I have been keeping a food, sleep and activity journal for the past two weeks. I’ve kept food journals before, so I wasn’t really expecting any surprises. In the past, when I have kept a food journal, I had some set goal in mind (for example, losing weight). This time was different, because for the first week I didn’t have any goals in mind. After the first week, I analyzed my food journal with the intention of setting a few goals that would help me lead a healthier lifestyle.
I noticed several things from analyzing my first week. For one, I was eating a lot of desserts. I had something sweet almost every single day (sometimes more than once). Another thing I noticed was that several of my meals were lacking in protein. When protein was included, it was too often a highly processed vegetable protein (like soy crumbles or veggie turkey patties). I think the thing that surprised me the most was keeping a sleep log. I love sleep. I like to go to bed early and am pretty good at making sure that I do. I thought that I was getting at least eight hours of sleep a night, but when I kept track I noticed a lot of six hour nights. Six hours a night just doesn’t cut it for me. My activity level was also sorely lacking, often the only exercise I was getting was a very short walk in the morning. I don’t want to be completely negative, because I think I make plenty of healthy choices too. For example, I make sure to eat lots of vegetables, always drink lots of water and eat mostly whole grains.
Although I found lots of room for improvement in my lifestyle choices, I decided to pick two areas to work on. I decided I really needed to make physical activity a priority in my life. I was disappointed to notice a few days where I didn’t do anything active. The second thing I decided to work on was making sure I was getting adequate protein, with a particular focus on less processed forms of protein.
Keeping these two goals in mind, I embarked on a second week of journaling. I made a point to be more active and was successful in sticking with that goal. I’ve been walking, but am now planning on starting a running program to get even more of the benefits of exercise. I did okay with the protein goal, adding beans, eggs and tofu to substitute for some of the more processed protein choices. I want to stay committed to both of these goals in the future. Something that contributed to my success was letting my partner know what I was working on. He was supportive and we often went on evening walks together.
This whole process has been an interesting one for me. I try to eat healthy, try to exercise on a regular basis and follow a vegetarian diet. I have always perceived myself as having a healthy lifestyle. Seeing black and white evidence, in the form of my journal, is suggesting otherwise. I have allowed myself to get caught up in the “I’m too busy” mindset. I’m too busy to go grocery shopping, so I’ll just eat food that I have in my pantry (instead of fresh fruits and vegetables). I’ve done the same thing with exercise, which is the worst choice to make. I know from personal experience that in busy and stressful times, exercise is the best thing I can do for myself. Exercise just makes me feel better, mentally and physically. This whole process has really driven home how my perceptions can be different from what is actually happening. I also need to appreciate the importance of taking care of myself, no matter how busy I feel.
Food journaling in the classroom provides so many engaging opportunities. I think my students could benefit from the same process of clarity that I went through.There are many ways keeping food journals provides a way to plan interdisciplinary lessons. Students could take sections of their journals to work on math concepts such as fractions, percentages and making graphs. We could tie science in by talking about vitamins, minerals and other dietary terms. These activities would be more meaningful, because they are grounded in our lives. Just as I benefited from the support of my partner while working towards a goal, I think having a supportive classroom environment would help students reach their goals. As a class we could set a few goals and work on them together. Having a community behind you supports accountability and also provides a lot of motivation.