The last couple days I have been reading over my reflective journal, which I have kept everyday since July 16th, looking for patterns and themes. I identified these themes:
- lower incidents of poor choices when the environment matches my goals
- identification of strategies used to make good choices
- lower incidents of poor choices when using mindfulness
- areas for future research
- continuing concerns
It seems a simple idea, but it is remarkable how much easier it is for me to make healthy food choices when there are only healthy food choices in the house. I remark 10 times in my journal about how the environment has either positively or negatively impacted my choices. Additionally, I identify watching TV as a particularly powerful environmental cue to emotional eating. It is also mentioned 10 times.
Throughout my reflective journal I identified strategies that are helping me develop self-regulation. These strategies fall into one of three categories:
- emotional eating:
- stock the house with healthy meal options for emergency dinner nights
- delaying – going for a walk around the house, getting a glass of water, switching tasks for a few minutes until urge passes
- distracting – reading a book, listening to an audiobook, playing a board game, going for a walk
- writing a reflective journal
- get additional exercise on days I overeat or the following day
- only buy what is on the grocery list
- send my husband to get groceries when I’m feeling tired
- positive self-talk
- re-affirming my goal aloud
- going to bed early
- ask husband for help
- make a list of cues and how to respond to them
- tracking food consumption
- making weekly menu plan with two vegetarian meals a week
- be forgiving of myself and look for the learning in the event
- dealing with stress:
- chunking time to complete tasks
- tracking time to see how it is being used
- reviewing expectations
- making to-do lists
- tracking tasks on a calendar
- using Cornell notes instead of SQR3 method
- rewarding long focused sessions with fun breaks
- getting up early in the morning to work
In all of the incidents where I have been successful in stopping myself from engaging in emotional eating, I have done so through the use of mindfulness. I take a series of deep breaths when I feel the urge to emotionally eat and consider where the feeling is coming from. What is cueing me? What choices do I have? How would I like to respond? Which response will match my goals and my values? Here is an excerpt from my journal which illustrates how I did this:
I also stopped myself from boredom/work avoidance eating. I was struggling to get my work done and went looking for a snack to entertain myself. I recognised this was what I was doing, took 5 deep breathes and asked myself why I wanted to eat. I realised it was boredom and work avoidance. I realised that I had a choice – I could give in to the feeling or I could distract myself and wait for the feeling to pass. Giving in would lead to feelings of guilt and does not match my goal of being a healthy, responsible adult. So I decided to distract myself by watching a bit of television while searching the web and it worked long enough for the feeling to pass.
Being able to delay myself from boredom snacking was great. I know I won’t be successful every time and it will take practice and mindfulness to break the habit long term, but it felt like a bit of a victory today.
Throughout my journal I identified questions that I still needed answers for to better understand why I make the choices I do. Here are a few of these questions:
- Would doing meditation for 10 minutes during the lunch hour be more productive during school time?
- How do we change habits?
- How do I deal with days when my plan doesn’t work, when I give in to emotionally eating?
- Why do I get a positive emotional response from sneak-eating?
For all of these questions I did additional research and added the learning to my concept map.
The other theme that came through clearly is that I still have one big concern that consistently gets raised: Will I be able to stick with my goals once I return to work and have the additional time constraints of work on top of studying, parenting, and exercising. This is an issue I need to give careful consideration to over the next few days. Thankfully I have tracked how I have spent my time over the last three weeks, so I will be able to identify how much time exercising, parenting, and studying actually take up. Then I will be able to answer this questions and create a weekly plan that will hopefully allow me to do all these things efficiently. Stay tuned!