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Fractional effort: 2012 food tracker review

Thursday, January 03, 2013

I’ve made big changes to how I eat since June of 2012. That plus adding regular exercise, and I’ve lost 44 pounds and 2 pants sizes. I wanted to go back and see how this happened.

If you look at the difference between what I ate “then” and what I eat “now,” it sounds like a lot!

But here’s the thing: I don’t do all or nothing anymore, because that ALWAYS led me to fail. I didn’t even take my weight loss efforts “one day at a time.” More like, 1/3 of a half of a baby step at a time.

In order to change my eating habits, here are the things I needed to change/deal with:

Lunch - Buying lunch at work. Usually pizza or chicken fingers and fries.
Breakfast - Portion sizes too big. Coffee with LOTS of sugar and milk.
Eating out - I always ordered what sounds best and cleaned my plate.
Takeout/Dinner at home – Portion size. And too much takeout from the deli/grill around the corner, Chinese, or pizza. This was getting to be multiple dinners per week.
Snacks - Too many trips to the work vending machine for Cheez-its or chips.
Candy at work - My coworker has a communal candy box. It is 2 cubicles away from me. Plus the vending machine, or worse they sell cups of M&Ms that are about 2 bagfuls at the cafeteria.

Weekends - I’d sleep late, and then be really hungry and unable to decide if I wanted breakfast or lunch. Plus it being the weekend and wanting to relax, I interpreted “relax” to mean “treat yourself to whatever you want.” I’d eat takeout in even bigger or fattier portions than weeknights, plus sweets sweets sweets.

Trigger foods - Things I eat too often, have a horrible time with portion control on, or can’t seem to resist when they are around. The burger and fries definitely falls under “too often”, things like ice cream (I pretty much always ate the whole pint), pasta and especially mac and cheese = big portions (I once made two boxes of Kraft mac and cheese and hid the second empty box in the trash instead of the recycling before my husband got home. That way when he went to dish some, he wouldn’t be able to tell I’d eaten close to an entire box.) Having chips or snacky foods and candy around I’d eat them “just because they’re there.”

What was I eating before, at my heaviest? Probably ~2c of cereal for breakfast (or Dunkin Donuts drive through!), pizza or something with fries for lunch, and double or triple portions of pasta or mac and cheese or the ever present single serving chicken pot pie, or a big fast food meal for dinner. Ice cream or cookies whenever I wanted, bit servings. Multiple pieces of candy (2-3 “fun size” bars and such) every day.

What do I eat now? Plain greek yogurt and a baked sweet potato for breakfast, black coffee or tea. Leftovers from dinner, soup (lentil or split pea usually), or chicken salad for lunch, with leftover veggies or salad, and usually a piece of fruit, and for dinner, soup, stew, turkey burgers, steak, fish… something pre-checked in the tracker, portion decided on and measured, with veggies on the side. When I get takeout I get grilled chicken. On the much rarer occasions I have a cheeseburger, I usually don’t get fries. Fruit, veggies, and nuts or seeds for snacks (sometimes a fiber bar) and I stay out of the vending machine and candy box.

Oh those big changes!! How did they happen?? I started tracking my food on Spark People on Saturday, June 23, 2012. Here is my breakfast:

Instead of pouring a big bowl of cereal like always (probably 2c), I measured and ate just the 3/4c serving called for on the box. Food I already had, measuring cups I already owned. This was free and took approximately 46 seconds.
Did I eat perfectly healthy meals that would make a dietician cry and kiss me from there on out? HAH. Let’s look at my lunch:

475 calories for lunch is not THAT bad, for the calorie range SP gave me at the time.
But. It’s a huge bowl of pudding with whipped cream. PUDDING FOR LUNCH.
But I tracked it!!
What did I have for dinner? Takeout. But I got a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a cheeseburger.
Then I ate a big bowl of buttered popcorn, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.


