How many of you have ever kept a food journal? Raise your hands (unless you're reading this on the bus; no need to encourage questioning looks from strangers). Okay, now how many of you were completely honest with those food journals? If you ate something unhealthy – say, a cookie or 3 potato chips – did you record it in your journal? Or did it become “If I don’t write it, I didn’t eat it?”
I’ve tried to be a good Food Tracker. I’ve tracked electronically and with pen & paper. I’ve used pre-printed journals, loose leaf paper, note pads, and downloaded worksheets. I’ve reinvented the wheel a thousand different ways, and yet I have usually fallen into the same traps:
· Boredom – By the end of the day or week, or after several weeks, food tracking is boring.
· Shame – There have been times I’ve eaten things my body didn’t really need. I’ve eaten out of emotion or for the pleasure of taste and texture, then found myself too ashamed to acknowledge the binge. I’d bury that binge deep inside and pack the pounds on outside. (Note: What you eat in private you wear in public.)
· Uncertainty – I haven’t yet developed the knack of tracking meals I didn’t prepare. It’s easier to just skip it altogether rather than try to figure out ingredients. (Note: I think that by baby steps I can work on writing the foods I can identify, then describe guesses. Not perfection; progress!)
This week I began keeping a food journal which will be evaluated (scrutinized?) weekly by my trainer. By the end of the second day, a day during which I’d eaten a couple unplanned snacks, I was faced with the dilemma: Do I record them in my food journal?
What would happen if I didn’t record those foods? I’d cause confusion and frustration. If I only listed the on-plan foods and ended up maintaining or gaining weight this week, my trainer would probably tweak our original plan. I’d probably end up stressed and eating even farther astray till I was in a seemingly endless mixed-up cycle of lying and tweaking.
So I wrote those foods down. I wrote what I ate as well as why I ate them. I had felt nauseated during the day, so I ate some Saltines. Hours later my hands were shaking, so I grabbed a couple cookies (we were away from home, no fruit or veggies were available). Are those excuses? No. They’re explanations I want my trainer to know so that we can a) look at why those symptoms occurred; and b) have an honest picture of my calories in vs. calories out.
Late in the evening when I was plum tuckered out, I wanted to eat. There were no more nutrients or fuel my body needed for the day. My body was tired and wanted comfort; it needed rest. Loading calories into my body would not have made my body less tired; it would only have kept my body awake longer, postponing much needed sleep, and leading to an even more tired morning. Plus, I didn’t want to write it down. So I didn’t do the Unhungry Eat.
I’ve tracked honestly and completely for two days now. I had no idea it would be so challenging and enlightening. I’m even finding myself motivated to track better and eat healthier. I'm curious to see what happens when I do the best I can. How about you? Are you ready to give it a whirl?