I’ve never been a journaler. I’ve started journals that always devolve into to-do lists or endless loops of thought. I much prefer to put my thoughts out into the world than to ferret them away, planting them like seeds for revelation – most of the time, I just can’t get there on my own. The closest I’ve ever come to meticulously logging my days is tracking my food. While a little less glamorous than a gratitude journal or a line-a-day notebook, tracking food has helped me break bad habits and start good ones. It also holds me accountable for that 10 pm bagel I just couldn’t say no to, for some reason.
I’m not a nutritionist. Eating is personal and different for everyone, and my insights are my own. That said, in no particular order, here’s what I’ve learned from tracking what I’ve eaten since mid-November.
- I eat like… so much peanut butter.
There are worse things in the world for you, but processed, sugary peanut butter is also the nemesis of my clear skin and my beautiful bum. I have been known to steal scoops of peanut butter from roommates and partners, to have four spoonfuls with a tiny banana, and to have a lick in the middle of the night (we’re being honest here, right?). Part of logging my food is coming to terms with the fact that listing peanut butter three times in a day means I’m likely going a little overboard.
Old habit: loads of peanut butter.
New habit: keep the peanut butter jar at work, where I can only get at it during my active hours, and there are eyes watching me.
- Food as comfort does not work for me…
… but I really, really want it to. Eating a bowl of mashed potatoes while crying to a sad podcast or eating a huge bag of chips if I’m feeling the effects of the cocktails from the night before both feel like indulgences that will heal me. Yes, most of my indulgences are potato-based, despite the fact that they usually make my body feel worse: bloated, lethargic, and greasy.
Old habit: bad food as “comfort”
New habit: drinking a liter bottle of sparkling water – the water hydrates and energizes me and feels special enough to provide comfort.
- Food as a reward does not work for me
I like my Friday nights to feel special, like I’m winning the lottery on a weekly basis. Congratulations! You made it through another week of paying your bills and waking up on time. In my early twenties this meant drinking as much whiskey as my tiny budget could buy; in my teens it meant snackapalooza and the Wendy’s drive-thru; and more recently it meant lots of margaritas and tacos. Like with seeking food as comfort, overdoing it with food as a prize hasn’t exactly worked out for me. Usually I overeat or overdrink and wake up feeling simultaneously like a dried out sponge and a fat moldy one. I haven’t exactly loved the long-term results either – this pattern has made me crave fatty foods whenever I feel like a million bucks, instead of craving the food that will keep me feeling like a million bucks.
Old habit: Friday night overeating and overdrinking
New habit: In all honesty, this is still a work in progress. So far I’m leaning on moderation, making a nice meal for myself, and low-key nights with friends.
- If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
Some old habits die hard. In particular, no matter how hard I try to defeat night eating, I still find myself tracking midnight snacks on the regular. This is an unhealthy pattern to be sure, but it’s not going anywhere. My friend Rose Truesdale (read her AMAZING blog) has taught me that sometimes, you are the way you are. She likes to EAT capital E-A-T but acknowledges that this isn’t always great as an all-caps activity. Instead of denying denying denying, Rose fills her stomach with ludicrously beautiful, nutrient-rich creations: smoothies and greens,homemade nut-butters and COLORS. Similarly, I’ve given up trying to kick my midnight snacks entirely by replacing leftovers and carbs on carbs with fresh fruits. At the very least, my body is welcoming the fiber and vitamin C of 11:13 pm orange slices.
Tracking food has been an adventure. During the holidays, it meant having to log five tamales in one sitting. It’s also meant feeling really really good when I make three vegetables with dinner, or when all my snacks come from the ground (not the floor – though sometimes, you know, 5 second rule), or when I balance that breakfast taco with 2 liters of water and a salad. Like with all things, it requires balance and being kind to myself. Physically and mentally, this food tracking has had a dramatic effect on my relationship with food and with myself. So, let’s celebrate: pass the Topo Chico and the orange slices (okay, and a little bit of peanut butter).
Next up: what I’ve been drinking (and not drinking) since November.