53 Day Streak of Food Journaling on MyFitnessPal!

Two years ago, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, and it is only now that I can say that I have used it consistently for 53 days in a row. I have loved the idea of it ever since my friend told me that she lost 60 pounds logging in everything she put into her mouth. However, whenever I tried to use it for a couple of days, I would try to eat as clean as possible, and then blow it. Subsequently, I could not admit how much I had blown it to myself, or to this app. I have written about it before, multiple times before, written about my hope and my frustration.

Yet in this 53 day streak, I have written everything down, junk food or not, large quantity or not. When I gave up sugar and flour for 14 days, I started logging my food into MyFitnessPal every day because I already had to write it down and tell someone. Once that 14 day period ended, I still wanted to remain accountable, so I kept logging.

The app calculates how many calories I should eat based on my weight and weight loss goals. The app then allows me to eat more calories on the days that I exercise, based on the type and intensity of exercise. At the end of the day, when I finish logging, it says, “If you ate like this every day for 30 days, you would weigh this much.” I have been logging my weight on there for two years, so I can see weight trends over time.

Lately, I have been absorbed in the nutrition section of the app. Every day, it helps me keep track of what percentage of my daily fat, saturated fat, trans fat, protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, etc.

For the most part, I discovered that I do not have a problem reaching my daily goals for protein and dietary fiber and the majority of categories. I learned that when left to my own devices, I do not eat enough potassium and iron. Yes, I could take a supplement for that, but studies have shown people absorb nutrients more effectively from food than pills.

I have enjoyed finding foods rich in potassium and iron, particularly those that are low calorie and low sugar options. For instance, when I told a friend that I did not consume enough potassium, he said, “Bananas and potatoes.” I wanted to find less starchy sources. After all, I needed the most nutrition in the fewest number of calories. Some of the best sources of potassium I found were celery, cucumbers, watercress, yogurt, and low-sodium V8 juice. The Blue Monkey brand of coconut water with pulp is one of the most delicious sources of potassium, but it is expensive so I only drink it a couple times a week as a low-calorie treat.

When I looked for iron sources, everyone told me to eat spinach. I am resistant to spinach, because long ago someone told me that raw spinach inhibited calcium absorption. I have started eating a spring mix that includes spinach and provides 20% of my daily needs, but I do not consume dairy products at that meal. I also found out that a seaweed product that I have been eating since college, the Maine Coast Sea Vegetable triple blend flakes, happens to have 20% of my daily iron requirement in a teaspoon. I add it to my eggs and voila, lower calorie than blackstrap molasses. I also like refried beans as a source of iron. 1/2 cup of oatmeal is 10% of my daily iron requirement. Nuts are a less processed source of iron. Processed foods like cereal and pretzels have iron from the grains being fortified, but I want to rely on more low-calorie, naturally-rich sources. Although I only consume it
a couple times a year, I am impressed with the Chex cereal brand: not only is it gluten-free but the Rice Chex packs 50% of my daily iron requirement in 100 calories.

After all, after spending two decades cutting out this or that food group, I finally believe what a relative has been trying to tell me for years. “There are no bad foods.” Part of me wanted there to be bad foods, because swearing off food groups always felt easier to me than counting calories. Yet winning this battle is about counting calories. I tell myself that a trained monkey could do it. MyFitnessPal users do not have to be brilliant, yet strangely some of the most brilliant people cannot be bothered with food journaling, with being honest with themselves.

Just as my tenth-grade English teacher plastered everywhere, “Success is a habit, not an act.” I still think about that, whether I am trying to hold a plank or packaging up my meals for the next day. Of all my new habits, I am the most proud of MyFitnessPal.

my best story

you are my best story.

i have told it in the dark, moments before falling asleep,

told it descending steep slopes of distant mountains,

told it seeding, and transplanting, and weeding, and harvesting.

i know it by heart,

and i tell it from my heart every time.

i tell it to turn strangers into friends,

and my friends have listened to every chapter, every plot twist, with patience.

i told it to a stranger who said, “you must like being told no.”

i think i like the possibility of a happy ending.

i like daydreaming, and nightdreaming,

the half-asleep and half-awake chance to play pretend in bed,

like i was still a little girl.

i pretend what it would be like to wake up next to you,

next to the mass of you, and slip on my slippers and bathrobe,

and type up that first thing of the day,

always my best.

i pretend that you would eventually come out, and kiss me on the forehead.

i pretend that you would pour yourself a cup of coffee, and sit with me,

and i would read to you.

Starting Again

She had stopped writing, or rather, she had continued writing but she had become picky about sharing. She had continued to express on paper what she never had the confidence to say in person, but she struggled to finish anything. Even when she did finish, she would regard it as unimportant, “not good enough”. She despised people with too much ego, but she knew that not having enough had held her back her entire life, even in clicking the “publish” button.

