Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Obsessive Food Thoughts and Tracking


Wow, it's been awhile since I wrote! I appreciate the comments and emails you sent to make sure I am okay. It's nice to be missed! I don't want to leave you hanging though. Plus I am ready to give an accounting of what I've been up to and why the lack of blogging.

It's true: I lost 64 pounds counting calories in 2007-8. It worked. It works for lots of people and there's no reason it shouldn't also work for me again. So when many of you recommended I go back to "what works," that's what I did. I have spent a couple of weeks counting calories, with limited success, on My Fitness Pal. I could feel my inner resistance to this as I got out the food scale and measuring cups and started tracking every bite I ate. I told my inner rebelliousness to shut up, that this is what needs to be done and it is NOT THAT HARD and I can do this. I just need to get into the habit. Suck it up, just do it until it is habit. I knew that the resistance came because I had tracked on and off for years and was just really sick of it. The last couple years of "freedom from tracking" really did feel like a freedom, but look what it got me? Certainly not weight loss.

So I pushed on, trying to get a few solid days of tracking in a row. The feeling in my head was one of being overwhelmed with "food thoughts." I found myself starting to obsess about food more and more: what could I eat? How much could I eat within the calorie budget? How many grapes can I have tonight? Is there room for a cookie too? Even simple things like making a pot of soup felt triggering to me because instead of just throwing carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, turnips, etc into a pot, I had to weigh and measure each ingredient, enter it into a recipe calculator, then measure the finished soup and divide the total calories into servings. Even something like a baked chicken thigh or some roasted broccoli turned into a lot of food thought: how much olive oil am I brushing on these and how much am I ingesting? I have to weigh and measure the chicken and the veggies, figure out the oil, decide if I should or should not eat the skin? If someone makes a dish that I am not familiar with, how do I know how many calories are in this? Even a tossed salad turned into a feeling of stress because I don't really know how much of each vegetable, protein, or dressing the person put in there. Even the baked salmon a friend prepared stressed me out because I am not bringing a food scale to a party and weighing my portions in front of everyone like an obsessed crazy person. Wait... an obsessed crazy person? Is that the label for someone who hauls around a food scale, measures every bit no matter where they are, breaks out the measuring cups at the potluck to measure their steamed green beans, and MUST KNOW the caloric content of every bite they put in their mouth? Is it?

Maybe for some people. Certainly for me. Counting, tracking, weighing, measuring turned my brain back to food obsession. I was thinking about food FAR more often and for longer than I was when I was just aiming for healthy choices. I had a window open on my laptop all day long for logging food, and was running to add things in several times a day, analyzing my carbs and protein and planning what I should have later to fit into the macros. I have a slippery slope going on here: I used to binge eat. I used to have serious food obsessions, but this disappeared over the past couple of years with a more relaxed approach to healthy eating. LESS thinking about food felt healthier to me. The problem is I did not lose weight doing that. NOT tracking... is it healthier? It is definitely better for my mental health. But I also have not lost any weight doing this so far. I am up a couple of pounds. I am feeling more stressed about food. I don't like it. I am done with tracking as of right now. I am closing My Fitness Pal with its 442 logged calories for today and letting it go.

For me, it is healthier to look at a food spread (whether it's at a potluck, a party, or my own kitchen) and think, "steamed vegetables are a good choice. Lean protein is a good choice. I will put those on my plate and eat until I am satisfied but not full." My mental health and the remission of my eating disorders is far more important to me than my weight, honestly. And I would lose weight doing my general untracked healthy eating.... if I did not ALSO eat sweets and grains.

I don't have all the answers. I can't keep going with something that resurrects my eating disorders so I am going for the better mental health right now and will go back to "make the best choices at the moment, eat as healthy as I can, and don't eat too much or too often." I have all the old tools at my disposal (like drinking more water, cutting out sugar, watching the carbs, eating enough protein, and the good ol' CSA produce box) but I am sure nothing, and I mean nothing will work if my mind is constantly agitated about food.

In other news, life's been good here even with the lack of weight progress. One of my sons came home to visit last week, my nephew came to stay for a long weekend the week prior, and we are down to ONE foster dog right now which lightens my load considerably! When she is adopted I am not taking any new fosters for a long time. I need to focus on my health, so as much as I love volunteering with rescue, I am going to take a break from the fostering and transport side of things. I will still be doing therapy visits with one of my dogs; that is rewarding and so enjoyable and I meet the most wonderful people that way. The kids are all doing well (although my daughter was sick with a fever last week for a few days, she is back to school now) so the general stress level of life is low. I had the stomach flu last week also (before my daughter got sick) and that was a couple days of misery, but I'm fine now. The biking has not been happening but I am still on my journey to bike across America; I just have to get back in the habit of riding morning and evening and get caught up on my miles.

