Two days ago, I boldly made the proclamation that I was not going to be counting calories any longer. And I just finished up my second day of, well, not counting calories any longer. I worked a twelve-hour shift yesterday and a twelve-hour shift today in a busy NICU that was crowded and hectic and pretty loud. I tend to get overstimulated sometimes in such environments, and often I find myself reaching for food to soothe my frazzled nerves. Therefore, setting out on this new adventure while experiencing a busy weekend at work was going to be either a brilliant idea or an exercise in poor planning. In hindsight, I would say it was probably a little of both.
Just because I am not counting calories does not mean that I am not tracking what I am eating. However, I am tracking in a different way that does not involve any kind of “score-keeping” behavior. Basically, I created for myself a sheet that has columns for time, food and liquid intake, location, and situation/thoughts/feelings. I based this sheet off of some stuff I found on the internet (here) while looking for some food tracking worksheets. That website has a lot of great stuff, but I do want to say that it is no replacement for seeing your doctor or seeking out the help of a therapist if you are someone who struggles with disordered eating behaviors (or other behavioral health issues). I am someone who is seeing a therapist with whom I can discuss the stuff I find on the internet as I work through these things (and I often bring such things to her office with me so we can talk about them), but I would certainly not advocate using the information on this website (or anywhere else on the internet) as a replacement for seeking assistance. Anyway, the point of tracking the situation/thoughts/feelings associated with all of my meals is to see what kind of triggers I can identify, whether they be locations, situations, or emotions, that lead to compulsive eating. Even in two days, the information has been interesting to ponder.
I definitely am someone who gets into eating ruts. I find something that I like, and I eat it over and over again until I would happily never eat it again. I spent all winter two years ago eating oatmeal every day for breakfast, always steel cut oatmeal and always doctored up with dried fruit and maple syrup or honey and bananas. This past winter, I ate oatmeal exactly twice. I was over it. When I discovered the traditional style flavored Greek yogurts from Oikos (the key lime and the banana cream are my favorites), I ate them everyday for three weeks, and now I have some sitting in my fridge gathering dust. I found some smoked turkey sausages with cheddar cheese in them a couple of weeks ago and went through several packages. Now, I could happily not eat them again for a long time. But part of eating mindfully is paying attention to what it is you want to eat and then eating it, not just because it is convenient but because it is what would be most satisfying for you in that moment. This is challenging when planning my meals for work because I don’t want to bring my entire fridge in with me. Therefore, in the morning, I have to make some educated guesses about what I might feel like eating that day. It makes lunch-packing a little bit more thought-provoking.
On Friday, I went to a local year-round farmers’ market that is held at our fairgrounds to go shopping for food. They have a lot of meat and produce stands, plenty of bakery stands, and lots of prepared food stands that sell everything from Amish pot pies to homemade lasagna to crab cakes to gourmet pasta salads. I went there because I wanted to look for food that looked good that I would enjoy eating that would not require too much thought put into it. I wandered around the market, stopping to consider things from different vendors, and came home with some things that I knew I would enjoy. I got some stuff that I would have to cook and some stuff that I could just heat up. And this weekend at work, I really enjoyed eating in a way that I have not in a long time. Recently, I have had some “enjoyable” foods at work, but they have usually been eaten under a cloud of guilt because I “shouldn’t be eating that.” This includes chicken tenders and fries from the cafeteria (sidenote: I don’t even LIKE the chicken tenders OR the fries that they serve in our cafeteria, but I eat them on occasion anyway), omelets from the omelet bar, chips in the break room, candy bars from the snack machine…there is plenty of opportunity on a workday for me to make choices that make me feel guilty and turn my eating into punishment.
This weekend, I would say that the eating I did, if measured against my calorie-counting goals, may have been a little less than stellar. I definitely had some cake today, as well as a small cupcake. I definitely ate half of a big bakery muffin for breakfast yesterday (But it was just HALF! I did not scarf down a whole one without tasting it like I have in the past!). And one of the other nurses gave me a Snickers yesterday that I ate in two parts throughout the afternoon. But I also had some fruit each day. And I stopped at one piece of cake this afternoon (It was the Ultimate White Cake from Wegmans, which has been a big trigger food for me in the past). And I came home both days and made something for dinner and ate it and then stopped eating for the night. I am not sure how I feel about this new path I am on. I do have to say that I did not at any point this weekend find myself talking down to myself about my food choices, which is new and refreshing for me. My inner dialogue did not have a lot of “mean girl” talk in it. I was pretty nice to myself this weekend.
Tomorrow, we are expecting snow (PLEASE let it be the last of the season), and I have a day off. I plan a trip to Walmart, a trip to the gym, and some glamorous housework of the laundry persuasion. I also plan to spend some time reading and relaxing and recharging. I am interested to see what kind of eating behaviors crop up on a day at home like this. I also want to think some about what kind of foods seem to me that they will really taste good. I have been in so many food ruts for so long that I am not even sure what I would most like to eat. Luckily, we have some great food stores around here (Wegmans, The Fresh Market, and a local grocery store called Valley Farm Market all come to mind) that will give me plenty to choose from. I am hoping that part of this journey will involve me really learning to enjoy the food I eat, instead of just scarfing it down while in the midst of doing a million other things.
So. Days one and two. Successful-ish, I think.