Ever since my negative comment incident I have been really trying to evaluate my recovery, where I am and where I need to go. I have already mentioned my relationship with exercise and that it obviously needs improvement, but another aspect of my life, that I haven’t really discussed is my reliance on measuring. When I say measuring I mean using food scales, spoons and cups to unhealthily evaluate my intake.
It is no secret that our country has a problem with portion distortion. If you go to any major chain restaurant and order a dish, you will likely be served more than double what is recommended. We often go for the largest quantity possible because it then feels like we are receiving a great value, but this isn’t healthy either.
With obesity and the major plate inflation, it is pretty much-advertised in every weight-loss add or fitness magazine to use measuring utensils in order to gauge the actual amount of food you are putting into your body. I read this and took the advice, but then decided to inappropriately apply it to my diet.
I had always had measuring cups for baking, but never even considered keeping a food scale in my cupboard. Why hadn’t I thought of it earlier! Of course I needed this to keep track of my calories! I have probably been eating 6 ounces of chicken, when really the magazines say I only need four! I need a tool that tells me exactly what I am allowed to have.
So the next day I went to the store and picked up a battery operated food scale. This meant I could even take it with me when we traveled! How exciting!
From that point on I measured everything on that darn scale. Potatoes (when I actually was eating them) meat, APPLES, snack foods that were listed in grams rather than the number of actual pieces…you name it, it went on the food scale.
And then I read about condiments. “Be cautious of condiments!” Apparently they can add up quickly and some I would have never considered to be “highly caloric” were a big no-no in the diet world! My beloved ketchup, that I used to pile on things, I could no longer consume without measuring. Even when I switched to the reduced sugar ketchup, with 5 calories per tablespoon instead of 15, I measured and put it neatly in a side cup so it wouldn’t infiltrate my food if I didn’t need the entire portion.
I became a psycho about precision, and would often overestimate just to ensure that I was calculating correctly, or remaining in the “safe“ calorie zone. The worst I think was when I actually took measuring spoons to restaurants. I may have discussed this before but when you go to a salad bar, and whip out a little plastic spoon to get the fat free balsamic, people might stare at you. Actually, they DO stare at you. I can attest to this because I was the one being stared at like a freak.
When I came home from my first hospitalization my kitchen had pretty much been cleaned out. Anything that could have been used as an instrument of measure was nowhere to be found. The food scale…I am still not sure what Ryan did with it, but my guess would be destruction or a seriously good hiding space. Trust me, I looked hard!
Since my mechanism of sanity was taken away I tried to be sneaky. I purchased a set of cups and spoons to keep in my purse, and started only buying pre-portion meat. I also turned to Tupperware that was made specifically for portion control, and would secretly put aside what I was eating in those little plastic “life-savers,” before we would sit down to dinner.
Honestly, if I could not measure, or somewhat determine the calories in something I refused to eat it. It got to a point where I wouldn’t even eat fruit. FRUIT! An essential part of everyone’s diet that really is not that calorically dense was no longer allowed in my stomach because I could not determine exactly how much I was eating. I turned mostly to packaged products, which are typically laden with an ingredient list that’s six miles long, just because it had a chart on the back that could tell me it was ok.
As measuring was no longer allowed, my safe food list decreased and I filled myself with unhealthy alternatives to whole foods just because they were more precise. Looking back I realize how ridiculous this all sounds. Some of you are probably reading this thinking I am more crazy than ever, but I can guarantee there are some of you that have probably been there, or still are.
Today I still have difficulty when I cant use a measuring spoon to quantify food I eat…nut butters, or any other source of fat are usually the main ones I wont consume without knowing the amount. Ryan cringes every time I open the drawer he knows contains my weakness, because this and exercise are the two habits that I just cannot seem to break.
A few days ago I mentioned that I have a few major goals for the up-coming weeks, and decided that I need to tackle one at a time in the behavioral department. I think this week is the week to cut out measuring. I am not going to throw away my utensils because I enjoy baking and that obviously requires a great amount of precision. Not to mention it is unrealistic to avoid keeping things that are totally normal, and sometimes essential, for people to have. But this week I am going to try not to measure my the nuts I eat as snacks, the yogurt I have with breakfast, or the sunflower butter I put on pretty much everything. I would like to think this will be easy, but I know it wont. I still catch myself measuring silly things like sugar free pancake syrup, or unsweetened almond breeze, simply out of habit, and comfort…but this is no way to live, completely disintegrated my relationship with hunger-fullness signals, and is holding me back from moving forward in recovery.
Breakfast on day one of the goal, complete and no measurements!