This journey is far from over. I know I am on the right path. I can't see all the exact twists and turns ahead, but I just feel it in my gut that I am learning exactly what I need to learn to come to a place of peace with food... a peace that will be permanent and result in my best health!

27 comments:

LauraC said...

Hey Lyn,
I feel the same way about calorie counting - I obsess about what I can/can't have, eat things that aren't the best choices because "it fits into the calories," and get burnt out really quickly. I know you already get SO many suggestions on how to eat, so I hesitate to add another one, but I wonder if you have ever looked into the 21 Day Fix meal plan? I am doing it right now (without the accompanying workout - I'm just doing my own exercise 3-4 times a week) and I find it so helpful because there is a list of foods I can just pick and choose from every day, rather than wondering what I can eat or trying to make it fit into my calories. There is initially some measuring involved to figure out the serving sizes but if you have some containers that are 1 cup, 1/2 cup etc in size, you can just fill them up and then forget about it. I feel like I get lots of food and don't feel deprived. And I also don't stress about veggies - if I want two cups of spinach in my salad instead of one, that's certainly not what's going to make or break my diet. If you're interested I suggest searching '21 day fix cheat sheet,' there are tons of great resources out there. Whatever you decide to do though, I know you've got this! Long time reader and love your blog.

Anonymous said...

hi Lyn, long time reader, second time commenter. From my reading I assume you do not have a full time job is that right? I am a SAHM and while I am pretty busy, this year my "baby" started full time kindergarten. I am 100+ pounds overweight so finally now I have more time to focus on weight loss and health. Of course like you I still have to run a home and do all the daily chores and things, but this is my new idea. Starting next week I am making my health my new "job." Usually a part time job is 4 hours a day so I am going to spend 4 hours every day on my health like it is my job. This will include shopping for healthy foods, preparing them, planning and making healthy meals, all of which should average about 2 hours a day. I will exercise 1.5 hours a day, mostly walking and doing a yoga tape I bought. That leaves me a half hour to read books about weight loss and health, write in a journal, chart my weight, or anything else I think will help me. Maybe you can do it with me!

Sincerely, Patricia

Anonymous said...

I think you are obsessing way too much about food. And I get it, I was the same. I was on a constant cycle of restricting and then bingeing, and while that cycle allowed me to stay at a somewhat normal weight (20lbs excess for not in the obese category) it was still no way to live. Calorie counting has worked for me, and so has a paleo way of eating. However, I just can't sustain either techniques long term. So here's what I'm doing now: 3 meals a day, no snacks and all on a salad plate. And that's it. The salad plate allows me to reduce my portion while still being able to eat pasta for example but without having to count calories. No snacks was crucial for me. I know some people thrive on 6 small meals a day or whatever, but for me one snack leads to another, then another, and then it goes downhill. Also I'm not constantly thinking about my next snack/meal that way. I eat 3 times and that's it.

Nellie said...

I'm sorry that you couldn't do it. Unfortunately, you really didn't do it for yourself, you stated before you even started that you don't like doing this but because people "voted," you will do it. In two days you were already not following your own rules and going for chocolate bar runs. Your heart wasn't it. Don't lie to yourself, you know why you gained a few pounds, it wasn't the stress, it was the chocolate bar runs and the things you didn't log because you couldn't. You do have some major issues that need to be addressed. I hope you take the time you need to fix yourself, it really is worth it. You've used this month and learned a hard lesson. Learn and move on before another month passes; pretty soon your time will be too close to your goal and you won't have enough time to lose all the weight, so the next thing you will be writing is why even try because you can't make it to your goal. Get on that bike!! No more sugar, no more processed carbs. Fruits, veggies and lean proteins! It isn't hard.

Meryl said...

Lyn, I couldn't agree more. I was just telling a friend today that I think there's a lifetime quote for calorie counting, and I reached mine. I just can't allow that type of obsessiveness back into my life. If I can't learn to eat intuitively, then I'm probably a lost cause because I simply can't be the person with the measuring cups and food scale ruling my life. I have to learn what it takes to lose and what it takes to maintain in a different manner. I just wanted to send support and understanding your way. I cringed when I read that was the choice people had for you because I personally don't believe it's the "answer" to disordered eating and in fact, can be extremely dangerous. I am looking forward to seeing what's next....

