Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

The other day a client mentioned to me that she was tired of journaling her food intake and wanted ‘to just be normal.’ I asked her what ‘normal’ means to her and she said ‘well, normal is just eating what’s right in the right amounts.’ I respect that, because it aspires to a level of unconscious self-regulation which should lead to long term weight maintenance. Tracking one’s food intake (and water, and exercise, and etc.) can easily become monotonous, tedious and troublesome.

For me, on the other hand, that sort of auto-pilot is probably not going to appear on the horizon anytime soon. But its actually okay with me. Because I don’t mind journaling. In my life, its perfectly ‘normal’ to pause several times a day to reflect on what I’ve been eating and to mark it down.

Don’t get me wrong — before I started this current phase of my weight journey, I had not only NEVER journalled, I had actively resisted every single suggestion to do so that came from my doctor, my personal trainer, self-help books, and my friends. When I finally broke down and joined a weight loss support group and learned that journaling was crucial, I was sick with resentment over the idea.

But here’s what happened. Once I got past the psychological hurdle of having to keep and review a food diary, I soon learned that I had been in deep, huge and astonishing denial about my daily caloric intake. In fact, I cannot believe that I wasn’t gaining MORE weight, considering the intense amount of refined sugars and fatty foods in my life. My old ‘normal’ was eating until I couldn’t eat any more. My new ‘normal’ became eating with awareness and a desire to remain in control.

In fact, my new ‘normal’ entailed a variety of changes that seemed quite odd at first. I began monitoring how much water I drank and learned to start off every morning having a full liter first thing before walking the dog. I started looking at food labels on supermarket packages. I asked friends for recipes. I went online for additional inspiration and support. I faithfully attended meetings. I began having a very close and intimate relationship with vegetables.

To me, today, all of these things are so automatic now as to be completely unremarkable. And in this new topsy-turvy world of mine, its actually become AB-normal to do otherwise. I feel abnormal when I overeat. It seems abnormal to me to not drink enough water. The thought of a day without generous servings of fruits and vegetables is enough to send me into a panic. It fees strange to me to not have a log somewhere of what I’ve eaten during the day.

I’m not cured – is there a cure? Its not easy – is it ever easy? I’m not perfect – is there such a thing as perfection?

I’m just … well… normal.

6 thoughts on “Feeling Normal

  1. Ellie Dworak says:

    I love this entry, Johnathan. I used to feel just like your client, wishing I could be like a few of my friends who self-regulate food intake, and a little embarrassed that I log every bit that goes into my mouth, as though the need were disfunctional. However, it is how I remain *functional*. It is how I maintain my weight and health, and it works for me. I suspect there are ways to attain a level of stasis without logging, and I may work on that one day, but for now I actually enjoy logging – it gives me freedom to eat foods I love within certain parameters, and not even think about consequences because I know I accounted for them.

  2. Mary Jean says:

    Thanks for this post Jonathan! It reminded me of how far I have come. I had my wake-up from denial about 4 years ago and it is remarkable to me the number of changes in my life that now seem normal. None of these happened all at once. For me it was a matter make seemingly small changes, starting with avoiding fast food and walking a little every day. Small incremental changes over time make a big difference. I have lost 130# and now it seems normal to eat small to moderate amounts of healthy food and work out at the gym 5 or 6 days a week. Like you said it now feel very abnormal not to do these things.

  3. Beth says:

    Jonathan,
    Excellent post!! I have been resisting journaling too, would do it for a couple days and then fall back into old habits. I will try harder this time. I have been doing good at journaling excercise, probably because I’ve been doing weight training a couple times a week for quite awhile. My trainer has me keep a log of reps, lbs., etc. I should just try to carry that system over into a food journal. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Beth

  4. Suzanne says:

    Yes, this is a great post! I do so much better when I journal my foods (calories and carb, protein, fat and fiber grams), water, exercise, and body weight. When I’m not journaling I know it’s because I’m just back to traveling down “denial” for a while, but eventually I always come back around to what I know works.

    I use sparkpeople.com to journal all of the above – it’s a cheap, easy, accessible way to track all of this online. I also keep a paper journal ’cause there’s nothing like the feel of a smooth pen touching down on smooth paper – even though my handwriting stinks!

    Thanks for the reminder that for some of us, journaling is our normal, sane mode of living!

  5. Quinn says:

    May I respectfully suggest that logging food may not be enough? That it may also be neccessary to log exercise and entertainment and hours slept and hours in front of the tv and hours sitting in a cubicle at work and …

    Seems to me that becoming overweight/obese is not just because a person eats too much but because their whole life is out of whack. Somehow they/we got out of the habit of taking proper care of ourselves and we don’t even know it. Keeping some sort of journal/log can help with this by showing us where and how things have gone awry.

  6. Debbie says:

    Jonathan, you are right — there is no “cure,” there is only management.

    Here’s how I explain my journaling:

    I cannot do math in my head (tho’ my terrifically smart hubby can). I have to use a calculator.

    Should I beat myself up because I don’t have a talent for mental number manipulation? Well, no. Using a calculator is easy, and it makes me the equivalent of any mental math wizard.

    Journaling my food (as I obviously do not have a talent for mental food tracking, either) is the same thing. Keeping track of what I eat puts me on the same level as any “unconsciously eating” thin person.

    It gets me where I need to be. So what’s not to like?

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