I track what I eat.
Yes, I literally write down everything I put in my body. After three plus years of this habit, I continue to find it infinitely fascinating to know what I have eaten in days, weeks, and months past. I like to look at patterns of consumption. I like to look at what I ate exactly a year ago on any given day. It is intriguing to know what meals are memorable. When I review a day, sometimes I’ll think, yes, the day we went to La Mediterranee…and conjur up the entire meal (mmm, Vegetarian Middle Eastern plate) and conversation (Renee, you never let me down). Other times, I’ll look at the list: coffee, tea, Vitamin water, pint of beer, peanut butter sandwich, fruit salad, avocado, frozen yogurt, and wonder how in Atlantis I’m still standing, and what events in a day could have inspired such a nutritionally lackluster lineup.
Along with detailing my meals, I also write any physical activity I have done. Lately, I have gone so far as to mark days I have felt okay, days I have felt poorly, days I have taken ibuprofen and days I have taken other medications. I am not sure if I am seeking correlations between what I am eating and how I feel, or what is influencing me to have certain cravings. There are days when I have an intense desire to eat cottage cheese, although I have never really been a cottage cheese fan. Am I craving the protein? The calcium? Or am I just craving cottage cheese because after all these years, my taste buds really just like it? (Oh, you have to try cottage cheese with a dollop of sour cream on top of it — you won’t be sorry. Dairy on dairy, my non-lactose intolerant friends.)
There are a variety of websites that offer a forum for listing what you eat, such as http://www.peertrainer.com. Some sites even count calories for you, like http://www.sparkpeople.com. I have utilized both of these sites over the years, though my food tracking days have been bookended with the old fashioned way — simply writing it all down by hand. Years ago, I carried a stack of index cards around with me, where I dutifully scribbled exactly how much of anything I ate, and a calorie count above it. These days, it’s a small, nondescript notebook that travels in my purse. I am not in a calorie counting phase, though I do attempt to note the days I have gone out for meals, and where I went. Helpful for my pocketbook and my health. Oh, and for you iPhoners, there is even an application that lets you plug in your food and will count calories. Another suggestion — a friend of mine uses his iPhone calculator to keep track of how many calories he’s had in a given day.
This is not an OCD. I think.
Tracking my food started as a curiosity — in my pre-running days (days I remember fondly as being full of Jazzercise and modern dance) I read online that the best way to maintain your weight was to be really honest with yourself regarding what you were eating. And since I like to write anyway, I gave it a try. It was scary at first, jotting down every morsel of food that passed through my lips. I can’t lie — those first days were hard. I ate more than I thought I did.As a graduate student, nutrition was not a top priority for me. Comfort food, yes. Ensuring my body was recieving proper minerals and vitamins, yes. Healthfully ingesting said nutrients? Not hardly. I seemed to believe Rice-a-Roni made a well balanced meal when paired with peas mixed into it. My cupboards resembled the base and tip of the food pyramid, rather than much in the way of the middle ground.
Becoming a runner did not change my eating habits overnight, nor over a fortnight or a few months. The process was slow and steady, and I do not think I really noticed a change until I discovered the downtown Farmer’s Market. Suddenly, hearty white nectarines and delicate apricots were staples in my kitchen. I would eat a lunch of fruit salad, comprised of five whole pieces of fruit. Cherry tomatoes and Cliff bars were prevalent as a snack option. Trader Joe’s shredded carrots were the base of many salads. Food treats became olives and feta cheese instead of pints of Ben & Jerry’s.
However, I have since found myself on the opposite side of this hill. Rather than being too liberal with my food, I have become too constricted. I have foregone essential proteins, overlooked necessary carbohydrates. Salad is my main food-source*, and while it is tasty delicious (mmm…butter leaf lettuce, shredded broccoli, dolmas, tomatoes, radishes…), it is not an all encompassing meal. And I believe my energy levels and my productivity are suffering because of this.
There’s a balance to be had, between veggies and proteins and carbs (oh my!), and I’m going to keep committing my diet to paper until I find it.
Although, as Daryl and Cyndy’s birthday gift last year implies, we know what my ideal morning meal would be:
Miles, oatmeal. Same difference, right?
*Fine. Coffee and salad are my dietary staples lately.