Once upon a time I was a chubby teenager that turned in to a pretty large adult. It wasn’t about looks so much as energy level and health that snapped every thing in to perspective for me and made me want to change. That makes it sound like it was an a-ha moment for me. It wasn’t. I struggled for years and years. I was anorexic in Grade 9, and a binge eater all through high school. While I was in University I got in to dancing at raves. That helped a lot to keep my weight manageable, but my eating was still very erratic and unhealthy.
While I was in Japan teaching English I ate very badly- lots of instant meals of sticky rice and tempura. I got bigger and bigger and felt out of control. I found biking to work left me breathless and I didn’t sleep well. One day, I was teaching two older gentlemen and we started to talk about age and how the Japanese live to a very old age- a lot of them to 100 years old. The Japanese men told me they suspected that it was just diet and the fact that a lot of them walk to work or bike rather than using a vehicle. ‘Canadians,’ they said, ‘Can live to that age quite easily too’. Then one of them laughed and said, ‘Not you though, you’re too fat!’ Then he laughed hysterically for a solid two minutes while I got redder and redder.
That night I took a good long look at all 210 lbs of me in the mirror. I was disgusted at how unhealthy I had gotten. Screw the scale, I could not even bike the few blocks to work without getting tired. So I did something completely stupid. I just stopped eating dinner. I would only allow myself vegetables after 12:00pm. SO UNHEALTHY…DO NOT DO THIS. I was able to bring myself down to 175 lbs in a few months and not be a total whale at my sister’s graduation. But I was super unhealthy. A lot of it was stress. I got back to Japan and quit my full time job to work part time. I moved in with a Japanese girl and started going to the gym. I became obsessed with the gym and replaced unhealthy eating with barely eating. All I did was work out. I taught in the mornings or evenings and on the weekends. I spent my afternoons at the gym. I would warm up on the treadmill, do my weights routine, bang out 100 situps and do anywhere from 3-7 cardio classes in a row. I was strong and skinny and fit when I returned to Canada at 125lbs.
But I hadn’t learned anything. I didn’t respect or love my body at all and the scale represented how I would feel that day. So I quit weighing myself and re-introduced pizza in to my life. I would buy two large pizzas and eat them both…in two hours…while hating myself. So I ballooned up again.
This is when I decided I needed accountability. I started Food Logging.
I screwed it up because I didn’t weigh anything and I over-estimated what exercise I had done. Tip: picking up a few papers to tidy them does not count as “moderate exercise for 10 mins”. That would be vacuuming or something. So instead of helping me lose weight, I would see “200 calories remaining for the day” and use that to eat 200 calories worth of chips. Not only was it an unhealthy choice for a snack and basically empty calories, I was probably already 700 calories over for the day- had I calculated it correctly. Of course, I gained weight. When I started to gain weight I panicked and began to eat hardly anything! I would make it a game to see how many unused calories I could have at the end of the day. If I saw anything over “200 calories remaining”, I would be so proud of myself. I lost weight but was cranky and tired. Obviously, I was being unhealthy and obsessive: I felt I was slipping back in to bad habits.
Then I got bored. I stopped doing my food log. It seemed like a huge interruption to my day, so I quit doing it.
Last June I got horrid food poisoning that lasted a week. I got medicine for it but the result was that my gut had been damaged. As a result, I am now gluten intolerant. I have started food logging again as a way to track any allergies to any other foods and track my gut health, as well as keeping me accountable. I use the My Fitness Pal app because it seems the easiest to use and has the best list of brand names. I also bought a food scale to train myself on healthy portion size; I try not to worry too much about calories or weight. I am trying to stay within a healthy zone on the food logging app. It is about keeping me accountable rather than creating a “chore” or making me panic. I’m getting there.
I may stop and start with the food logging again but it is there when I need it. Not using it doesn’t make me a failure. This is important for me to remember.
Do you use food logging as a tool? Does it work for you?