Writing Down the Bones – or the Butt

You already know that Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is a favorite book of mine. In it she speaks of filling spiral binders with her words consistently – one notebook per month. She writes that her efforts to get her thoughts on to paper actually translate to greater mental health for herself. I began blogging as a way to get myself to write more consistently and while it has done that, I also find myself spending an inordinate amount of time reading other blogs, commenting and analyzing traffic stats.

Sushi Ina's food journal

My friend Preston, a personal trainer, recently suggested that I begin writing something else down on a consistent basis. He recommends that I start keeping a food journal. All I have to do is write down what I eat all day long and add a few other ancillary comments about how I’m feeling after each meal or snack. That’s simple enough since I’m a healthy eater and of course I’m easily drawn in because it sets up a structured framework for me to operate within.

Or is it? Suddenly I’m realizing that the prescription to keep a food journal isn’t so much about what I do eat. Rather, it’s become an early warning sign for me about things that I think I’m going to eat.  Do I really have to list one cracker with St. Andres full fat cheese? Is it worth noting that I stole two krinkle cut kettle chips off of my son’s plate? Somewhat abruptly I find myself shirking the idea of that aioli slathered on my fish taco because I have to write it down and even worse, Preston is going to read it. I have visions of the incredulous look on his face as he turns from the food journal to me and says, “Really? You want to maintain optimal health and you ate that?”

I think it’s working as intended. Writing down my food choices is bringing a greater awareness to every bite and how it will contribute to my health goals.

What should you be keeping track of that will raise your awareness and perhaps even alter your behavior for the better?

Gudlyf's Homemade Waffles

Memorial Day Brunch Mexican Waffles

Adapted from Waffles
Serves 5
  • 2 eggs (room temperature and separated)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 and 1/3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • kernels slices from two ears of corn on the cob
  • 1/2 cup ground beef cooked with taco seasoning or 1/2 cup black beans warmed with taco seasoning
  • 4 Tbs butter

Beat egg white in a small bowl until stiff and set aside. Mix dry ingredients together and set aside. Combine egg yolk, milk, salsa, meat or beans and butter. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until just blended. Fold in beaten egg white until just mixed. Do not overbeat batter. These are a wonderful change of pace waffle that are only limited by creativity and what’s in the fridge. I served them topped with grated cheese. We find that they are a great way to use up leftovers. And, they’d probably freeze well except that I don’t have any left. Ok, I’m off to write it down.

Leave a comment


  1. Hi Tammy! I was writing about journal keeping when your post appeared in my mailbox. I am working on a food journal too. Peek over at the LLine….in between all this great cooking! Love, S

  2. While there are many days I would happily share what I’ve eaten with the world . . .

    There are other days when what I’ve negligently chosen to consume horrifies me. ; )

  3. The logging doesn’t scare me; the sharing does. My way of eating doesn’t seem to fit anyone else’s definition of healthy other than mine, and it’s not an argument I welcome. I do agree that the act of writing it down in itself alters my behavior, so that’s a good thing. Maybe I’ll give it try again!

    • I’m in agreement with you about the sharing. It’s really an odd feeling. But yes, the act of recording it is worthwhile – probably in other areas too (exercise, etc…).

  4. Tammy, I agree whole heartedly that journaling is a tremendous step to growing emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. In my times of melancholy I have written amazing poems. In my times of deep joy I have written songs that would melt hearts of stone. In my times of longing, I have written short stories that I desire to send to Reader’s Digest.

    These are all experiences, thoughts, and dreams that can be shared or not. The bottom line is, we ALL are incredibly artistic creatures and we can all learn from each other.

    ~ “Just because we have our parents GENES, doesn’t mean we have to WEAR them.” ~ Luana Anette Webb

  5. Kimball Holt

     /  May 31, 2010

    I attach memories to certain foods, my mom made taco’s on my birthday for many years growing up….I associate taco’s with birthdays and always make them on my husband and son’s birthdays. Of course, over the years they have become more healthy and about 14 years ago I started serving them with lots of greens like they do at Cafe Poca Cosa in Tucson….Recently my son declared Mezzeritz Peproncini’s the best food ever and asked me how I discovered them. My memory took me back to the late 80’s when my roommate Tammy introduced them to me.

    • and they are still just as tasty. Funny thing is that I have food memory about that time also. I seem to remember it with a batch of lentils in the crockpot.

  6. I just started a food journal as suggested by Gretchen Rubin in her happiness challenge… and I have to admit, it’s rather difficult.
    On one hand, I keep forgetting about it.
    And on the other hand, like you’ve said, when I look at some of the things I ate, I get this disapproving mocking voice in my head saying: “even though this is the first time you ate chips in 3 months… how could you?!” 😛

    But it does serve its purpose, making me more aware of what I eat. So I’ll try and stick with it 🙂

    • You’re the 2nd person to mention the Happiness Challenge to me this week so I guess it’s a sign that I need to learn about it.

