Tracking My Food Intake Is Driving Me Crazy

There has got to be a better way to live.

May 22, 2013 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

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I was feeling better until I drove myself crazy with food logs.

Back in December of 2012, I wrote about how I was very much back in the throes of an eating disorder. Not eating is not really sustainable, what with the whole needing to eat to stay alive thing, and I really hate being so dysfunctional when it comes to feeding myself, too.

And so, after reading most of the comments on that thread, I started pulling my shit somewhat more together. I talked to my therapist and figured out some new and different coping strategies.

One of them was signing up for this thing called the Fresh 20. I had a Groupon, which is the start of many good things. The Fresh 20 provided a set menu for dinner so that I never had to decide what to eat for dinner ever again. (Or at least not until my subscription runs outs!)

Because it isn't organized around weight loss, the menus aren't awful and triggering and restrictive. There's a gluten-free option (Ed can't have gluten) and it includes lots of fresh, in-season veg. It makes four generous portions, so we even have lunch the next day! Sounds like a win-win, right?

Getting into the groove with this routine took a little while. But it's been going well and not having to make food decisions has decreased my stress about food by about a million percent. About a month ago, I thought I would take things to the next level and look for a nutritionist. 

As a fat person, I know a hell of a lot about nutrition. But it's all through a weight-loss dieting lens. It's all focused on minimizing intake, keeping calorie counts low. That means I have a knowledge bank that helps me eat less and less, fewer and fewer calories until I'm smack in the middle of staving myself because it feels like the right thing to do. Nutrition in a weight loss context is pretty much the best eating disorder how to ever. I wanted to relearn food and nutrition in the context of my individual body, my particular needs.

That still seems like a good and reasonable goal to me.

I started out looking at my insurance website. I checked out a ton of local nutritionists, all of whom seemed to push a weight loss agenda.

My doctor, who has been really good about treating me for the things that are wrong with me instead of just blaming everything on fat, suggested the nutrition and weight loss center his office is attached to. I was wary, but I went in for a consult after he promised that they were really about nutrition.

That didn't turn out to be the case.

I emailed the Fat Nutritionist, with whom I'd done some amazing and useful group work a while back, for suggestions. 

But I'd also worn myself out of the emotional energy needed to interview new doctors. I figured, hey, I can manage this by myself for a hot minute, right?

I hooked myself up with a pedometer about the same time I started looking for a nutritionist. I really like the way it helps me track activity without any sort of weight loss agenda. I don't have to weight myself or set up artificial means of measuring progress. I just check out how many steps I've taken in a day and if there are more, I'm increasing my activity levels.

Fitbit came up in conversation shortly after that. I'd heard of the device, of course. It's the hot new fitness thing, after all. It's basically a pedometer that you wear all the time, and it syncs your data with the website. It can even measure your sleep! It's got a built-in alarm. And it will make you fresh-squeezed orange juice in the morning.

That last thing might not be true.

The thing about the website is that you don't have to have one of their devices to use it. So I started logging in my steps and ooing and awing over the fancy graphs. And, I thought, it wouldn't be a big deal to log my food and make sure I was eating enough. Fitbit estimated how many calories I ought to be taking in. While it seemed like a LOT a lot, I appreciated that there was no requirement to choose a weight loss goal.

What I didn't anticipate was how I'd wind up feeling like a giant failure for not eating ENOUGH. And, even without a weight-loss goal, there's something about calorie tracking itself -- all of those numbers in neat little columns adding up -- that makes me obsess over how much or little I'm eating on a daily basis. I love data, but sometimes data takes an ugly turn when I get into a downward competitive spiral with myself.

A lot of people don't seem to understand the way eating disorders work in general. Especially since they can be hugely individual experiences. There's an extra layer of complexity with fat folks; so many people believe eating disorders are good for fat people because they will make us lose weight. (Which definitely serves as a potent reminder that "lose weight" is not tied to genuine concern for people's health much of the time.)

It's pretty much guaranteed that every time I talk about this stuff, someone is going to tell me that I need to eat less and exercise more, without giving any indication that they've read what I'm actually talking about. 

Honestly, that makes talking about this stuff hard. Because telling you that logging my food is making me wish I didn't exist so I didn't have to deal with eating is a pretty vulnerable thing to put out there into the world. I like me and I like my life -- but sometimes I'd consider trading all of that for being able to eat normally. "Normal" eating is difficult for me to even conceptualize. 

My plan right now is to take all of my data and dump it in the lap of a professional. I'm still not totally OK. But I'm working on getting there. And in the meantime, fuck this food log, man.