It’s happened again. I lied to my Cronometer. Well, I didn’t entirely lie. I just didn’t tell it the whole truth.
I started out the day with good intentions (don’t we all?). I entered my morning weight in my Cronometer. I had a plan to eat my usual breakfast, which requires just a few minutes of cooking, but that flew out the window when I spent more time on my morning walk than I had planned (But that was good, right? More exercise, on the first sunny day we’ve had in ages in the rain soaked Northeast US!), so I grabbed some string cheese to take on the road for morning meetings. Still, well within my general eating plan: I tend to eat high protein, lower carb, with few to no carbs before lunch, so string cheese was an acceptable on-the-go substitute for my traditional cup of egg whites scrambled with a teaspoon of flax oil.
Then I came home from meetings and a few errands thrown in and ate some healthy homemade soup. After getting some work done, I had an apple (fresh, with skin, 1 large – 3 ¼ inch diameter), and then went for another hike to maximize my exercise and burn off some steam/calories during a busy but mostly rainy week.
Sure enough, I walked and walked and walked. I still hadn’t entered in any of the food I had eaten into the Cronometer… the truth was, I hadn’t measured the soup, and I hadn’t bothered to take a guess yet at how much I’d eaten. In fact, I hadn’t entered anything since my morning weight.
By this time it was almost time to go to an evening panel discussion and I hadn’t eaten a proper dinner, nor did I have time to fix one. I was already lacking in accountability – I hadn’t tracked a single food item all day. And here is the real truth: I knew there would be delicious mini apple cakes at the evening event.
I hadn’t had dinner, hadn’t eaten enough protein or fat during the day, hiked a lot, and was going to an event where I knew that one of my favorite high sugar, low nutrient foods would be served in abundance.
I ate two mini apple cakes and, as an “Oh well, I’ve already screwed up for the day,” measure, ate a small homemade chocolate pretzel brownie square. I did not tell my Cronometer, needless to say.
Why We Lie
I think there are several reasons why we lie, or rather, don’t track, and they almost all have to do with having “bad” days.
- We don’t know the exact number of calories in foods that are off our plan, homemade or served at events where we want to eat the treats that everyone else is eating, so we don’t bother to track.
- A lack of accountability makes it easier to say, “I’ve already blown the day – may as well blow it all the way!”
- Shame about food is so deeply ingrained that we don’t want a written record of “mistakes,” even if we are the only ones who see the record.
All of this moves us away from our goals, and probably decreases our sense of self-control and empowerment. Using Cronometer not only gives us information about what we’re doing and how it’s affecting our health, it builds self-confidence as we realize we can make choices.
How to combat the lies
Here are some ways I’ve found to be honest, take control, and get back on track with tracking!
- Make a guess for an unknown food, but enter something. When I eat a homemade chocolate pretzel brownie, I can enter “brownie, chocolate chips – 1 each – 2” x 2”” and get a reasonable guess (132.87) as to the number of calories. It may not be quite right, but it’s a lot more accurate than a big gaping hole where a brownie should be.
- Track what I can. I could have tracked my string cheese and my hiking, but I didn’t bother. Once I ate those apple cakes, the day was out the door.
- Track as I go. Since I work on the computer most of the day, I usually do this. You can also get the Cronometer app on your phone, so there’s no reason not to track.
- Create a “normal day” diet and have lots of the items pre-entered as recipes. I have a pretty standard breakfast and lunch that I just enter as “egg white breakfast” and “kale salad lunch.” That avoids the complication of typing in all the ingredients, and as most of us have discovered, having a basic routine, even if we have days when we diverge from it, helps us stay on target by reducing the number of times we have to make decisions about what to eat. It also makes shopping and planning easier!
Life isn’t Perfect and That’s OK
At the end of the day, whether I track or not, I have to accept that I will have good days and not as good days when it comes to nutrition, exercise, work, or just about every area of life. Many of us may have a perfectionist streak, and we want every to look like a diary entry in a fitness magazine. Life isn’t like that. My worth as a human being isn’t defined by what I ate, what I weighed, how much I exercised, how much work I got done… the list goes on. By using the best tool available (Cronometer!) to know what I’m eating, what I’m doing, and how it affects my health, I’m taking control of my own life in very personal yet very powerful way. That’s true on days when I eat exactly according to my plan and track every bite, and days when I don’t. Knowledge is power – apple cake or not!
April Wilson Smith holds a Master of Public Health from Thomas Jefferson University and is a long time tracker of all things health and wellness. She has been vegan, low fat, low carb, a calorie restriction practitioner, serious Zen student, and yoga enthusiast. She is now a freelance writer based just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.