  7. Girls, my problem is that my brain thinks naughty tastes good. I am in a war between good and evil 😉 However, I just ate at a very knowledgable woman’s home all about healthy eating. It was DELICIOUS! Over the top. The beets were of a few colors, with walnuts, and special flavoring. They tasted potatoish. We had coleslaw, with a bit of organic sugar, lemon, fennel, red cabbage, and a dice of spice.

    We must share this menu. Everything was really yummy. It is only 8:45 in the morning, and I am desiring to eat healthy.

    I do believe when we are held accountable with what we choose to go down our throats into our magnificent bodies, we will think twice before feeding our Temple with poison!

    I am keeping a journal. Someone, please hold me accountable! 😉

  8. SAlly Mom

     /  May 31, 2010

    Tammy, I really enjoy everyone of your blog reports and sharing. It is as if you can read our, “my” minds”, so often. Last night after eating clam pasta and banana bread, I asked myself what the heck am I doing? My response to self, comfort. Today I hate myself.
    Thank you brilliant one. I just ate my oatmeal and flax cereal with goat milk and acai.
    I also will write everything down, including my feelings.
    I needed this message desperately and also love all the responses you recieved.
    I will make those waffles this summer for my grands. Delish!
    Love, Sally

  9. Don’t beat yourself up. After all, good health is a process. Take it one day at a time but writing it down definitely helps.

  10. I love how easy it is to read your blog because of its fluidity and authenticity.
    I don’t keep track of the food I eat on paper (though I’m sure it would be eye opening!), but I do keep track of movies, books and songs I like or have seen/read and your entry reminded me of this.
    I have been playing around with writing lyrics lately, and so I actually write down lyrics that I like, often writing the whole song, from other songwriters and musicians, and I keep them all in one book.
    I try to take the time to look at the way their work is composed, how or whether they use rhymes, and what form (Verse, verse, chorus, etc) the song takes. I try to use this information in my own songwriting. Just seeing those examples on paper, but also having written them down myself, really helps my understanding of the proceess. It’s a great way to learn and it’s just another example of how writing something down can be so powerful.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I do something similar with children’s literature. I have a few stories bumping around in my head and I try to write them out using the same cadence as other stories.

  11. Hi Tammy,
    Do you have to make me so aware just because you are?!!

    After spending a long weekend at my daughters I have more than one thing to journal. LOL

    Seriously I’m beginning my food journal as well. I think with the notes of feelings included combined with honestly I’m in for some serious self growth.

    How’s that for a bold confession;)

  12. You’ve seen Julie and Julia, right? (or read the book?) If you haven’t, you need to. It’s right up your alley for what you’ve been writing so far.
    Check out my movie blog for my impressions on it:

  13. I’m leaving for France in a week and will definitely be keeping a food journal of all the evil, exotic, enticing delicious food I’ll eat over there… bring on the truffles

    • That will be a wonderful memory for you to have for years to come. Hope you’ll put some of it into the blogospere. Have a great trup.

  14. I love journaling. Some days I am better about it than others.
    Food journal? sounds great!

  15. You are braver than me! I don’t think I would like to see what I eat written down, although it’s mostly healthy. It would probably just seem like too much for one person. Hmm…

  16. LOVE that Andre cheese! At least I saved it until I could share with my sweet husband – once I finally found a chunk of it. On the other hand, I just started cooking at a health food store deli department and I am learning so many new and healthy (mostly) vegetarian recipes and combinations. AND the Farmers’ market starts on Saturday. Life is good (and some fat in your diet makes your hair healthy and shiny).

    • You’re right. Our diets shouldn’t be fat free. Looking forward to seeing some of what you are cooking on your blog.

  17. I have that book, Writing Down the Bones. I’ve read it too but it’s been awhile. I never succeeded at making myself write 10 minutes a day or anything really. It takes a lot of commitment and time to really get the writing habit to stick.

    I also started a food journal once, but it was too cumbersome. Recording every little thing I ate was a pain in the butt. And I was trying to spot any allergic reactions so not only was I writing down main ingredients but also every little spice, seasoning, vinegar and oil I was using. Too much detail!

    • I don’t think a food journal is something that I’ll do long-term but I do think it really woke me up to all of those little things that I ingest without calling it a meal or a snack for that matter.

  18. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

    I’ve read about this concept before; sometimes just the plan to track meals makes people think differently about what they put in their mouths. I would want to track how many fruits and vegetables I eat each day, because I always feel like I’m lacking in that area.

    Haven’t read Goldberg’s book in years, but I recall really enjoying it. I might look to reread it this summer.

    • Fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. If you have a minute, check out my post called 5 in the Morning.

  19. Hi Tammy! Ah, the food journal. I used to keep one a couple years ago, purely to fuel my obsession with everything that I ate. But a couple years ago, I realized jotting down everything I ate every single day wasn’t quite how I wanted to live and so I stopped.

    While I did initially feel a strong loss of control, I’ve learnt to eat better now by listening to my body and am eating better now than the whole time I kept a journal.