This is what I mean about baby steps. I measured my cereal. I got chicken instead of cheeseburger. I tracked what I ate.

This is where I began. It’s not fancy. It’s not perfection. But it’s a TINY BIT BETTER than the day before. Eventually all the tinies add up to the big deal.

Sometimes I struggled with even that, but I kept going. Just track it. Whatever it is, sure, eat it. But 1) measure it, and 2) track it.

On June 24, I ate a mere ONE serving of vegetables – a cup of salad greens at a family party. “Lunch” that day was potato chips and beer.

That last week of June got better, as I got into the routine of the work week. I packed leftovers for lunch. My next lunch fix was to stop at the grocery store on the way to work and buy soup and frozen veggies. (Thank you, Tabatchnick and Green Giant.)

I bought frozen burritos or frozen “for two” meals for nights I was too busy to cook (I read the labels to pick the best ones.).

When we did get takeout, I started getting chips instead of fries.

Then I got smartfood cheddar popcorn instead of chips. Then I got just the sandwich.

I had days “on the road.” I went on vacation.

Not perfection, better choices. One at a time.

The first week of July I basically was figuring out how to track my grandmother’s cooking (and constant availability of snacks!) and eating out. I went over my calories, most days. I kept. On. Tracking.

Looking through my tracker is eye-opening to the changes over time. And the incredibly WEIRD habits I have had to break in order to get here!!

On July 5th, I had cheese, chocolate chip cookies, popcorn, and diet Dr. Pepper for lunch.
On July 6th, I had ice cream and a Hershey bar. For LUNCH.

This was me, at my parents’ house, falling into old habits of indulging in cravings, secretly eating “treats” if no one else was home.

July 9 I started getting the egg white veggie flatbread from Dunkin Donuts, instead of egg and cheese on a biscuit if I was out of “breakfast food” at home. July 10 I had 2 slices of pizza for dinner instead of 4.

July 20 I started getting a small DD coffee instead of a medium.

(One night in July I had a leftover enchilada, a bowl of cereal, and ice cream for dinner. That’s not so much relevant to my point, as just plain hilarious. )

Black coffee first appears on August 1!

I also ate a lot of Oreos in early August… (trigger food) Clearly I bought a package and then once they were in the house I had trouble staying out of them.

I was ALSO having trouble wanting to snack on chocolate at work (oh that candy box) so I bought ginger candy and ate that instead, slowly savoring one piece whenever I felt like snacking. It is sweet, but also spicy so I can’t eat it fast and I can’t gorge on it. I forgot about that until I saw ginger chews in the tracker every day.

I experimented with smoothies for breakfast a lot in August. With and without protein powder, fruit, fruit and veggie, etc.

And hey, just to show that everybody falls down on this road, here’s August 17th:

The day after that, I had peach pie for breakfast. August was one of my “best” months on Spark People, up until my December challenge! You can see how “perfect” I was…

The beginning of September was rough – I had trouble getting back on track after Labor Day weekend which included a wedding, staying with family, and my husband’s birthday. I can see I was trying different things to get into a routine – protein shakes for breakfast, soup or stir fry for lunch, often falling into take out/burgers for dinner, and candy from the candy box most days. Also at some point I made brownies, and I ate them with breakfast more often than I remembered… hahaha.

But this is where I start to see, along with the more questionable dinners, I added a serving or two of frozen veggies, and if I bought lunch at work I added salad.

I fixed my lunch issues, not buying from the cafeteria, first. Then breakfast got better. Then my choices at restaurants. I’d look things up in the tracker app on my phone before ordering, and make sure to stop after half, then drink water and see if I am actually hungry or not before eating more.
Snacks, candy, weekends took longer to fix.

The greek yogurt for breakfast, frozen soup for lunch habit seems to have fully kicked in around the second week of September.

I started adding chicken to things for more protein, and having nuts and seeds for snacks.

