Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food Diaries

I've been trying for a good few months now, if not longer, to acclimate my head to the idea of keeping a food diary. Write down everything I eat for a week or so, to get a sense of what kind of nutrition I'm getting, what I might be missing, and whether I'm actually eating ENOUGH food.

But although I really am trying to think differently, I can't shake the association of the food diary with the diet.

I can't remember now whether this was something I was actually taught, or something I learned inadvertently. But I was introduced to the idea when the doctor sent me to a nutritionist, for what were never diagnosed as binge-eating behaviors. The nutritionist never mentioned Binge Eating Disorder, if she'd ever heard of it, and focused on putting me on a diet. I remember being asked to keep the food diary so we knew what we were looking at, and where to make changes.

But I remember learning that the diary was a tool to keep me on the 'right' track. It was going to be shared with the doctor and my parents, so I knew I'd be in trouble in some way or another if I admitted to either the binges or the snacks I bought at school with my own money. Most of the time, I let the act of keeping the diary affect my choices, and didn't eat those things I would be ashamed to show. Sometimes, I just lied in the diary.

I know that if I keep a diary now, it'd be for my eyes only. But when I sat down yesterday to make an effort, just the act of writing it down still made me second-guess everything I was eating in that mean little voice.

 "You had a bag of potato chips? I guess fries wouldn't have been better but still." "Really, storebought crackers? Don't you have anything else to snack on? It's only been two hours since lunch, I know you started writing me because you're having GI problems that affect your appetite, but still."

aaargh. I made it through exactly two entries before I (well, forgot about the existence of the new diary and) stopped.

This should be a useful tool for me to track my eating, and to see how well I'm progressing on getting what I need. This should be a great way to be mindful and healthy and find any potential issues that are making me unhealthier. Instead I just know that "I'd have to write it in my food diary" would become a reason not to have dessert.

Has anyone had luck re-framing anything like this?


  1. I have to weigh myself to monitor a medical condition. Nothing serious, but if I start gaining/losing weight atypically, I need to get checked out. I try to approach it with awareness and curiosity, but not judgement. Like my weight is an only semi-obedient puppy I'm observing.

    Have you ever done one of those time-analysis things where for a week you write down what you do every 15 minutes? It's pretty maddening... so you only do this for a week or two, max. Would you be able to tell yourself that you are going to eat what you want, what you normally eat, and be absolutely accurate about it.. but only for a week or two?

    Or -- have you thought of simply writing down what would be a positive eating style for you, and then deciding what you need to add to be healthier rather than what you're supposed to cut out? I know for me, I'm prone to not get enough veggies and protein. If I'm feeling a bit unbalanced in what I'm eating, I mentally keep track a bit to make sure I'm getting what I need. I do better looking at where I need to go, rather than where I am faltering.

    When my husband taught me to mountain bike, he told me that no matter how narrow the trail is, you look at the trail and not the rock on it. If you look at the trail, you'll ride it. If you look at the rock, you'll hit it. It's been an analogy for so many things in life since then.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, I love the puppy metaphor.

    I guess he problem, I don't trust myself to be absolutely accurate about what I eat AND still eat everything I normally would, not even for a week. That's the block I'm trying hard to kick. I could probably do one or the other, but not both at this point in my life.

    I could, and probably should, make myself a meal plan and stick to it, and I keep trying to gear myself up. It should be easier in a few months when I finally move into my own apartment and have real control of a kitchen that's mine. I do think I've made some progress in adding vegetables to my diet rather than cutting things out, but I'm not great at having mindful meals rather than whatever i feel like that day at the food court at work.

  3. I've never been successful with a food diary, for exactly the reasons you describe.

    How about "eating appointments," ala The Fat Nutritionist? I've had better success with those. Or how about if you made yourself a checklist of things you're going to eat over the course of the day, and checked them off when they happen? If you eat it, it gets checked off once, whether you eat it one time or nosh all day.

    I love your blog - I'm glad you're writing agan.

  4. My gut says if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. There are all sorts of things I'm in theory supposed to do for my health, like yoga, which I can't stand, or finding an exercise buddy when I prefer to exercise alone. Don't should all over yourself, my dear. Find what works for YOU.