Virtually anyone who has lost weight and successfully kept it off will tell you that logging their food intake played a key role in losing weight and likely in keeping it off. I’ve kept a food log most of the time throughout the past 3+ years since I started taking control of my health, and can confirm that my success or failure is tightly correlated to whether I log my food accurately. See, if I log my food, I stay reasonably close to my calorie targets, and if I don’t – well, I just don’t know if I do or not.
Given all the years of personal evidence I have that demonstrate the value of tracking my food intake, you would think I would have NO PROBLEM with the requirements to keep a food log for the 8 Week Physique challenge that I am doing at CrossFit On Track right now. Of all the requirements, this one ought to be the no brainer. In a crazy week where I am doing overtime on the job, you would expect it might be difficult to make it to the gym at least 3 or 4 times, but since my food log is electronic and I work at a computer for a living, there would be no excuse for not logging my food, right?
See, while I understand the value of logging my food, I hate actually being in a position where I have to show my food log to anyone. This has tripped me up on more than one occasion. When I first started training with my coach Brian, he wanted me to show him my food logs that I kept for Weight Watchers and I flat-out refused. I wasn’t ready to mix my food intake stuff with my personal training at the time. Over time, I’ve become more willing to talk to both my coaches about my food choices, calorie budgets, and so forth so I thought I’d be fine with sharing a food log with Amanda during this challenge. But you know what? It’s still hard.
One of the most interesting effects the challenge has presented is that I find myself wanting to lie on my food log. I’m perfectly fine taking the time each day to log food, but there are times when I eat something that I don’t think is going to be deemed quite up to snuff that I just want to fib – because I don’t want to hear about how I’m doing things wrong. Dammit, it’s enough work to stay within a calorie budget and try to eat quality food most of the time, without getting flack for having a dessert or some Chinese food or – God forbid – a cheeseburger. So I have felt a very strong pull to either mask where I ate food, or fudge the amount, or just leave stuff off.
I actually mentioned the fact that I sometimes want to fudge my food log to Amanda when I was in for my last weigh-in. She looked a little hurt when I told her this, because at the end of the day, all she wants is for me to be successful, and here I was expecting maybe she would be judgmental if I told the truth. So we talked about it and she explained that she isn’t looking for perfection – she is looking for consistency, and wants to see the food log so she can help me pick out changes to make if things aren’t moving in the right direction.
A couple of days later, I went out for my Death Row meal with Kip – BLTs at The Peanut. Leading up to that lunch date, I ate as well as I could all week so I could enjoy a cheat meal. During that lunch, I never once had the desire to not write down my food intake honestly.
And a lightbulb went off in my head.
I don’t feel like fibbing on my food log when I plan a cheat meal. I only feel that desire when I am doing something that I *know* is not the right thing to do. Eating a BLT every so often isn’t wrong if I plan for it – heck, that’s like food for your soul. Having some ice cream because you are well under your daily calorie allotment isn’t wrong if you aren’t forgoing healthy foods just so you can have a big pile of Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla. What’s wrong is leaving your healthy lunch in the fridge at work and going out for an unplanned stint at Five Guy’s on the same day you are scheduled to have Mexican for dinner with friends, or eating chocolate out of your boss’s candy bowl because you are stressed. Basically, a desire to fib is a big fat red flag that I am about to do something that I am going to regret.
So instead of feeling guilty that I sometimes want to fib on my food log, I’m using it as a tool. When I pick up a mini 3 Musketeers from the candy bowl, I ask myself if I’m willing to log it. If not, I put it back. Voila – instant feedback that tells me whether I’m veering off track.
This may be one of my best tools yet!