Anonymous said...

Lyn, what happened with your bike ride?
Rita

Lyn said...

Anon/Patricia~

That's a great way to look at it! Please drop me an email. I'd be happy to work on this along with you!

Meryl~

Your comment really resonates with me. I am glad I tried; at least now I can stop wondering "should I just go back to calorie counting?" because I know the answer is a great big NO. Thank you for the support.

Thanks to all of you for the ideas, comments, and kind words :)

Lyn said...

Anon/Rita~

I addressed that in my post. You can always see my biked miles updated live on my Virtual Mission page if you're curious.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like it has been a rough stretch. Have you considered joining a community of some sort? I know you didn't have a great experience with OA, but what about something like Half Size Me online? Maybe more real-time support would help.

Anonymous said...

Meant to ask, what is your weight at? It seems like you're approaching a threshold of 250. What if your focus was just to get back under 240 and away from that "line" for now, and then set another small goal?

Joanna said...

What is your energy level like? I am wondering because you seem to need to break your bike rides into two segments rather than just one big ride. Are you exhausted after the first segment? If you are, I am wondering if there is something that contributes to your fatigue. I find that if I love doing something, I have far more energy and much more motivation to participate. Sometimes, it is important to find some sort of sport/activity that really captures your attention. I started playing tennis at 48 (17 years ago) and I was your weight. I was terrible at first but then I got just about good enough to stay with it and then I got a bit better and then I really fell in love with the game. I am not saying that you should start playing tennis but something probably fuels you and I am not sure you have found it yet. I don't want to be presumptuous but it seems like you have to force yourself to stay with your exercise regime. Do you enjoy your virtual bike journey? I have never had any success losing weight by riding a stationary bike but maybe it will be more successful for you. In general, I have read that it is important to exercise for a longer chunk of time to get an elevated heart rate but personally I find riding a stationary bike to be boring so I bail before the half hour mark. By the way, I have had plantar fasciitis, had both knees replaced last November, back surgery 2 years ago (and lots of surgeries due to serious Stage IV breast cancer through the years) but nothing could keep me from playing tennis other than total incapacitation. At your age, I wasn't very active but I have much more energy now. I want to want to swim but I don't love swimming. I do Pilates but I sort of have to drag myself there and I don't look forward to the sessions. I am trying to learn to play golf and I keep going but I am learning it very slowly and it is discouraging. I ride my bike but I find all sorts of excuses not to go out--too hot, too cold, etc. I started kayaking last year and love it and I kayak in cool weather and blazing hot weather and every weather in between because I love it. I would have never thought that it would be so important to me but then it just clicked for me. I don't kayak or play tennis for weight loss (less eating is what causes weight loss for me) but because it fuels me and because in spite of lots of health challenges, I am a very healthy person in a lot of respects.

Lyn said...

Anons~

I did consider joining OA or TOPS but have not found time yet. I got the schedules and addresses for meetings and might give them a try.

I weigh 245 now so yep, I need to put the brakes on that for sure and get back under 240 as a first step.

Anonymous said...

So you stopped blogging because you were too busy counting calories? Or too sick?

Lyn said...

Anon~

no, I went a week and a half without blogging because I was trying to limit my time and exposure to food thoughts. Weighing, measuring, and tracking had me thinking about diet far more than usual and I needed to cut back on that focus in the only area I could... which is blogging. I hope that makes sense. It's the only way I know how to explain it.

Lyn said...

Joanna~

Wow, that is a lot of activity! I can definitely take a cue from you. My energy level has been low for years. I do enjoy the biking. The reason I have to break it into shorter rides is that my feet go numb around 25-30 minutes in. Sometimes I will get off the bike and walk around a few minutes and get right back on, but usually I will just take a longer break and go back and do another 30 or so minutes later. I do plan to learn to kayak and paddleboard next summer and I am really looking forward to that! I've been looking into beginning yoga classes too, but I admit I am intimidated by it. I would like to try a class though.

Vickie said...

I have been using a measuring cup instead of a serving spoon for many, many years. It is pure habit now. So I scoop out oatmeal with a 1/2 cup that lives in the container. I measure out 1/4 cup of raw almonds and eat them out of the cup instead of a bowl. Whether I am tracking or not tracking, I pay attention to serving sizes. I find measuring cups super helpful. I have a lot of them.