    I still think the food journal’s a brilliant idea to keep track of what you eat instead of mindless eating but only if you’re doing it for the right reasons. Good luck with it, Tammy! I’ll be looking forward to your updates on it 🙂

    • I don’t think it will be a long-term thing for me but rather will raise my awareness of my snack happiness.

  20. I’m also a huge fan of Natalie Goldberg’s work. She’s inspired me time and time again to be gentle, persevere, and enjoy.

    I’ve never kept a written food journal, probably because I’ve been afraid that I use it to judge or abuse myself about what I choose to eat. I admire your use of the journal to bring awareness to yourself and create transparency!

  21. Wow Mexican Waffles. Sounds like fun! What a good idea to keep track of what your eating as a way of being aware of it. Too often, I just grab something without really thinking about it.

  22. waw!! those waffles look incredibly tasty & lovely!!

    Great food!

  23. What a wonderful idea and it looks great too! I think writing is a wonderful thing to do……..keep it up! blessings,Kathleen

  24. When analyzing your blog stats, do you also keep track of which search terms bring new readers to your blog? It would be a good idea to write in such a way that Google and other search engines start recognizing your blog as the authority on 2-5 topics. The idea is that when people search for these terms or related terms, your blog should be one of the top results returned, preferably on the first results page.

  25. Preston Young

     /  June 5, 2010

    Hello to you all,

    This is my first post on agrigirls blog and I thought I’d introduce myself. My name is Preston and I enjoy all things of health, fitness, friends and family. Some of you may better know me as the judgemental, raised eyebrow, incredulous looking personal trainer that gets to see the other side of “Agrigirl.” Well I thought I would just step off my podium of telling people to “hold that position!” “lift more weight!”, “Be the buuurn!” and show you the “I’m just the same as you” kinda guy that I am.
    Ya know, I too have had the joy of writing down food journals for homework assignments and mental relinquishment. I soon realized that there is much more to just writing down what I ate. There is a sense of fulfillment, expression, and accountability that goes along with it. Among many other things it has helped me empathize with colleagues and clients while also reaching my own personal goals for better health. So I just wanted to make a post agrigirl, to show you that i’m watching your every move and I better see some vegetable pictures, healthy serving sizes, and throw some fruits in there while you’re at it 🙂

    I can’t believe you ate St. Andres full fat cheese, do you know how many calories are in that?! and you even stole some chips from your own child to feed your violent snack attack! oh the audacity!

  26. Tammy – I found you because you found me – you commented on my blog and thankfully left the URL for yours – wow! What a treasure trove! Reading your blog will be my post-workout treat!

    As for writing down food – yes, agree, it makes a difference (so why don’t I do it?!) – when I DO track i use http://www.sparkpeople.com – a free site that my good friend Kay turned me on to.

    Just got home from the famer’s market – as a single woman who doesn’t cook every single day a CSA share proved to be too much (I had part of a halfshare- still too much!) but I committed to farmer’s markets all summer as part of my weekly shopping – got GREAT stuff today and it’s very early in the season here in northern illinois.

    THank you for this great blog!

    • Thanks for the comment Diane and for the link. I haven’t heard of spark people but I’ll check it out. I’m all for helping others be healthier as hard as it can be.

  27. Dawn

     /  June 5, 2010

    I really should keep track of when I exercise (currently, um, about never) and how I feel when I do and don’t… something I want to focus on starting about now… a good reminder!

  28. I love Natalie and have stacks of notebooks to prove it! What haven’t I written down? Currently I write about the process of taking pictures, what I like, don’t, ideas, challenges, things learned or things needed to learn. Sometimes it’s all completely useless and then, there, at the bottom of the page is a revelation and the inspiration to pick up the camera again, for the first time and the three thousandth time. And I can hear Natalie saying, make positive effort for the good, do not be tossed away and continue under all circumstances.

    The Mexican Waffles sound so delicious! Thank you.

  29. kjacobs729

     /  June 11, 2010

    I own a different Natalie Goldberg book, Wild Mind. I’ve always planned to read Writing Down the Bones, but don’t know that I’ve ever gotten to it. My husband and I are planning to read lots of nonfiction this summer, so I’ll put it on our list!

    I’ve been thinking about keeping a food journal as well. I did for a while but not long enough to form a good habit. Maybe you’ll be my inspiration to try it out again.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. It’s exciting to discover that my writing might really interest more people than just my mother-in-law!

  30. I agree – whether writing on a blog or journal, it helps so much!

  31. moosie

     /  June 25, 2010

    Hi Tammy! I surfed over to your blog after you left a comment on mine (I’ll be documenting my CSA experience there – I’m so fascinated with it and this is my first foray into the world of not eating pesticides with my tomatoes!).

    I JUST started reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and I love the idea of filling up a notebook each month. I find it’s hard sometimes, since I don’t really feel like I’m talking about anything, but a food journal may be a great place to start!!

  1. Thank You Agrigirl! « From Fit to Fat and Back

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