My Thoughts on Food Tracking

Food tracking can be a slippery slope for me, so this post goes over my feelings on it during this fitness challenge and how I'm making it work.

I think nutrition is fascinating.

I always like learning new research and finding new foods to try. One thing that excited me about this fitness challenge is that there was a nutritional component involved. It wasn’t just working out and eating what I had been eating, it encompassed both of those things and how they work in tandem.

A short background on why and how I’m tracking my meals:

In order for us to receive our customized nutrition plans, we first had to complete a BioSignature Modulation assessment. The fat levels on twelve sites on the body were measured and where your body holds more fat is used as an indicator of possible hormonal imbalances in the body. Certain imbalances can indicate which types of foods are most appropriate for your body, helping you develop a meal plan that is optimized to your specific needs.

I love science and I love trying new things, so this sounded right up my alley. Plus, someone else did the work for me and all I had to do was follow along. 🙂

Our meal plans included an ideal amount of macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) and calories to strive for during each day. In addition, there was a further breakdown of those numbers into the number of meals/snacks we planned to eat throughout the day.

All of this is logged in the My Fitness Pal app, which is actually super fun to use.

Now, here comes my problem.

As someone who has suffered with disordered eating in the past, this can be a slippery slope. The perfectionist in me also wants to do everything right and hit my numbers as exactly as I can. I want to be the A student. I want to win (keep in mind there’s no winning in this challenge — I’m just absurd).

I knew this would be a potential problem going into the challenge, but I also knew that it has been at least five years since the last time I let that behavior take over my life. Today I have a sturdy foundation, I have the power of self-awareness, and I have this blog where I can write posts like this and lay it all out there to prevent me from regressing to old behaviors.

I took on this challenge because I wanted a goal to work towards and I truly wanted to challenge where I was in my recovery.

For me, there’s a difference between overcoming something and never facing it again vs. overcoming something and healing enough to face it head on. I can’t truly know how much I’ve grown unless I’m faced with the same problem and see how I react.

Let’s take a minute to be smart about this, however. I’m applying this to behaviors and thought patterns that I have dealt with in the past, not specific substances. I don’t tell myself “I’m going to drink and do some heroin today to see if I’m still addicted. MAYBE I’VE BEATEN IT!” The ingestion of those substances elicits a biological response that no amount of therapy or 12-step meetings is going to be able to reverse. My quest for personal growth is focused more on behavioral patterns that have been detrimental to me and prevented me from finding true wellness with myself.

I’m also not advocating that everyone who has had an eating disorder tempt fate and do something with such an emphasis on control — one of the underlying components of such disorders (including addiction). Everyone one is different and you need to figure out what works for YOU.

Back to food tracking.

For most people, it’s not a huge deal. For me, it can become obsessive. Thankfully, the only obsessing I’ve been doing has been about the fact that I want to eat MORE food. It’s not about how I can restrict myself or how I should stay away from anything sweet — I just like to eat. HA.

It’s been a great relief to think about using food as a way to fuel my body and not a way to punish or reward it. Now, when I ask myself if should have a cookie, it’s because I’m not sure it’s worth it to derail the progress I’ve been making, not because I think sugar will turn me obese, make me a horrible person, and no one will ever love me (actual old thinking patterns). It’s more of a cost benefit analysis and it’s a significantly different feeling than it was in the past.

I’m staying vigilant throughout the next couple weeks and know what to do if any of those old thought patterns start to creep up. The more often they do and the more opportunities I’m given to correct the thought, the less likely I’ll be to face the same problem in the future, which is an incredible outcome of this challenge that I didn’t even anticipate.

I’m glad that I decided to face discomfort head on in order to see if the work I’ve put in has paid off. Just for today, I know it has.

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

Questions:

  • Have you had issues with food tracking?
  • What do you do if you feel yourself becoming obsessed?
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30 Comments

  1. February 15, 2017 / 5:26 am

    I tried food tracking once back in the early 90s 🙂 I wanted to lose about 40 pounds and it seemed the perfect way to get there. I’m definitely not an addictive personality type. I started to slip down that path. I stopped and have never tracked again
    Carla recently posted…I never felt stoppable.My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:04 pm

      Yeah I feel like it can easily go to an unhealthy place which is why I’m just trying to use it to get an idea of how my meals should be in a day

  2. February 15, 2017 / 5:41 am

    Loved this post. That mindset shift you have is key, I think. I have a history of gut issues that caused me to go on many elimination diets, which messed up my thinking for the longest time. It looks time for me to look at food as a way to fuel my body too, and to be able to listen to my body enough to know what foods do and don’t feel good.
    Jen recently posted…How To Do A Burpee and Not Hate ItMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:04 pm

      Thanks Jen! Yeah, the more I pay attention to how my body responds to things the better I seem to eat

  3. February 15, 2017 / 7:41 am

    Yes I could see how this would be a bad thing. For me, I’ve decided I do best without it and going on a more intuitive eating mindset and that’s worked well.
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…WIAW: Rainy SundayMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:05 pm

