“What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker, Management Consultant
There’s a bunch of data that indicates that tracking one’s food consumption enables us to eat less and/or better, depending on our goals. I buy it, but only sort of.
I believe that detailed food logging works for some segment of the population trying to lose fat/build muscle/get healthier, however, for those of us who have had an unhealthy relationship with food in the past – you know the ones who can tell you the exact calorie, fat, protein and carbohydrate content of the foods they commonly eat, the people who can tell you by ‘eyeballing it’ if you used a tablespoon of dressing or a teaspoon. For that segment, I don’t buy this solution.
You see, I am someone who has had an unhealthy relationship with food. There was a time when I ate to soothe and then another period when I ate very precisely according to a master plan in order to achieve the perfect body. When my eating habits departed from plan, I would punish and berate myself.
Recovering from this sort of “good” vs “bad” or “on plan” vs “off plan” approach to eating is not fun. And for me, it required throwing the plan out the window and eating intuitively. At first, this was hard: would I realize my physique goals? would I gain weight? what does having a “good” body mean to me anyway? Ultimately, I decided I was using my body as a symbol of my own self-worth, which clearly was not healthy for me
So I stopped all food logging.
These days, I pretty much eat what I want as long as it is vegan. Veganism is a restriction I can comply with pretty easily since I am connected to the meaning behind it (for example, you see lamb chops, I see a sweet baby lamb with fleece as white as snow).
The only thing about eating what you want all the time, and especially doing that while your burning a mega-ton of calories doing something like Ironman training, let’s say, is that sometimes you want Swedish Fish. And sometimes you want them everyday at 3pm, likely because you’re tired or dehydrated or just need a snack. And this is sort of fine because you’re training soon after so perhaps those sugars are being put to good use.
But then, you stop training rather abruptly (after the big race). But by now your 3pm trip to the vending machine is a habit. And a pretty ingrained one, at that.
What’s a girl to do? Well, here’s how it went down:
- I promptly gained about 10 pounds, pretty steadily from November to January
- I freaked out a little and bought some ridiculous vegan shake system, which promised that I’d lose all of the Swedish Fish pounds (yeah, I used about 3 of those shakes – the rest remain in a box by my bed because we neither have room for them in the kitchen nor can I bear to waste them… even though they taste like chalk and are of questionable health benefit)
- I came to my senses and returned to the no plan “plan”, inclusive of Swedish Fish, but this time, I discovered my new favorite meal tracking app… which has made a huge difference
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen
You see, my approach to health coaching has always been the gradual method of slowly evolving habits and focusing on adding in more nutrient dense foods to crowd out the less nutrient-dense, high calorie and highly processed stuff. It’s a tough sell because it is slow and it is not sexy. Heck, even I gave into a quick fix when I was desperate to make a change! But it is sustainable in the long-term and in my experience, it is the only thing that really works.
Before this year, I did not have an app to pair with my coaching approach. All of the tracking apps were far to detailed for my clients, the majority of whom have struggled with hyper-restriction of foods in the past. They’re not people who think they’re eating 100 calories, but actually are ingesting 300. Awareness is not their issue. My clients are sophisticated when it comes to diet, which is why they need a tool that actually enables them to focus less on food. Thankfully, for many of us in the developed world, life is about more than where we will get our next meal (and how we’ll fit it into some strict diet plan). That’s no way to live, if you can avoid it.
So back to Dr. Greger and his app. He’s a proponent of a plant-based diet (yay!) and the app is a simple list of what one should be eating daily to be healthy on a plant-based regimen. It has absolutely helped me focus on adding in more vegetables, which helps me crowd out some of the less nutritious foods I was eating (ehem… Swedish Fish).
I still eat candy from time to time, but certainly not in the same volume or with the same voracity. These days, I’m eating more vegetables and legumes. When I do indulge in some Swedish Fish now, I think they might taste better… I guess I don’t care for the taste of guilt.
If you try the app, I would love to know what you think of it!