Food Journal Reflection

Over the course of this summer B term – the most challenging assignment for me was keeping an active food journal. It was a surprising struggle to be mindful in tracking my eating, exercise and sleeping patterns. Initially I perceived my eating habits as very healthy; I exercised regularly and sleep well most nights. And though at the end of this experience I am still as healthy as an eater I assumed I learned that I have few habits I could work to eliminate from my lifestyle. Those habits were stress snacking, and drinking too much coffee and mindless eating at social events. The stress being the biggest proponent of these concerns, and this crossed over into my sleeping pattern and regular exercise.
Looking back at what I logged the first week I noticed some positive trends in my diet/lifestyle. With the exceptions of Sundays, I have the same breakfast, lunch and mid- day snack: a fruit smoothie in the morning, for lunch a veggie salad and lean protein (one teaspoon of olive oil) and for a mid-day snack some mixed fruit or veggies with hummus. I exercised at least four days a week and was active when possible (i.e. walking instead of driving, planning active activities with friends like beach volleyball etc.) and every Sunday I go on a long distance run with a close friend.
However, I noticed a trend that in the evening I tend to not be as mindful of what I eat or the portion size. I also noted that I snack (more than needed) after dinner as well. When looking at my water intake I was not drinking enough and seemed to compensate with too much coffee. I reflected that this over eating or “mindless snacking” occurs at night because my brain is off “school/work” mode and I tend to mull over the various stressors in my life. This is, I am assuming, what is causing me to not sleep as well. I thought I could function on five-six hours of sleep but know we all need seven –eight hours. I saw the trend clearly: stress leads to over- eating/high caffeine intake which effects sleep that curbs energy to exercise. The following week I tried really hard to maintaining my eating habits (which sometimes was derailed due to birthday in class treats!) and not over snack. I started drinking more water and forced myself to go to bed early to get more sleep. I am already seeing the results from it but am still in progress to fully eliminate and improve these tendencies.
I can see how this would be a great tool for students. It could help them and their family track positive and negative eating/lifestyle patterns and become motivated to improve on their diet and lifestyle. Students tracking what they are putting into their body in relations to its effects on their sleep, activity ,health and school work will make them see food as fuel and not just “stuff” they crave or mindlessly eat. This will make them care about what they eat and care about their lifestyle, giving them the tools to carry this mentality into adulthood successfully.
This could also be put into the classroom by integrating it into various subjects such as math, science or writing. Like measuring their food properly, learning what makes up their favorite foods, and keeping a journal that tracks their reflections on the matter. It might seem daunting to my future students to keep a food journal, and I will fully anticipate their resistance (since I had many reservations and struggles with it myself) but once they make it a part of their daily life , the positive effect it will have is sure to leave a lasting impression on their lifestyle. Which, I believe, it paramount in the learning experience for children.


The Dopamine Lollipop


As my spring quarter nears its end- I have felt the increasing stress with due dates and reading workload. The amounting stress leads me to worrying that I will not to be able to remember what I have just read, a vicious cycle that all students go through. It got me thinking how my students will handle stress in the classroom when approached by new learning experiences. In a fabulous coincidence I came across Leaps and Bounds for Teachers with John Medina (author of Brain Rules) the hour long audio interview covers his thoughts on understanding the brain truths of the learning experience of our students. Trying to tackle the overstretched ever confounding question “why it is hard for students to remember what was just taught to them?”
Identifying the two types of memory, declarative memory and autobiographical memory, it is the declarative type that impacts students. Medina gives a good explanation – but basically the definition of the declarative memory is when you declare something as verbal proposition. We process new information then it goes through an immediate memory buffer (this takes thirty seconds), if it is not stored after that (though information is only stored up to two hours) then our brain dumps the information. To avoid “dumping”, that information needs to be repeated, after that information will be placed in our working memory. However, to stimulate the working memory there needs to be another interval of repetition. By Median’s standards- students would effectively learn if lessons were set around an interval of every two hours and thirty seconds.
What struck me the most was how this makes complete sense to me as a student, future educator and person: repetition makes memory sticky. By sticky, I mean it will go into our brain and stick, making it all the easier to open up that “file drawer” to answer a question or recall something. This interval of repeating information every two hours and thirty seconds would have students retaining the lessons and guarantee they are more relaxed while learning. If they miss it the first time, they know they can catch it the seconded time around or the third. Median calls this cycle of repetition The Dopamine Lollipop.
The fear of “missing an important part” of a lesson weighs heavily on most students. This weight surmounts to stress, and we all know stress is a disease in learning. When the brain is stressed it shuts down to all learning, making it nearly impossible to have the lesson stick.
So what do we think? Will creating lessons around repeated intervals help our students learn and remember what they have learned? I know this is something I will strive for in my classroom.

Cover of "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for ...
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