      My intuitive mindset kept telling me to eat cookies so I think this is a good reset for me for this month haha

  4. February 15, 2017 / 9:02 am

    I’m so thankful that you are doing this with a mind to really seek healing with your relationship with tracking food. This has been a HUGE downfall for me in the past, and that’s why I’m apprehensive of tracking. BUt Lord willing, I would LOVE to be able to heal my relationship with it in order to maybe one day try and track food and make muscle gainz! 🙂
    Emily recently posted…A Single Gal’s Thoughts on Valentine’s Day + WIAW!My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Yeah it’s just something to be mindful of and it’s only for this month so hopefully it will just help me get a better perspective on how I’m eating

  5. February 15, 2017 / 9:58 am

    It’s a very powerful post (among many that I have encountered here). I have often thought about it (in terms of eating and emotional distress and what will happen the next time I feel like I am unraveling).

    Thank you for just putting this out there. Very well articulated. You are a huge inspiration, Erin.

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Thank you!!

  6. February 15, 2017 / 10:00 am

    Hi Erin! I would love to track my food, but quite frankly, I find it too time intensive hahaha. I think it’s great that you have more perspective now and are able to take on this challenge. And I would totally be interested in that bio test too. Good luck, lady! 🙂
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Six ways to burn more calories during your next workoutMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Once I get into the routine then it’s not so bad since I eat basically the same things every day. Just the initial set up took a little time

  7. February 15, 2017 / 12:23 pm

    Your comment about wanting to “win” is totally me. Even just reading that I went “I want to win at food tracking” which is why I don’t do it anymore. That said, I think the customized meal plan is super interesting.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Dynamic Warm Up for RunnersMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:07 pm

      Yeah I’m interested to see the results at the end of the month!

  8. February 15, 2017 / 6:23 pm

    My issue always has been and continues to be this: I eat a meal that isn’t easily trackable and then I say “forget it,” which then leads me down the rabbit hole of this is so dumb, why am I doing this? etc…
    I know that I need to track, and that it does work, it’s just my brain is weird about it. I at least finally broke the mentality that food is bad or good and that if I splurge on a meal that I have somehow messed up and may as well wait until the next day or the next week or month.
    Jen recently posted…Sick Toddler and Bad HabitsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:08 pm

      Oh yeah I understand that. I have barely eaten out at all bc I’m worried that I won’t be able to enter it correctly. So I think it’s good for me loosely but not something I will do long term

  9. February 15, 2017 / 8:56 pm

    I do better when I try to eat intuitively instead of tracking my intake – mostly for the same reasons you mentioned. I either obsess over the idea of “winning” or I let the guilt of messing up send me into a spiral of “screw it, let me just binge on ____.”
    I think it’s valuable to remind readers that certain habits or attitudes CAN be overcome, however, and I’m anxious to see how this fitness challenge goes for you.
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…Sunday Link Love: 02.12.17My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      Me too! Two more weeks. Fingers crossed!

  10. February 15, 2017 / 11:36 pm

    I think getting a baseline is good. I’ve used it before in a restrictive way which is no good. I like to use it every once in a while to see if I’m eating enough protein or if my snacking is really out of control. Good for you to be self-aware!

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      Yeah I’m hoping it will give me a good baseline and show me where my ratios may be off

  11. February 16, 2017 / 10:25 am

    I know I can get a bit obsessive about tracking and counting so I don’t like to use any apps. Again, it is about being honest with yourself and knowing what you can and cannot handle.

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      Absolutely!

  12. February 16, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing Erin!
    I’m curious about the science behind body fat distribution being related to hormones and where food comes into play with that. Where can I read more?
    Also, I’m pretty anti-tracking. It almost always keeps me from eating intuitively. The numbers always ended up making the decision rather than my hunger/body.

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:11 pm

      I typically am too but had never done it so thought I’d give it a shot. The link on the method in the beginning of the post may give you some more info and just googling it will prob give you more!

  13. February 16, 2017 / 10:21 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with healing enough to face something head on. Tracking intake is the #1 way I lost weight in the past, but it definitely led to me losing too much weight. If 2000 calories a day is good, why not 1600? Type A problems. Sounds like a great challenge – excited to see how it goes for you! <3
    Rachel recently posted…Comparing Chicago’s Indoor Cycling Studios: Which One is For You?My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 17, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      Absolutely. Totally get it. That’s why I’m glad it’s only a month and then I can use what I’ve learned to shape some better habits

  14. February 22, 2017 / 4:28 pm

    Really liked this post Erin! I’ve definitely had some disordered eating around food in the past. I tracked all of my macros and everything went into My Fitness Pal. I had to look up the menu at restaurants online to determine what I could have beforehand. NOT a fun way to live at all. But recognizing I had a problem and realizing I had a choice helped me move away from tracking and obsessing.

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