Why I log

<Editor’s Note: I struggled with drafting this post – mostly because I find I have a much harder time putting into words just how food logging has impacted me in a positive way, so hopefully this post makes sense to you guys when you read it!>

One of the things I’m really digging so far about being a FitFluential Ambassador is the great conversations we can have on Facebook (private group) – it’s opened my eyes to some awesome new perspectives and introduced me to some pretty fab people, I must say.

One of the topics that came up recently was about food logs – where to get started, which apps are best for tracking, etc. One of the questions on that thread was around the “reason” or “motivation” to calorie count – beyond the obvious one: weight loss.

It got me to thinking – why do I log? I’m the one who tends to avoid anything that has to do with numbers (fitness-wise) yet here I am a huge fan of the food log and calorie counting. I’m even hosting a whole Fitblog Chat (Feb 7, mark your calendars!) on the topic of the “numbers game” yet the food log is one where the metrics and tangible aspect of it really works for me.

So, here it is — my (attempted) answer to the question: “Why I log”

The long and short of it? It works for me. And to be honest, I was SO hesitant to return to food logging when I started the barre n9ne 60-day challenge last May. I feared that it would take the “fun” out of eating, that I’d feel too restricted, that I’d lose that balance in my life that I so, SO craved. That I’d lose a part of me.

But what I learned instead? That I was *not* living a very balanced life prior to the start of the challenge (and my subsequent return to food logging), even though I fooled myself into thinking I was. I was way, way, way overdoing it every single weekend — not just a “cheat day” but a “cheat weekend” or “cheat week” were perfectly normal and acceptable to me. I worked my ass off all week at the gym and ate well during the week (albeit probably consuming more calories during the week than I needed, even if it was all healthy foods). But once the weekend hit? No holds barred eating/drinking fest. And I wondered why all the hard work I put in all week, spending hours at the gym, wasn’t resulting in a fitter body.

It wasn’t until I learned to embrace the food log as a tool for a healthier me, that I finally found the balance I thought I had before. And guess what? Food logging doesn‘t steal the joy out of food for me (because I still very much find joy in good food and a good glass of wine) – my biggest fear.

Instead, food logging has empowered me:

…I now have a MUCH better understanding of what my body needs (and doesn’t need), calories-wise (I eat the same number of calories everyday, weekends included, long run days included)
…I’m so much more in tune with my body’s hunger cues (and lack of cues) than ever before.
…I’ve learned to eat until I’m satisfied – and I understand how satisfied “feels” – versus eating until I’m done (two very different things).
…I now know how to plan ahead if I’m going out to dinner (where calories are harder to manage) or to a party or just plain ‘ol want a few glasses of wine during date night. Eating lighter during the day (without starving myself, don’t worry) so I can have a few glasses of wine with Scott later that night, for example.
…I understand how to eat for fuel, particularly during long run days (which will become even more important once I start training for Chicago!) and also how to recover, post-run.
…and most importantly, I still very much enjoy the foods that I love – even the supposedly “unhealthy” ones like my beloved dove chocolates or our famous homemade thick-crust pizza, so I never feel deprived or as though I’m on a diet. Remember – this is my year of no boundaries, right? 😉

Bottom line? I log for me. Was it easy to get here? Of course not. It took adjusting to a consistent number of calories everyday, no wild peaks and valleys. But now that I’m here? It’s helped me to find an incredible sense of balance that I’ve never had before. And I dig that. I also dig that my clothes fit better (um, smaller?) and that I never, ever wake up with a food hangover (worst feeling everrr).

Food doesn’t drive me anymore. I drive me. How empowering is that?

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37 thoughts on “Why I log

  1. Counting calories is such a controversial topic (and to be honest, I don’t understand why). More than anything, I think it gives us perspective. It is empowering, does help me make wiser choices, and contrary to popular belief, really simplifies things. And with all the tools available these days, is quite easy…

    • I know – and I think that’s why I was unnecessarily hesitant to blog about my approach to food logging. But I’m REALLY glad I got it out there, as you said – it gives such good perspective, and for me – has been hugely empowering.

  2. Counting calories IS controversial! I agree! There is a visceral dislike of it, or a stigma behind it or something. An ‘oh so you eat 1200 calories’ vibe to it, which is clearly not the case (at least with us!). I embrace logging for the very same reasons and really like knowing what my body needs to be fueled, and it doesn’t need *as* much as i thought. Habits are HABITS for a reason and can be tweaked and changed and you realize that wow, you didn’t need that extra snack or were you really that hungry? Nope? And other times, you might be, so you plan for it. Love this post sis, and am so glad we are both at a point where logging isn’t a struggle, it’s part of our day, and even without it, we do pretty darn good.

    • RIGHT – I think many equate calorie counting with eating a very, very restrictive and unhealthfully low amount of calories everyday. But that’s not the case (or shouldn’t be the case) – calorie counting is simply a means to an end for me. It keeps me focused on eating good, quality, wholesome foods and planning ahead for yummy indulgences when the opportunity arises. And – it totally prevents that good day/bad day mentality which has been huge for me – I love feeling good every single day about how I’m fueling my body. And like you said – the habit piece has probably been the most eye opening part of the whole experience.

