What I’ve Learned From Two Weeks Using MyFitnessPal

How many of you track your food intake? How long have you been doing so, and do you recall any revelations you had when you started?

I resisted meal tracking like it was the devil. I assumed I would confirm, through tracking my food intake, that I was eating way more than my body physically needed every day.

I thought when I started tracking my meals my terrible relationship with food would become glaringly obvious.

I thought I would see confirmation that I was “bad.” That I was flawed. That I wanted food for the sake of having food. That I was using food for emotional comfort and was eating far more than my body needed.

I assumed I would learn I needed to cut my intake dramatically in order to live the healthier lifestyle I’m striving to achieve.

And, of course, I expected cutting down my caloric intake would be brutally challenging. I expected I would be even more hungry and would feel even more deprived all the time than I already did.

Plus, psychologically, I feared I would feel I was punishing my body and trying to force it to conform to rules that didn’t feel in any way natural.

I didn’t want to put myself through all of that. So, I didn’t track my meals, and didn’t want to start doing so.

This changed about two weeks ago when I had some breakthroughs about my overeating tendencies. (Thoughts on Overeating)

I’m so glad now that I gave it a try. As it turns out, I was wrong about how meal tracking might go for me. Horribly, horribly wrong.

None of my fears have come to fruition.

In fact, I have learned that prior to starting to track my meals, the way I was trying to eat was setting me up for failure. My expectations for myself were horribly off base. But until I started tracking my meals, I didn’t realize it.

Tracking my meals using MyFitnessPal has shown me that I was doing everything wrong.

Table 1: Previous “Ideal Day”

Food Calories
Breakfast: 3 eggs fried in butter 251
Lunch: Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Creole (no rice) (recipe) 287
Dinner: Easy Paleo Chicken Soup (recipe) 302
Snack: nothing
Total 840
My previous “ideal day” was, I now realize, a day where my intake was only 840 calories. No wonder I was always hungry!

Table 2: Yesterday’s Meals

Food Calories
Breakfast: Bagel with cream cheese, tomato, smoked tuna 535
Lunch: Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Creole with brown rice 357
Dinner: Easy Paleo Chicken Soup 302
Snack: Truefit Meal Replacement Protein Shake with Almond Coconut Milk 240
Totals 1434
My current habits have me eating around 1400 calories per day, which is far more healthy and sustainable

The first table shows what I always expected of myself. It shows how I was trying to force myself to eat. If I had managed to eat that way on any given day, I would have thought of it as a “good” day. I would have been very proud of myself.

Until I started tracking, I did not realize my “ideal” was a day when I was consuming less than 1000 calories. I thought my three meals were sizable and appropriate.

If I wanted more food than what I was eating it was a sign there was something wrong with me. If I gave in and ate more, I felt like I had failed. It was a “bad” day. If I had a bad day, I felt I was bad. I had misbehaved. I felt awful about myself.

Revelations

There are a TON of problems with this mindset that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say it is one of the hallmarks of a seriously dysfunctional and toxic relationship with food. If this idea is new to you, I recommend looking at this article: Reject The Diet Mentality: The Futility Of Dieting

The point I want to make here is my nutritional goals were unattainable and unhealthy, and I didn’t realize it.

Under 1000 calories? No wonder I was unable to control my eating. No wonder I would overeat all the time. My goals were unreasonable and unhealthy, and I was hungry!

Now that I am tracking my meals, I’m eating a lot more every day than I’m used to. It’s actually proving to be surprisingly difficult to meet my nutritional needs. In fact, I struggled to get my calorie and protein intake up to a healthy level yesterday.

Hence needing a separate snack. Having the protein shake on standby for those times when I know my body needs more food has been incredibly helpful. Making sure I keep cans of tuna fish and sardines around helps, too.

Recognizing that I hadn’t been eating enough has shown me that the reason I kept wanting to eat more wasn’t that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t lack self-control. My desire to eat was legitimate. This has been revelatory and deeply emotionally satisfying.

Did you make any similar realizations when you started tracking?


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