I’m a big fan of intuitive eating.  I’ve never counted calories or tracked my macronutrients (fat, carbs and protein) in my life.  Instead, I eat whole, largely unprocessed foods, and see how they make me feel.

As it turns out, I do best with a really big breakfast, complete with lots of protein, fat and some carbs.  My lunch and dinner need to be substantial, too, but sometimes I feel like a protein-rich salad and sometimes I feel like a steak.  I hardly ever eat a snack because if I get enough in at mealtimes, I am just not hungry for them.

Despite all this, a few weeks ago, I decided it would be interesting to keep a food log for a few days.  There are some super-cool ones out there and I had a few questions I wanted answered:

  • What’s my Omega 3 : Omega 6 ratio on a typical day?
  • Just how many calories do I eat each day?  (I couldn’t have told you if I ate 1200 or 4800!)
  • Are there any nutrients that I am regularly deficient in eating?
  • Is my “nutrient-dense” diet actually nutrient-dense?
  • Are there any foods, beyond those I’ve already identified, that I can link to my skin issues?

I learned a lot, and today I am going to share with you the “behavioral” lessons I learned.  Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I will share the “nutritional” lessons.

Behavioral Lessons from Food Logging

First, a word about methodology.  I used Cron-O-Meter  to track my food and nutrients.  It’s got a simple user interface and, while there are a few tweaks I’d offer up here and there, I was largely happy with the app.

I tended to log my intake as I was eating.  I leave my computer out in the kitchen, so as I cooked or just after I ate, I would pop over to the other side of the kitchen and add my items.

I added a few of my own recipes, which is one fabulous feature of Cron-O-Meter, and some of my own food items.  But beyond that, I relied on the nutritional data in the app itself.

Lesson 1 : I Will Never, Ever, Ever Again Trust a Food Study That Relies on Subjects to Self-Report

Wow.  Figuring out how much you just ate is a challenge.  As I mention above, I logged my food in real time and I still struggled to recall how much I ate.  An even greater challenge was trying to figure out the grams or ounces of each food I enjoyed.

If I ate a lot of processed food, this might have been an easier – although only slightly so – process.  I would know how much half a box of macaroni and cheese made because I could read the serving size.  It’s more difficult with things like ground beef, apples, squash, and the like.

Beyond portion sizes, I have to say, it’s just really difficult to recall every single thing that goes into your mouth!

Some of the research studies on which medical advice about nutrition is based, rely on retrospective self-reports of food eaten.  After my week of food logging, I know I will judge studies like that with tremendous, tremendous skepticism.

Lesson 2 : When I Try to Eat Less than My Body Wants, I Starve

Like I said above, I had no clue how many calories I ate a day.  Turns out, I range from about 2400 to 2800.

Remember how I said that I am an intuitive eater, that I don’t pay attention to calories, etc?  Yeah, turns out that’s a very good thing for my personality.

Because here’s what happened.  I see this number, “2800” and I’m all, “OMG, I ate 2800 calories today.”

Mind you, it was all real, unprocessed, nutrient-dense food.  (As a matter of fact, unless I ate 2800 calories, I didn’t come as close to meeting all the nutritional parameters for the day.)  I ate three meals, didn’t snack, felt satisfied and energetic, my weight remained stable … all the markers were that I was properly fueling my body.

But that damn cultural chorus got into my head (MY head!) and told me I was overeating.

So I dialed it back for a few days.  (Hence, the 2400-ish days.)

And guess what happened?

I was cranky.  I got tired.  I didn’t meet my nutritional parameters for the day.  I snacked.  I stared in the fridge at night, wondering what I could eat before bed because I was scared to go to sleep hungry.

Sound familiar?

This exercise proved to me beyond all doubt that when I get all caught up in what I “should” eat, I undereat.  And when I undereat, I make poor choices about food.  And, I have a less satisfying day overall.