Weekends were still a challenge through September. I would eat well for 1 or 2 meals and poorly for another. One great day from late September: scrambled egg with cheese and spinach for breakfast; frozen microwave veggie risotto with added chicken for dinner. Sounds good! What about lunch? A chocolate chip cookie, a piece of cake, and a butterscotch pudding cup. Heh heh.

I started tracking right away after vacation on Monday, October 8.

The greek yogurt breakfast established firmly in October. Meals got better through early October, but I still struggled with snacking.

For reasons I don’t remember, at all, I stopped tracking October 17, for three days. Tracked the 20th, stopped the 21st. Tracked 22nd, not 23rd – 27th! I started again on the 28th, only to stop again on the 30th. I didn’t track all through Sandy, the power outage at home, or the much longer power outage at work. Started again on the 5th of November.

I did pretty well through that first week of November tracking, but struggled with the weekend again.

My first breakfast sweet potato appeared on November 10!

Wednesday, November 14: Trigger foods; the first time I made boxed mac and cheese and actually measured and ate a SINGLE serving.

In November I finally stayed out of the candy box for an entire week.

The week of Thanksgiving, up to Saturday, was practically perfect!
Saturday I skipped breakfast (slept in), had a cheeseburger, fries, and oreos for lunch, and pie, cookies, and beer for dinner. WEEKENDS. Are a problem.

Sunday I ate my usual weekday breakfast, which was a step in the right direction. But then in the afternoon I learned a valuable lesson about mug brownies. (That lesson being “Holy crap they are almost 700 calories”)

In late November I made from scratch macaroni and cheese, and successfully ate it in moderation. Small servings as a side dish to healthier foods, and it took a while to eat up the batch.

Thursday, November 29 I wanted a cheeseburger – and I bought ingredients and made a healthier one from scratch, instead of getting takeout. I did the same for grilled cheese the next day. Both trigger/comfort foods!

December was Kick August, and I think my biggest issue was sweets and treats around, from a party early in the month and then holidays later. Beyond that when I struggled it was due to running out of go-to foods (like yogurt for breakfast, chicken salad or soup for lunch) or not packing snacks to bring to work.

Up until December I was doing pretty well at cleaning up my breakfast, lunch, dinner, eating out, and snacks. Kick August helped me dust off and really solidify those habits, plus finally kick the candy box, start to clean up my weekends, and have trigger foods without bingeing.

Weekends started to look more like weekdays! On December 8, I had my usual breakfast, leftovers for lunch and dinner, and fruit, veggies, and plain popcorn for a snack. Getting out of bed before 2pm & having a normal routine is a huge help…

Dec 14: trigger foods – I made *half* a grilled cheese to have with lentil soup

January - I’ve been having ice cream all week, in half or even quarter cup servings. I don’t eat the whole pint anymore; in fact I don’t even have to remind myself to put it in a bowl and not eat out of the container. It’s automatic now.

If you’re just starting, you might feel like you can’t take all the steps you need to change your habits That’s okay! Take *baby* steps. If you can’t take baby steps, take part of a baby step. One tiny thing at a time.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • no profile photo CD12383123
    What a great and honest analysis!!!! Keep up the great work!
    3054 days ago
    Awesome job. And great advice. emoticon
    3055 days ago
  • LEB0401
    Fantastic work.. this should be emailed to new Sparkies when they signup. I'm inspired to do some data analysis of my nutrition tracker now. Great...truly, truly great.
    3055 days ago
    I LOVE this blog. If everyone looked at themselves with the same honesty, society wouldn't have an obesity problem. Good for you!
    3055 days ago
    Good job! Recognizing the food aspect of this journey is the hardest. Slowly subbing in healthier options is easier for everyone (myself included) until the changes all stick and fast food tastes weird.

    3056 days ago
    emoticon amazing, incredible. You are making it work. You make me SO DANG PROUD OF YOU! You keep right on with those steps, no matter how small they need to be, in the right direction. emoticon
    3056 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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