything between managing the feeding and attending to the baby. But you have to clean because cleaning is how you normalize. Cleaning is how you gain control. And now you can't even clean with a clear head. The baby needs good food, attention and a clean house goddammit.
Suddenly a cookie looks really good.
The thing about processed sugar and salt is that they make you want more. The thing about anxiety and sleep deprivation is that they fuck with your adrenal glands and your insulin levels which makes you want - you guessed it - more sugar and salt. The thing about not having any time to think straight is that you lose the ability to consider how eating thousands of calories of processed sugar and salt daily, in lieu of things that take time and mental energy to prepare, is really going to take its toll on your ability to think straight.
It's a bad scene and I'm harping on it because I don't want anyone who's there right now - for whatever reason: new motherhood, demanding career, school pressures, caring for sick loved ones, all the above - to think that I don't get it.
I get it.
Now I'm not crazy enough to believe that, if you can't sleep or string together a sentence for stress and busy-ness, you're going to think "Hmmm, a food diary's just the thing," but really, it's a tool for raising awareness (which frankly can be the first baby step towards regaining some perspective and making changes). If you haven't got energy to reflect on your emotional intricacies, you may just have time to write down that bag of chips and pint of ice cream followed by the Starbucks fancy coffee. Once you have to look at that shit, staring back at you from the page, you start to think - maybe I'll have a tall Americano and a protein plate instead. Costs less and it actually gives you some nutrient ballast. Then, when it comes time to think about your next meal, you may just choose something else that can sustain your blood sugar somewhat. Over the course of time, I mean.
Let's say you're not mega-stressed. Let's say you don't eat uber-crappily out of desperation. Let's say you're a healthy person who's trying to understand why she can't lose that 5 pounds. I think you know where I'm going with this... A food diary can show you the trends from which you can detangle a probable solution. Of course, the more you know about nutrition, the easier it will be to see how your unique body chemistry is being affected by the food choices you make.
And then there's the person who unwittingly eats the same exact thing 3 times a day and doesn't know that her hair is lank and skin sallow because she never eats any protein, or the person who doesn't know why she's always hungry till she begins to realize (by writing it down) that she's only eating twice a day, at dangerously distant intervals.
Point is, you can learn about yourself by looking at what you eat. If nothing else, it's fun to write stuff down and look at it 3 years later. And if you do it while eating an apple and some raw cheese from the Charlevoix, so much the better.
PS Do tell. Are you a food diarist? Has it helped you? Do you find the whole idea boring and stupid? I wanna know.