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  • Writer's pictureLauren Neil

Why I love Food and Mood Journals!

Have you ever noticed how after certain meals you feel invigorated, ready to go, energized and ready to tackle the day? On the other hand, we have all eaten that meal that leaves us feeling heavy, bloated, lethargic and irritable.

So, why is that? Why is there such a big difference between how certain foods make us feel? An easier way to understand it is to think of food as "medicine". There are some medicines that make us feel better, but there are also some medications that have some pretty nasty side effects, too.

Foods can act in the same way. For example, sugary foods can give us a quick little burst of energy and make us happy by triggering the release of dopamine "our feel good hormone". However, that doesn't last and overconsumption of sugar can lead to long term health effects and chronic disease. As delicious as sugary foods are, we all know they aren't the best for our health.

Often times, we don't relate the "crash" or bad feelings after we have eaten certain foods because its a while after we have "felt good" and we associate the immediate pleasure from eating, then the negative drop after seems too long after we have eaten to be associated with the food! A lot of this timing has to do with how long it takes foods to be digested and where it is in our digestive system when it is absorbed.

An effective way to track and understand how foods make us feel is to keep a Food and Mood Journal. Write down the meal you eat, then how you feel throughout the day until your next meal. This even applies to just drinking things like coffee! You may realize you are consuming too much caffeine and not even realizing it until you see a pattern in your journal. Or you may realize you're not drinking nearly as much water as you think you are! (I always recommend half of your weight in ounces of water per day, more if you are sweating a lot, work out, or it is hot outside!).

Here's an example of a Food and Mood Journal:

7:00am first cup of coffee to help me wake up! No coffee, no workee...

-feel good, curbed hunger I woke up with

8:00am packet of premade maple oatmeal -9:00am feel full and satisfied - ate quick to get out the door

9:30am coffee with creamer

-11:00am already hungry, oatmeal didn't seem to keep me full very long

12:30pm Burger with onion rings and an Arnold palmer

-1:15pm deeeeelicious! I am so satisfied and happy. Best. lunch. Ever. Just what I needed, can't believe I finished it all, felt like I ate way too fast though.

-2:00pm SO Tired. I need a nap. I feel like I need more caffeine

2:00pm another cup of coffee, added cream and sugar because I felt like I needed something sweet after the salty onion rings

-2:30pm back in action! the coffee gave me the second wind I needed.

-3:00pm CRASH and again, I am so tired. Don't know how I am going to make it through the rest of the work day. No way I can make it to the gym tonight - will go tomorrow

4:30pm handful of almonds because my stomach felt a little queasy and I felt jittery, felt better after a healthy snack

6:00pm pasta with a white sauce and chicken and a side salad

-felt good immediately after, satisfied, but still tired

-6:45pm upset stomach, don't think the dairy agreed with me, gassy and bloated

7:00pm drank a gingerale to help with upset stomach

-felt a little better after, not as tired and the carbonation seemed to help my stomach

9:00pm going to go to bed early - so tired

10:00pm still cant fall asleep, body is tired but my mind is awake

2:00-3:00am - woke up and couldn't go back to sleep for an hour

Here's is how I would interpret this entry and make some suggestions to help this client make better choices to help them feel better:

-Take a look at overall coffee/caffeine intake. Perhaps for the 2nd and 3rd cups of coffee, lets try some green tea or water or for the 1st cup of the day, try warm water with lemon to start your day and rehydrate. I also see no water listed here, let's grab a big reusable bottle and start chipping away at drinking at least one of those per day!

-At breakfast, oats can be a great option full of fiber. Instead of a packet with maple which has a sugar, lets switch to plain oatmeal and add some fresh fruit and nut butter and pair it with a good source of protein. This will give you plenty of healthy carbs, fats, and protein to create a balanced meal and keep you full and satisfied until lunch.

-If you really want that juicy burger for lunch, lets forgo the onion rings and opt for fresh fruit or a side salad. Fried foods can create that heavy feeling and leave you feeling tired and like you ate a "gut bomb". To take that healthy step even further try substituting that beef patty for a turkey or black bean/veggie patty and get it lettuce wrapped! Gold star for making all those changes but each little change is a big improvement, too!

-Arnold Palmers have a shockingly large amount of sugar. Try an iced tea with fresh lemon, instead! Cutting back on or cutting out sugary foods can be hard (after all, sugar lights up the same pleasure sensors in our brain as cocaine....) BUT, if you decrease your intake, you won't crave it as much and it WILL get easier!

-Creamy pasta sauces are often very rich and can cause some stomach upset. Try an olive oil, garlic and fresh parsley sauce if you want something other than a classic marinara.

-Drinking a gingerale or soda before bed loads you up with more sugar! A stimulant that can keep you awake (hence staring at the ceiling) and increase cortisol (our stress hormone). If you find yourself waking up between 2-3am, we normally have cortisol to blame as this is when it is increasing during our circadian rhythm.

These may seem like simple swaps, and they can be! But, sometimes it takes time and accountability to make these changes permanent and develop new habits. If you are a go getter, try a Food and Mood Journal! If you need some extra accountability and guidance, look into working with a coach.

Even as a coach myself, I work with other coaches for different things that I am working on improve in my life! We all need a little support during different chapters of our lives. I love learning new things and expanding my horizons in my quest to live my very best life!

Be Well, My friends!


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