I have tracked every calorie I have eaten or burned since June 2009. Every meal, snack, and workout has been logged in the Lose It app on my iPhone. I can look online and tell you the foods most frequently eaten over the last 12 months (tomatoes, hummus, lettuce, peanut butter, and spinach) or which exercises I have spent the most minutes doing (running, walking, yoga, and bicycling). I can see line graphs showing my weight or calorie trends for the last year, or any number of other useful bits of information.
Sound like an obsession? Probably. But I enjoy tracking, logging, and analysis. Admittedly, I also have a tendency toward obsessive self-documentation — hello, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Dailymile, and WordPress. These things satisfy me somehow. I like record keeping. After all, what is more fascinating than one’s own life, captured in all its glorious minutiae? Uh, right?
Nonetheless, I think I’d like to eventually move away from tracking all of my calories every day. I don’t think I want to be using the Lose It app as a maintenance tool for the rest of my life. But when should I stop the tracking, and how?
For one thing, I’m not really sure how many calories I should be eating on the average day. Yes, there are tons of places one can go to find an approximate number, but the numbers I get for my height, weight, sex, and activity level are anywhere from 1600-2100 calories, which seems like a big range. That 500 calories could mean the difference between having fries and a beer with my veggie burger or going side-salad, no-bun, ice-water style. Those are two very different dinners, you know?
So here is my plan for the moment: I am still tracking everything, staying between about 1600-1800 calories per day (the lower end on rest days, the higher end on work-out days), and weighing in every week. So far my weight has only fluctuated up or down by about a pound every week for the last month. If I can keep it steady like this for another month or so, I think I will be ready to try life without food tracking. I’m not sure what that will look like or if I will have a specific plan for how I’ll go about it, so I’m open to suggestions from you guys. I’ll be honest, though: the idea of intuitive eating is a little scary. Last time I was left to my own devices, I gained weight like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Can I trust myself to know when to stop eating?