The first time I watched “Fight Club” I thought it was the worst movie ever made. I hated everything about it. The second time I watched “Fight Club” I thought it was the best movie ever made. I loved everything about it.
Recording what you eat, or food logging, can have a similar feel – although the first experience is often so traumatic, we never even dare to try it again.
The most common scenario goes like this: We painstakingly record every single bite, and gulp in MyFitnessPal, or some other god awful human torture tool. This goes well for two days, and then a friend invites you out for dinner. You have not seen this friend for a long time, because the friend moved to another city after university, and now you only get to see him twice a year, so this is clearly a special occasion that warrants all you can eat sushi – but how the hell do you record all you can eat sushi, amirite? So, you don’t log that night’s dinner, vowing to restart the next day.
Next day, you log your morning smoothie, measuring all the ingredients, and weighing cut up kale, feeling self-righteous. Then you realize that you forgot about the potluck at work, and instead of a meal that you prepared, you end up having small bites and tastes of seventy two different dishes that your coworkers lovingly threw together. No way in hell that is even loggable. Ugh. You start again the next day.
The more committed ones of us stick with logging and counting and weighing and measuring for longer. Some go for weeks, or months. Or years. Every year I work with clients who struggle not to count calories in their head because it becomes such an automatic behavior – like a tic.
I have once seen a woman at a restaurant order a glass of club soda, and then pull out a glass jar with a salad from her purse, that she asked the server to bring back to her on a plate. I bet that salad was weighed and measured. The whole interaction also looked batshit crazy to me. And I spent way too long being batshit crazy around food to carry around glass jars in my purse.
Few tips to minimize murderous urges and ensure sane food logging:
Judge not, and condemn not.
This is not an exercise in self-flagellation, but an exercise in awareness. You do not get to judge data, and this is all it is. Consider coming in from a place of curiosity instead – let me see what I will discover, let me find out if I will see any patterns. Collect data, then make conclusions.
Make it temporary.
Weighing, measuring and recording can be helpful, and can shed light onto the patterns we are not even aware of, but it should be, by definition, a temporary measure. Some health and fitness professionals will disagree with me here, arguing that for some, logging “forever” can be an effective strategy for weight loss and maintenance long-term, but I just do not see this level of attention to food, as something I’d want to do for longer than a week or two, or something I’d recommend to others.
Recording your food intake does not have to mean counting macros or calories. You do not have to weigh, or measure. What I find works for MOST clients is simply noting down foods on a notepad. Yes, with a pen. No fancy apps. Time of day, foods, and eyeballed amounts. That’s it.
Don’t do it.
You do not have to do this. This is the most important reminder of all. You do not have to do this. At all. Ever. Even if this seems like a good idea for other people, you personally do not have to do it. Here are some expressions that I have heard used at the mere suggestion of food logging: “running for the hills”, “barfy”, “feel like I am going to throw up”, “feel the crazy coming on”, “just want to run away”, “omg, not this”. If this is you, and you get a nervous knot in your stomach just thinking about this, that’s a great sign to back away slowly. Track something else. Tracking quality of sleep, and mood can be a great awareness building tool instead.