Although every dieter knows that keeping food records is a key to permanent weight loss, few understand the importance of also keeping an “emotional journal.” In fact, one dieter lost 100 pounds, thanks in part to the insights gained through daily journaling.
Dieting for weight loss can be as simple as keeping that food diary, or (the more challenging) dipping into the dark waters of the psyche. For example, which emotions motivate, sabotage, side-track, or inspire? Which people are supportive, which ones undermine your focus with snide remarks or constant invitations to ice cream? All will be revealed inside your private journal.
Of all the journal exercises for gaining insight, a favorite is the “Letter to My Body.” In this exercise, the dieter actually pens a letter to self, being as honest as possible. A sample might be “Dear Fat Body, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. I hate your rolls of fat on me, I hate that my knees hurt, I hate that you’d rather have a Danish than let me feel good about myself. I hate that you’ve been good all day and I know that tonight you’ll be a pig.”
What does that type of letter accomplish? For many—instead of adding to an already huge portion of self-loathing—it provides a powerful way of recognizing and reversing trigger situations. In this example, when nighttime does come and the journaler heads for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s, there’s a good chance the letter will be remembered. And, an even better chance that instead of eating a pint, some or none will be chosen.
Journaling to lose weight also involves writing about how your food choices will make you feel tomorrow when you get on the scale, or when you sit down to journal again. And, as you write these letters to self, you’ll quickly begin to connect the dots, and track the ways in which everyday life impacts your food choices.
Keeping a journal will also help with weight loss because it’s almost impossible to get to know yourself on a deep, intimate level and then continue with self-destructive behavior. Fortunately, we’re just not made that way.
So tonight, instead of settling in with a pizza and beer, take some time to write a letter to yourself and analyze what your hunger is really about. I guarantee you, it isn’t food.