Yesterday Lee over at For the Love of Peanut Butter (one of my favorite blogs about one woman’s amazing recovery from her ED) raised some really insightful and thought-provoking points about the dilemmas surrounding weighing and measuring food.
She notes that, as a former restricter, once she was out of her treatment, she initially weighed and measured meticulously, wanting to be sure she wasn’t going over what was recommended by her meal plans. Naturally, there was still that fear of eating too much.
Then, as time went on, she has gotten to a happier, calmer, more comfortable place where she feels she can eyeball some foods and simply doesn’t want to/need to rely on the tools anymore.
She doesn’t want to be tied to measuring cups and spoons and food scales, and she wants to trust her body — not rely on a measuring spoon to say, “too much PB today”!
I admire her a ton for her honesty and her insight, and say “Way to go!” for her determination to find freedom through leaving her utensils in their respective drawers.
Yet as a devoted Weight Watcher (who has admittedly never dealt with true restriction — Weight Watchers has minimums and I have never came close to those Points values), I’m mixed on how I feel about this approach for me.
Weighing, measuring and even food journaling are a double-edged sword. They are all tools of my success, … and they also fed my disordered eating behaviors. It’s like I am two people: someone still trying to lose weight and someone struggling with DE. I can’t decide which category I most fit into, especially since one led to the other (losing weight –> my DE thoughts/behaviors)
On the plus side, they’ve helped me more or less keep my figure (even with weight gain) and keep me faithful to the program.
But as an anxious, Type A person, I also recognize that these very tools that I credit with my success could also be taken to the extremes, leading to my DE thoughts and/or behaviors …
Still, on the whole, I don’t view them as a chore or as an obsession anymore, and feel more comfortable doing them than not.
No, I don’t weigh things like fruit or vegetables (in fact, I like to load my plate with veggies first because they’re healthy and filling for few calories).
But I do still usually measure (or eyeball, if I’m out) grains, bread, oil, sauces, meat, treats, milk, dry snacks, PB, nuts, etc.
I usually count a Point or two for a bite of dessert out, depending on what it is and I know what a serving of meat or pasta looks like. This is part of being on WW for so long; the knowledge doesn’t just “disappear.” Even if I’m not actively obsessing over it, in my head I know what a serving is or how many Points I am consuming.
And I always journal — I can’t help that; I love it. It’s a game for me.
I’m not extreme — I don’t bring my measuring spoons, cups or food scale out with me — I think that would be an extreme — but I do pay attention because not paying attention to serving sizes is how I was heavy my whole life in the first place!
(Rationally, I know a little extra PB or 1/4 c. cereal isn’t going to make me “fat.” But those little things do add up, and I’m still unable to lose right now … so I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.)
That said, Dr. G. wants me to embrace my personality, my anxious persona … to capitalize on it instead of working against it, especially since she knows I would like to get back to my comfy weight. So in my case, it doesn’t make sense for me to give these things up; even if I am not losing right now, I’m still more calm and successful within certain boundaries than I am without.
Like she says, if we were practicing flooding, she’d make me take away all those behaviors and just trust my body. But these behaviors (weighing, measuring, journaling) aren’t, as we’ve discussed, necessarily behaviors I really want to change because they are inherently healthy when done in moderation … and they keep me in line and make me feel good.
So instead, we’re focusing on getting me to the place where my anxiety about food, body image, life, etc. is lessened through changing my thought patterns.
And though I have my up and down days, I think I’m really getting to that place where I’m more comfortable in who I am — anxieties and all. Plus, I’m learning to make the distinction between rational and irrational thoughts and I say that’s mega-progress.
While I see both sides to the weighing/measuring/journaling issues, personally, I will continue to do them. If I find things getting obsessive again (like when I was journaling on Sparkpeople in addition to journaling on WW last summer) then I’ll reassess and maybe take Lee’s liberating approach.
But for now, I’d like to view these behaviors as assets, recognizing that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t do them … but knowing I personally feel more comfortable when I do, indeed, do them.
Don’t get me wrong — I can certainly see why putting the kibosh on those potentially dangerous behaviors is such a blessing for those struggling with a former life of severe restricting — once they stop obsessing, they feel liberated — that makes perfect sense to me.
I admire that “trust your body” approach a ton, and there’s a part of me that longs to be feel liberated too. Because of my experiences on Core, I’ve learned to trust myself in some capacities. For example, I don’t eat past satisfaction much anymore (even at holidays and events), and I’ve learned about “the sigh” when I’ve had enough. Those signals have helped retrain my head that sometimes I am satisfied with less than a serving.
But there’s a bigger part of me that, trust aside, likes living within boundaries. A part of me that knows success on WW came to me by being diligent — not too obsessive, but not lax, either.
So I’m going to be assertive here and put it out there — try as I might, trusting my body completely is just not for me at the moment. And that’s ok. Different things work for different people, and we’re all in the same battle together: to be as healthy as we can be.
Cheers to all, to good health and happiness, and living healthy “your own way.”
PS–Lee, thanks for inspiring me with your journey. We might be going about it in different ways, but we’re both on the road to freedom. Thanks for inspiring this post, too!
How about you? Do you weigh/measure your food or keep a food journal? Have these habits led to your success, driven obsession, or a little of both?