  3. I’ll be honest: I go back and forth with counting calories. Unless I’m actually trying to lose weight, I don’t log my food. I am trying to learn a healthy balance without the numbers. It hasn’t worked YET, but I’m still trying!
    Like you said, we should all do what works for us!

    • I used to have a very unhealthy relationship with numbers – and in some ways, I still shy away from numbers. But for some reason, this time around with food logging something has clicked and I’ve learned to embrace the log for what it is – a tool to keep me eating well. Not necessarily for weight loss (though that is how it started out), but more to ensure I’m truly keeping the balance, something I have finally found in my life.

  4. I’ve been trying to do this, but I really struggle with the eating less during the day if I’m going to eat more at night thing. In theory, I totally get it, but in reality, I get hungry! Do you mind me asking how many calories you eat each day?

  5. I don’t track calories anymore, but I do still food log in a daily journal. Mine is more to look for trends with my emotional eating habits and to catch any triggers, but also to have records for when I’m feeling off to see any patterns or to see what helps me feel best for workouts or energy. I think its a good habit to have as long as its not compulsive. Great post!

    • I like the idea of a food journal to ID patterns and trends – particularly for you in terms of triggers. I think that’s a great way to stay in check and to be really in tune with how you’re eating. Great feedback!

  6. I go back and forth. To count or not to count… I am back on counting and as of now it is working for me. .

    I had given it up for awhile because I was sick of fixating on food and calories. But now I feel ok about it all and when it comes down to it, I need a little structure in order to succeed. Being an “emotional eater” I honestly can’t always count on my hunger cues to know when to eat or how much, so knowing how much I ate or have been eating is helpful for me to determine if I am in an emotional hunger state or a physical hunger state. It’s not an exact science by any means, but it is a helpful tool for anyone who tends to over or under eat.

    I am using Calorie Count right now and loving it. I am “vergingonserious” on Calorie Camp in case anyone else out there is on it and wants to support me (I’ll support you back!).

    • I used to fixate. That’s why I gave up the log a few years ago. I don’t know what it was this time, but I was ready to let go of the numbers game and just use this log to my benefit and not let it get the best of me. And I guess going into it with that mentality is what it took to get me to a place where I truly love and appreciate the food log for what it is – an empowering tool (for me) to stay healthy and fit and to not overdo (or underdo) it on any given day of the week.

      I can totally be an emotional eater too so I can see why you go back and forth on whether or not a food log is good for you. But like you said, it really helps a TON to figure out if the cues you’re feeling are true hunger or emotional “hunger” – very very eye opening once you start paying closer attention to those cues, huh?

  7. I really enjoyed this post—I find with myself (in the past) and with my clients, there can easily be this icky feeling associated with logging food. People associate it with restriction, and probably having to be aware of the “bad” choices they’re making—which then might mean they should change!
    It is such a journey to figure out and navigate through the healthy lifestyle thing—to make it stay positive and empowering instead of restricting. It sure sounds like you’ve been able to do that, and that’s just awesome!

    • Right – it’s not about restriction so much as it’s about learning to eat well and in the right amounts to keep healthy. It’s also about learning to eat consistently every single day, no huge spikes and valleys, so important to good nutrition and a happy body. But you’re right – it is SUCH a journey to get to where I’ve gotten today, it’s not been easy but its worth it now that I’m here.

  8. I think its great that you wrote this post and that so many people have posted great comments! I do think its a touchy subject, but these are the exact subjects that should be talked about and shared. I’ve gone through periods of time both way…tracking and not tracking, and I just try to do whatever feels right for me. Right now I’m trying to shift my focus to eating the appropriate amounts in each food group.
    And your last sentence…money, girl!

  9. I love what you said about “It works for me.” That’s exactly it. There is no one RIGHT way or BEST way when it comes to nutrition, diet and exercise.

    That’s what I’m learning through my health counseling courses at IIIN – everyone is different and has different needs. One person’s food is another person’s poison.

    For me, calorie counting helped me get in track years ago, but I don’t do it anymore – rather, I keep an eye on how I feel, my mood, and general wellbeing. That’s the thing though: It’s all about the individual and doing what works for you. Loved this post Jess!

  10. What a great post and comments!!! I’ve done both…I was a religious food logger and calorie counter when I was on Weight Watchers & it helped me to lose 80lbs. But I found that once I was at my happy/goal weight I became obsessed with numbers & stopped logging. However, WW and logging provided me with great tools on portion control & being in touch with my hunger.

    I actually tried to return to food logging today and remembered why I don’t like it for me. I obsess…I think about it too much. I’m trying to take my husband’s overly logical approach to food – I eat when I’m hungry, I stop when I’m not 🙂 That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on lately…what are my hunger cues vs. how many calories have I eaten. And I have to say, for me, it’s a lot less stressful.

    Love this topic…it shows how unique we all are 😉

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  12. You had me when you said that you log for yourself. We all have different needs and issues but it’s about what works for you. I am so proud of your accomplishments and the examples you are setting. Truly inspirational.

    • I truly do log just for me and I would never expect anyone to follow my lead unless it works for them. That’s what its all about – finding tools that work for you and making it work to your benefit. I’m so glad you liked the post my dear!

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