Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming to Terms with Tracking

I have a long and sordid history with Food Tracking.  It has never been a love-hate thing, it has pretty consistently involved just plain Hate.  I hated doing it.  I hated myself for feeling the need / being told to do it.  I hated the very mechanics of doing it because spending precious time weighing and measuring food then writing it down in a little notebook was not only tedious, but forced every bite I ate into Guilt Territory.

When you log your food or track your food or whatever you want to call it, you have to weigh every bite that you take and each of those bites involve an internal debate:

Eating Self:  I really want this Milky Way bar.

Tracking Self:  But if you eat that, you have to put it in the food log, and then those calories and those fat grams will be in black and white, taunting you, mocking you for your lack of willpower.

Eating Self:  Well, I could eat it and not write it down.

Tracking Self:  Sure, you could, but then you would be lying to yourself along with everyone else, because everyone knows that because you're fat you are OBVIOUSLY eating more than you think you are.  You're just so used to huge portions that you don't even realize they're huge any more.

Eating Self:  What?  Wait...my portions aren't huge!  I measure them JUST FOR YOU and I do it ALL OF THE TIME!  I haven't eaten a hot meal in months because I have to stop and weigh everything before I can actually start eating!

Tracking Self:  Likely story.  I saw the corn you ate the other day without weighing it first.

Eating Self:  ONE KERNEL!  I ate one kernel of corn that fell off the plate!

Tracking Self:  Uh huh.  That's what they all say.

Eating Self:  Fine.  I won't eat the stupid Milky Way bar.  Are you happy now?

Tracking Self:  Not really.  Are you?

Eating Self:  No.

It was even worse when I was a teenager and had to take my food log to weekly doctor's appointments, because then I not only had the pressure from myself to be perfect, but I didn't want to be a disappointment to my doctor and my parents.  Of course, I still was, because it didn't seem to matter what I ate or didn't ate, I was still fat.

Finally, I stopped doing any kind of tracking.  I discovered intuitive eating, and Health at Every Size, and learned that I can accept myself as I am and still love myself.  I don't HAVE to hate myself just because I'm fat.  This was a major revelation, let me tell you!  I'd been sure that I had to put off loving myself until I weighed 140 pounds, and I had to put everything else off too.  My whole life had centered on hating the me I was now, and loving the me I would be when I finally learned enough willpower to be Not Fat.  Now, suddenly, that had changed.  It took me a while to work through all of the loss that went with losing the one thing that had been the focus of my life until then, but I finally got there and just let myself live in the moment, enjoy myself, and love myself.

But recently I started feeling rather blah.  My blood sugars were going up ever so slightly, and I felt lethargic and just all-around mediocre.  So I decided to start tracking my food and exercise again.

This time...this time would be different.

For about a week now I have been tracking what I eat, and the movement I do, and while I did have to fight the resurgence of some old feelings at first, I have discovered that I'm actually enjoying noting this stuff down.  I think that part of it is I'm not trying to meet a certain caloric goal, and I have my settings on the website I'm using listing my goal as "remain the same weight", which means that the caloric number it DOES suggest as part of the site isn't some ridiculously small number like 1,500 calories.  Actually, amusingly, I have eaten fewer than the "recommended" number of calories just about every day so far.  And the deficit is worse because I have also been tracking my movement, and the site takes the calories burned into account when telling you how many calories you have left for the day.

The real reason I'm tracking my intake right now is that I'm trying to cut down my sodium consumption.  I didn't realize how many things I eat that have high sodium.  I love things like pretzels, and popcorn with salt, and bagels (which have a surprisingly large amount of sodium in them!).  So this first couple of weeks is going to be spent just logging and seeing where I am getting the overabundance of sodium from, then I will start looking for alternatives that I still enjoy but that might be a bit lower in the salt department.  I'm hoping that helps me feel less bloated and lethargic, especially since I've re-started my cardio and calisthenics.

Not only am I getting some good information out of tracking my food this time, I've finally reached a point in my life where I am doing it voluntarily, and getting the information I WANT out of it, rather than allowing the information I'm gathering to turn me into a miserable, self-loathing ball of hate.  And really, that's the best victory yet.

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