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Published January 02, 2014, 03:13 PM

Holt: Food journaling provides insight

I’ve started and stopped food journaling too many times to count. Every once in a while I’ll come across an intended food journal with one lonely entry.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

I’ve started and stopped food journaling too many times to count. Every once in a while I’ll come across an intended food journal with one lonely entry.

“6/13/10: med Diet Coke, 6” tuna on white w/ Ched, lett, tom, on and mayo, cup tom soup, 1 piece banana bread, 16-oz coffee, gran bar, Lean Cuisine spin/mush pizza, diet green tea”

Another: “7/25/11: egg and cheese bagel sandwich, organic choc soy milk, Jell-O pudding, 6” turkey on wheat w/ Cheddar cheese and honey mustard, Peanut M&M’s, mini Clif bar, medium banana”

When I was at the low end of the weight spectrum, I became dangerously obsessive with my daily food journaling. I spent too much time throughout the day thinking about what I was going to eat and how many calories were in everything.

I knew how many calories were in three slices of sharp Cheddar cheese and the number of Triscuits in a serving size. Yeah, it kept me thin – for a while – but in my opinion, that’s no way to live.

And it backfired, big time. With that experience in mind, I mostly avoided food journaling for years.

Then, reluctantly, I decided to give it another try, this time with the focus on my habits and patterns, not my caloric intake.

Now I’ve been tracking consistently (with an occasional weekend off), since mid-November, and you know what? It’s not so bad.

I list it all – the good, the bad, the ugly and the truly regretful (two Redd’s pounders and half a medium pepperoni pizza? Woof). Every sip, morsel, bite and piece that passes my lips is accounted for, no matter how I feel about it.

Occasionally I do include how I feel about it, or my review of a new Lean Cuisine meal, or my observations about the emotions tied to my eating. Even my cravings go in there. (“I want mac ’n cheese and cake.”)

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve learned so far:

• I drink a lot of NFPMs (non-fat peppermint mochas – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as PSLs, does it?), but I’ve tried to switch to K-cups to cut down on cost, calories and sugar. Non-fat does not mean low-sugar.

• I have a problem with Reduced-Fat Cheez-Its and Wheat Thins. They’re an OK snack, but I have a tendency to eat a few, close the box, open it again, eat a few more, close the box, open it again …

• I love Greek yogurt, especially with breakfast. Yay! Not all my habits are bad.

• When I want to angry-eat – you know, nosh on something with a satisfying crunch, I turn to baby carrots or broccoli with ranch. But I’m never giving up my ranch.

• I do not need to eat the same amount of food as my fiancé, even though we split and share most of what we eat together. When we bake a thin-crust pizza on a weeknight or I divvy up eggs and bacon on the weekend, I’d be better off sliding an extra slice or two onto his plate.

• Food journaling forces me to reflect on my choices, both mindful and mindless. On Nov. 19, for example, I added this at the end of my entry: “Should’ve skipped the bagel or replaced it w/ a fruit, stuck to one patty (tho yay no bun), and skipped the fries (tho at least I only had a few).”

• I need to drink more water. When I’m out, I guzzle it so fast the waitress can’t keep up with refills, but at work and at home it’s mostly coffee, fizzy drinks or juice.

• Green Giant Steamers are a workplace life-saver. Note to self: Bring a plastic bowl to work. Eating corn out of a Styrofoam cup is weird.

• It’s OK to be hungry. It’s not OK to be so ravenous I’ll eat anything within reach.

• It’s also OK not to finish my food. I wrote, victoriously, on Nov. 22: “I THREW OUT the rest of my muffin! Muffin be gone!” Just because it’s there, or it’s free, doesn’t mean I have to eat it. No muffin feelings will be hurt.

• Noodles, usually ramen and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, are still, after all these years, my biggest weakness.

• I CAN keep a bag of peppermint truffles at my desk and make them last, eating one or two at a time.

Though my control over it has wavered, food journaling has allowed me to slowly loosen the grip food has on me.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully evict the food addict from my headspace, lose the 30 pounds I regained or meet my Big Goal, but if food journaling’s helping even a little bit this time around, I’m going to keep doing it.

1/3/14: Yay food journaling!

Forum reporter Meredith Holt lost over 100 pounds between 2010 and 2012. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.