If you are food-obsessed, diet-crazed and have “tried everything,” why don’t you try eating more?  Eat until you are absolutely satisfied and not hungry again for many hours.  See whether it makes as big a difference in your life as it did in mine.

As for me, I am properly fueling my body again and don’t plan on repeating that stupidity any time soon.

* * * * * * *

Tomorrow – Is my diet really as “nutrient-dense” as I think it is?

(This post is featured on Nourishing Joy’s Thank Goodness It’s Monday #9 blog carnival.  Pop over there to see other great blog posts from like-minded folks.)

9 Responses to “Food Logging. What I Learned. Part I.”

  1. on 26 Feb 2013 at 12:12 pmKatherine

    Thank you for this post. Yesterday I was too embarrassed to order a hearty meal for breakfast since I was surrounded by men and women ordering “lite meals.” I was hungry and cranky at work all day. This morning I confidently order 3 scrambled eggs and a whole avocado and my belly is full. Societal pressures to eat a certain way as a woman are real and I still find myself influenced by them, despite my body telling me what it needs. You’ve bolstered my resolve to listen to my body, especially when traveling and out of reach of my own stash of nutrient dense foods.

  2. on 26 Feb 2013 at 12:20 pmBarb

    hey I hear what you say I am doing the whole 30 for the first time hubby included and I only had 1 day so far where I wanted snacks it snowed like crazy and I associate that with baking I wanted to bake pies cookies and so on ………….did not do it and wow that was the last so far
    I keep a bowl of cherry tomatoes on the counter to snack on when i am in the kitchen ………….. i also found out that I spent way less time in the kitchen it feels awesome so far

  3. on 26 Feb 2013 at 3:06 pmKristine Rudolph

    Katherine, I continue to be awed and inspired at your ability to eat whole, nutrient-dense foods while maintaining your grueling travel schedule. I was out of town for the weekend, and even with a nice market by the airport plus an in-room fridge, I struggled. Funny breakfast story … I asked the man serving the buffet whether there were any ingredients besides just eggs in the scrambled eggs. He said, “I just pour them from the box and add water.”

    Um, no thanks.

    Barb, isn’t it so liberating to not feel like you’re always worried where your next snack will come from? Used to be, I could never leave the house without a stash. Now, I don’t give it a second thought because I know I won’t be hungry. And man, oh man, does it make me a nicer mom, too!

  4. on 26 Feb 2013 at 4:51 pmCarl Peterson

    Great piece. I am trying to be more careful of how much I eat, i.e., I made myself a single pizza yesterday, and only ate 5/8 of it. Proof is other 3/8 is still in fridge, but I identify with your “personality statement”. I did something last Saturday and this morning that I have not done in probably( I may say..ever, and it might be right). I was at the rec center Saturday morning and after my workout jumped on the scale, and today I did it again. I was 1.2 lbs heavier, now tell me what difference does that make. and did I really need to know that. Never having watched (by actually taking my weight regularly) I decided to go back to my old ways. Remind me not to get on the scale Thursday. But bottom line I will continue to eat at meal time til I am satisfied, and all should be good.

  5. on 26 Feb 2013 at 5:24 pmKristine Rudolph

    It’s amazing how those cultural messages seep into our consciousness, no?

  6. […] Yesterday, I wrote about my experiences logging my food intake over the course of fifteen days from January 22nd to February 5th of this year.  I discussed two behavioral takeaways – 1) that accurately recalling what you ate is a very challenging task; and, 2) that when I got caught up in how many calories I was consuming, I ate less intuitively and felt less satisfied overall. […]

  7. […] Tuesday, I shared the behavioral lessons I learned in fifteen days of logging my food intake.  Yesterday, I shared some of the nutritional lessons.  Today, I am going to dig deeper into […]

  8. […] it took more posts than I expected it would.  You can go back and read Part I, Part II and Part III if you haven’t already.  In them, I cover my behavioral lessons, […]

  9. […] Food Logging: What I Learned from Kristine […]

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