Evaluating the process – examining my reflective journal

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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:

  1. lower incidents of poor choices when the environment matches my goals
  2. identification of strategies used to make good choices
  3. lower incidents of poor choices when using mindfulness
  4. areas for future research
  5. continuing concerns

The Environment:

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.

Strategies:

Throughout my reflective journal I identified strategies that are helping me develop self-regulation. These strategies fall into one of three categories:

  1. emotional eating:
    1. stock the house with healthy meal options for emergency dinner nights
    2. delaying – going for a walk around the house, getting a glass of water, switching tasks for a few minutes until urge passes
    3. distracting – reading a book, listening to an audiobook, playing a board game, going for a walk
    4. writing a reflective journal
    5. get additional exercise on days I overeat or the following day
    6. only buy what is on the grocery list
    7. send my husband to get groceries when I’m feeling tired
    8. positive self-talk
    9. re-affirming my goal aloud
    10. going to bed early
    11. ask husband for help
    12. make a list of cues and how to respond to them
    13. tracking food consumption
    14. making weekly menu plan with two vegetarian meals a week
    15. be forgiving of myself and look for the learning in the event
  2. dealing with stress: 
    1. chunking time to complete tasks
    2. tracking time to see how it is being used
    3. reviewing expectations
    4. making to-do lists
    5. tracking tasks on a calendar
  3. learning:
    1. using Cornell notes instead of SQR3 method
    2. rewarding long focused sessions with fun breaks
    3. getting up early in the morning to work

Mindfulness:

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.

Research:

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:

  1. Would doing meditation for 10 minutes during the lunch hour be more productive during school time?
  2. How do we change habits?
  3. How do I deal with days when my plan doesn’t work, when I give in to emotionally eating?
  4. 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.

Concerns:

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!

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