Ahh, the calorie-counting question - "Do you track what you eat?" - the one I've been asked quite often by both friends/family and followers. So, I'll answer it here more simply than I have when asked otherwise (I love to elaborate on whatever I can, whenever I can, if you haven't noticed...): yes AND no.
During the first few months of recovery from my ED, my parents set me up with a nutritionist who designed for me a personalized meal-plan, which consisted of several standards in regards to fat, protein, carbohydrates, etc. I needed to meet in order to gain a healthy amount of weight. She asked me to input everything I ate (before she created the plan) into a calorie-tracking app so that she could follow along with my habits and grasp a better understanding of where I was at physically and, in a way, mentally in my ED. I was shocked to see that, at my lowest, I was only consuming about 1,000 calories a day. 1,000 calories a day. I won't go into that too much because that's another story, but after about a week of tracking, she finished the plan and requested that I continue to track so that she could see what I was able to eat and adjust to on the plan. Since then, I've been tracking my calories on and off, here and there.
I continue to track my calories on some days (I'd say about 4/7 days a week I'm tracking) for a few reasons:
- just because (?) - I say that because, if you know me, you know that I crave planning and organization and structure anywhere I can create it (it's a strength and a weakness). While I used to make time to input everything I knew I'd be eating throughout the day ahead into the app in the morning, I no longer have the time, energy, or motivation to do that. I do, however, input what I can, when I can, because, well, simply because. My keeping track of what I eat does not mean that I still have an eating disorder. The way I see it? We all have our quirks (emphasis on the plurality of "quirkS") - some of us can't leave our bedroom without first making the bed; some feel the need to brush their teeth after every meal; and some just gotta' have that cup of coffee (or three) in the morning. Are those habits absolutely necessary to life? No. On the other hand, are they detrimental? Only do they become harmful when they impede on aspects of my life I know are more important, like time with loved ones and my relationship with the Lord. Thankfully, God has changed my heart enough to know that it's okay to keep track of what I eat. It's not a sin in this case because I don't rely on knowing how many calories I've eaten for ultimate satisfaction.
- to ensure nutrient-sufficiency - (protein, particularly). Now, this ISN'T to say that following a vegan lifestyle makes obtaining enough/a variety of nutrients difficult, by any means. I just know that, with the help of my nutritionist, I've found a certain amount of protein everyday that keeps me full, focused, and feeling, well, really good, so I track my NUTRIENTS (keyword here) to ensure that I can stay as close to that as possible. Sometimes I can't hit that amount - sometimes I'm way below it and sometimes my fat intake is higher than I'd like it to be - but, like I said before, God pointed my heart towards Him and erased that overpowering concern I used to feel over a situation like this.
- out of curiosity - maybe this sounds like a strange thing to be curious about, but, then again, I'm definitely pretty strange soo... it works. Some days, I prefer to stick to my usual eating routine (when my schedule permits) and others, I'm feeling a little more creative, but I also want to make sure I can hit as close as I can to that "feel-good amount" I mentioned above. Now that I'm enjoying summer, my days and weeks are not as scheduled in advance as they are during the school months, meaning I'm fully absorbing the joy that is random beach days, spontaneous movie-nights/"pint"-nights (pints of ice cream, not beer, that is), and the sometimes less-pleasurable long days at work. My eating routine changes more often than it does throughout the school year, so I track what I eat to see what each day provides. For me, doing so is fun and interesting, so I do it.
There are some days when I choose not to keep track of what's on my plate. Here's why:
- the desire not to know - So, I work at this rad (yes, I just said "rad") donut place and I'm blessed with free donuts and drinks to my heart's content while I'm on the clock. FREE DONUTS AND COFFEE. And as much of either of those or the beautiful combination of both. This is just one of the many moments I thank God for pulling me out of my eating disorder so that I can squeeze every last drop of sugary, indulgent joy out of donuts and coffee. That being said, sometimes I've eaten more than I care to admit and drank more flavored coffee drinks that I should have. I know that donuts aren't the healthiest option - they're rolled in sugar and deep-fried - and I know that coffee is best for me without the processed cocoa powder and vanilla syrup, therefore I don't need and don't care to know how much they contribute to my daily nutrient-intake. I know that, from the times when I have input them into the tracking app, I've felt even worse about I just ate/drank. In this case, the donut and coffee case, I keep the app closed. Doing so is not an attempt to erase from my memory the donut and the coffee, but rather an attempt to block out any negativity that could invade my mind upon seeing the numbers and calories and whatnot. It's my personal reminder that I ate the donut(s) and drank the latte(s) because a) I don't do it everyday, b) I'm finally in a place, side by side with the Lord, where my heart isn't focused on the sugar, fat, etc., and c) I really do enjoy these treats! And, ladies and gentlemen, that. is. OKAY :)
- the inconvenience/lack of motivation - This point ties in with #3 from my "YES" point of view, the one talking about days filled with summertime spontaneity and food-loving creativity. There are days when I have enough time to input each meal into the app, but there are also days when I know that it's not a priority. There are times when I'm out to eat with friends and maybe I can't find this or that on the app and/or I just want to put my phone away, to dedicate my time and energy to those around me rather than an app. There are times when I truly couldn't care less and I take full advantage of that freedom.
So, maybe this question of whether or not one should track calories can't be distinctly answered on my behalf. Maybe food and whether or not this or that is healthy is no longer a priority in my book. Maybe - no, scratch that - I'm definitely thankful for the Lord's love and faithfulness to me, despite my previous obsession with how much and what I ate rather than Him and Him alone.
Bottom line? Sometimes I track my food because I'm curious about each day's nutrients, because I feel organized and I've been doing it for a while. Sometimes I don't track because I know the certain foods are treats and not the healthiest of of all, because I would rather enjoy and lick the plate and not look back at the numbers they contribute.