I have a food scale, I use it when I need it. Most things I only weigh once. I tend to buy the same size apples, for example. I do not weigh every apple. I weighed an apple once and have that data.

I have been back to tracking the last couple weeks, maybe because of all the tracking talk here. And again, it really displays how much food there is when eats real/whole foods.

I don't feel any of the things you mentioned in your post about tracking. Mostly I find it very interesting data. I have always had a very science oriented mind about the whole thing. I do not take any of this stuff personally. It simply is what it is.

I am only noting these things so some of your newbie readers do not feel that tracking is always negative.

During my weight loss years I had spells where I tracked. I had spells where I sort of ate from a formula (Kay Shepard type approach) and did not "track" in the conventional term. Maintenance has been the same. Sometimes tracking. Sometimes formula.

One thing that I think holds true - If someone is eating a lot of processed or eating from restaurants or eating foods with a lot of ingredients on the label or eating all the time, then one really has to track. If one is eating real food (one ingredient food) and at meal time, then a formula type approach can work.

And it is the daily, day in and day out, habits that determine our lives, on so many levels.

Joy said...

Lovely to see you back again. I think what you said about looking at food and just knowing is where calorie counting heads towards. Knowing that those lean meats and vegetables are OK, go ahead, knowing that the biscuit (cookie? - I'm English) is probably not sensible, knowing that if it is processed it's probably high in fats, sugar, whatever, taking a relaxed approach that is based on knowledge . . . that's the desired outcome, for me anyway. I hardly ever count calories now, nor do I weigh because therein lies obsession and an eventual crash. We're all different but that's what works for me.
Since I stopped weighing everything and counting calories, my portions have got smaller! Weird!

J x

Darcy Winters said...

Hi Lyn,
I'm the same way about calorie/point counting. As soon as I start, I'm obsessed with food. Two programs that I have been looking at are Weight Watcher's Simply Filling (just eat food from a list and eat as much as you want) and Always Hungry by David Ludwig MD,PhD. Ludwig's plan includes a LOT of prep work and cooking, but his followers are seeing good results. I'm planning to kind of combine his plan with SF and give that a go. Hopefully, it will be less stressful than the calorie/point counting.

Joanna Moore said...

Have you pinpointed the source of the foot numbness? It could be your back or it could be a circulatory problem. It is not something to just live with without knowing why it is happening. I think you should attack things at the basics and foot numbness is not normal. Low energy at your age is not normal. Neither of these issues is likely weight related since you are not morbidly obese and bike riding is not weight bearing anyway.

Lyn said...

Joanna~

no. It's gone on for years and apparently is pretty common when riding a stationary bike. The numbness goes away as soon as I get off the bike and walk around. I have had lots of tests done in the past and low energy probably has to do with my Hashimoto's thyroid disease plus being almost 100 pounds overweight.

Joanna Moore said...

Is your Hashimoto's treated with thyroid medicine? I have Hashimoto's but I correct it with thyroid meds. I just don't believe all of your fatigue is a natural consequence of your weight because it seems as if you were low energy 30 and 40 and 50 pounds ago. You seem confident that you do not have a medical condition and you know best but I just think you get pooped out a lot.

Lyn said...

Joanna~

I was on Synthroid for some time but then was taken off by my current endocrinologist. It's not that I am confident I don't have a medical condition; it's that I have seen multiple doctors and had lots of testing, blood work, etc done and all they have come up with is Hashimoto's, high blood pressure (treated with medication), insulin resistance and MTHFR. I also had low D so am taking supplements for that. It would be great if the tests gave me a treatable answer but so far, they haven't.

Anonymous said...

Being overweight/obese and sedentary are the most common causes of fatigue. Don't worry, as you get the weight off you'll feel better. Being overweight or obese is a 'treatable cause' of fatigue. Common things are common. If you get down to a normal weight and are active daily, and STILL have fatigue, then I'd look for other answers.

Verena Schwald said...

Why can't you just join a online meeting? (They are VERY accessible) to get going?

Lyn said...

Verena~

I participated in OA meetings online for several months. I did not find it helpful. I still stop in to those online meetings from time to time.

Anonymous said...

So how is your TSH now? It needs to be low. The lower the better.
Hashimotos should be treated......
-With medication
-Or (some go the diet approach).

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is so awesome! Kayaking is great!