Thursday, October 14, 2010

why tracking my food is important

Omuhgod I've started this blog entry about five bajillion times. Because it's half reflection, half confession and I don't know which one should come first.

bullet points
- Tracking is important to me because it helps me focus on healthy decision-making.
- I have not tracked for at least a month. Isn't this funny? Because I've just finished part one of four-part series detailing how I built my tracking tools.

This may read very heavy, but I share it with a light heart, and the objectivity of a lab study. These are facts (for myself) I'm laying out. Some of them talk about guilt and shame and the like, but I don't feel guilt or shame for having an area that needs improvement. I think of this as the coach telling me I really need to work on my follow-through, because I keep sending the baseball directly to right field.

what it means & what happens when i don't track
Not tracking my food is something like a harbinger; it's also something like a symptom. Not tracking usually comes as the result of something; but it also results in things. Some background on what tracking does do for me ...

Tracking assigns eating cues. I have never (ever) been someone who eats out of hunger. Left to my own devices, I grab the food that tastes good and that I imagine will make me happy in that moment. It doesn't matter if that moment is 8 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 7 p.m., 11 p.m. When I track my food — within a context of how much is appropriate to eat in a given day — I'm much more aware of how much fuel my body actually needs.

Tracking brings focus. My good habits require attention in a way that my bad habits don't. Tracking food is a ritual I repeat throughout the day, throughout the week. It requires me to stop and think about the food I choose to eat, and to answer for the decisions I make. That attention to cause and effect is enough to help me make good decisions. I feel more power to wait between meals, or to snack smartly.

... then when I'm not tracking ...

I lose focus. When I lose that sense of direction (sometimes for very innocuous things, like happy celebration times), I tend to let my good habits fall aside. I fill in idle moments with a bite of cheese, or a mindless grab at chips. Without innate hunger cues (which I suppose I may never gain), I have no idea if I've eaten too much on any given day (and usually the answer that I conveniently avoid by not tracking is that I have, indeed, eaten too much).

Giving in. ... to the cheese. And bread and butter. Cookie dough. More cheese. Things that don't contribute to my nutritional needs for the day. Indulgences. Every day. Isn't indulgence meant to be occasional? Isn't it meant to be special? I have nothing against the cheese, or bread and butter, or cookie dough. I think they're all a fine part of a healthy diet. But within the context of mindfulness.

I feel I have a terrible secret. Because when I'm not tracking, I give myself a pass to eat whatever I want, whenever. And that feels really good in the moment. And I don't want to give up those moments. So I keep them to myself. And a secret is terrible. Mostly, it reflects shame or a level of self-awareness that I'm not willing to face. This is food for Christ's sake! I should feel empowered enough to admit that I ate that block of cheese, damnit, and I won't let it get in my way of making the right decision next time! But I don't admit it, and keeping it to myself becomes a reason to make the next bad decision.

so, i confessed
Officially, I suppose. And it won't be the last time (it certainly hasn't been the first). But I would like to gain something for next time, maybe cut it off earlier in the pass.


  1. Ten Hail Marys, my child ;).

    It happens to the best of us! Just get back on that horse :).

  2. Thank you, ma'am :)

    Do you know I ate a little block of cheese after I posted this? 20 hail marys ...

  3. Only eat when you're hungry. We aren't plants, we literally have to go out of our way to consume food!

    I know, I know... much more easily said than done. And if the above method doesn't work then I think you're doing EXACTLY the right thing by tracking!

  4. Haha. *Much* more easily said than done for me.

    Do you ever have to stop yourself from eating because you realize you're not hungry? I am amazed by people who genuinely are not tempted by food unless they're in need. I wonder if that's something I *can* train myself to do over time ...

  5. To be honest, I don't think about food unless I'm hungry. I would imagine that's a cause-and-effect habit on which you could train yourself... but then again I do many things much differently than most people I know. Maybe my brain is jut wired strangely. :P

  6. Maybe it's wired more efficiently ;)