Do dancers benefit from journaling? When it comes to intuitive eating, is it possible to keep a journal without turning to obsessive behaviors like calorie counting and macro tracking? In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of journaling. We’ll also decipher between food journaling and meal tracking and how dancers can utilize a journal in a helpful (and even intuitive) way.
Who Benefits from Journaling?
Without over-generalizing, I believe that everyone can benefit from jotting things down. For me, it’s a simple to-do list. Getting it into words lessens the load of what is spiraling within my head!
In The Healthy Dancer program, dancers utilize a variety of journaling exercises. A weekly Food and Mood Journal is designed to help dancers reconnect their food choices to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. By creating a mealtime experience, we focus on body attunement as a way to identify feelings of pre-meal hunger, mid-meal fullness, and post-meal satisfaction. Additionally, we work through a ton of journaling prompts that help to challenge food rules and unhelpful body beliefs.
The happiness-health connection isn’t talked about often, but there is evidence that associates both a positive outlook and a variety of relaxation techniques to better health. Journaling is one such example that can help to bring acknowledgment to the aspects of life that bring you joy.
What’s A Food and Mood Journal?
For starters, we’re not tracking numbers. Calories, grams, and serving sizes are not included. These methods of food journaling and food tracking are oftentimes utilized in the context of food restriction: as a tool to “watch out” over what we eat, how much we eat, and even when we eat. With such a rigid agenda, these behaviors quickly turn food journaling into an unhealthy habit. If you’re looking to use your journal to record these numbers, then you’ll need to reconsider your intent and reach out for support. A licensed dietitian can help you realign your food and body goals in a way that supports more sustainable (and less time-consuming) habits.
Intuitive Eating Journal
I’ve previously discussed how dancers can utilize both meal planning and food journaling as helpful tools in the journey of rebuilding their relationships with food and body. You can read about it here. And if you’re ready to try this method of journaling, then consider these prompts:
- How’s your level of hunger prior to your meal? Check out this article and tool to assess your hunger and fullness.
- How you’re you’re feeling? (happy, sad, stressed, anxious, bored)
- What foods you’re currently craving or in the mood for? (here’s an article that deciphers between food rules and food preferences).
- How you’re meal or snack is making you feel (both physically and mentally)?
- How you feel at the completion of your meal and snack (refer back to that hunger/fullness scale)? Are you satisfied?
- How are you staying hydrated throughout the day?
Disclaimer: While a food and mood journal can help with body attunement and emotional eating, it can also be a slippery slope into obsessive food tracking. If you’re food and mood journal is becoming stressful, then take a break! Also, there’s no pressure to do this daily! You can use a food and mood journal as a weekly (or even monthly) check-in. This is exactly how we utilize these journal prompts in The Healthy Dancer program. It’s not a daily thing.
Mind and Body Journal
I often talk about utilizing body appreciation as a tool to continue the ongoing work of rebuilding our relationships with our bodies. In fact, a 2014 study showed the benefits of gratitude on the self-esteem of athletes.
As dancers, there’s no doubt that we’re our own worst critics. It’s a product of grind culture: the very attitude ingrained into us from a young age… the more we do the more successful we feel. But it is this attitude that leads us to burnout, along with a decline in our physical, mental, and emotional. Utilizing a journal to practice self-appreciation can help to increase your awareness of the here and now. A quick search on Pinterest can help to guide your journaling practice. Here are a few personal favorites:
- Write a letter to yourself from a decade ago. What has this past decade taught you?
- List 3 ballet exercises that you currently enjoy doing.
- What’s a childhood food memory that makes you laugh?
- What’s your biggest dance goal?
- Sit down and take 3-5 deep breaths. Describe this experience. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Remember: There is no “right” or “wrong” way to journal. Jotting down your thoughts can help to relieve your mind, making room for your work in the studio. Take this time for YOU.