Every once in a while, she would still mention her blog to someone, usually someone at work at the end of a long day. She was talking to her coworker in maintenance, and she found out that they both had blogs.

A week or so later, she went to a potluck at this coworker’s house. Out of the blue, the coworker said, “I thought the name of your blog sounded familiar and then I realized my friend had sent me a link to it last summer. I loved it, I loved your perspective of this area.”

She sat, rather stunned by the connection, but flattered. Her physical appearance never caught the attention of strangers, but her words, her ever simple Strunk and White words, resonated enough to be forwarded from one friend to another.

She wanted to hit the publish button again, if only for this one friend. She never wrote expecting to be the next big name, or any name at all. She wanted to write in hopes of adding something fun, or soulful, or useful to someone else’s day….

The end of a cleanse and the beginning of new commitments

No brown rice or quinoa. No hummus. No avocado. No fruit after breakfast. For two weeks, I accepted all the strict constraints of this particular no-sugar, no-flour plan. I started at 203, and by the morning of day 14, I weighed 186.6.

Yet today, on Day 15, on the verge of a vulnerable time of the month, I ate a piece of ganache cake from the break room. Honestly, I liked it. I did not regret it after. I feel like it is hard to imagine the rest of my life absolutely devoid of sweets. What would my summer backpacking trips look like? I would spend all of family gatherings worried that the desert table would eat my alive. I am also at a disadvantage that I work at the grocery store and look at all the tastiest innovations all shift long.

I found much of the last fourteen days to be helpful. I found it useful to plan my meals down to the ounce or tablespoon or cup, and write it down, and tell someone. I liked packing my breakfast and lunch the night before (I just would have preferred to eat 16 ounces of veggies rather than 8 ounces of a salad and 8 ounces cooked.

I still can do those things by using my favorite app, My Fitness Pal, and texting my boyfriend my meal plan every day. Ultimately, I want to do what makes sense for me, hummus eating and all.

“call me a fugitive”

you transform my cabin back into that norridgewock farmhouse.
having given you the key,
i come home to find the woodstove roaring, and community radio blasting,
and you,
sprawling on the couch, reading books intended for the weekly summer renters.
you teach me how to cook meatloaf from the perspective of a chemist,
not from a recipe but in a way that i will remember.

once you have left, i find coffee grinds on the window sill, in the produce drawer, across the wooden cutting board.
after the first few visits, i kept tucking away the coffee maker, thinking you would not return.
now i leave it out, once again expecting you.

no sugar, no flour, one day at a time…

My mentor told me to get down on my knees every morning and pray for abstinence from sugar and flour. The first morning, I knelt on the cool granite tiles of my bathroom and asked for that one day of abstinence. I chose that spot because I thought the cold against my calves would help me remember my prayer.

Sugar and flour had long been my default, as long as I knew how to eat. Like others smoke a cigarette in a moment of anxiety or boredom or dread, I would eat. If I did not find anything in the cupboard, I would head to the nearest convenience store and buy whatever suit my fancy. Where others could stop at one cookie or a handful of chips, I wanted the entire box or bag. I would probably be 300 pounds except I am a fervent exercisers and some of my muscle mass consumed a portion of the calories, but not enough.

I had tried lots of diets, the full range from vegan to high-protein, and I could never stick with them. Blame it on my spontaneous, impulsive nature, but I would always find myself back at the same convenience stores, unable to make eye contact with the cashier who had seen me and what I bought many times before.

I should have given up by the age of twenty-eight, I should have accepted that this is the body that God gave me, and I do. I thank God that I am physically able to break down freight, and run five miles no problem, and hug my love. Yet I also felt like though God is doing a lot for me, I was not doing enough for myself.

In an effort to do more for myself, I returned to a program that I had tried in another town, another time. I would check-in with another member once a day. After she gave me my new eating plan the first time we talked, I would check-in with her at the same time every day.

I find myself following the strictest eating plan of my life, and I have stuck with it so far (today is day 9). I had to weigh all my food on a scale that I purchased from Walmart, a scale that my boyfriend and I affectionately call the “coke scale”. For breakfast every morning, I eat 1 ounce of oatmeal, 6 ounces of blueberries, and 8 ounces of Greek yogurt. For lunch and dinner, I eat 4 ounces of meat or 2 eggs, 8 ounces of salad, half-ounce of oil, and 8 ounces of cooked vegetables. I thought I loved vegetables, but I am finding myself sitting at the dinner table struggling to finish the 8 ounces of Brussel sprouts that I have committed myself to eating that night.

I could not do it without this community support, without the literature, without the meetings. In retrospect, that support was what was missing from all my other attempts to reach my goal weight.

I am not suppose to weigh myself but I do. I have lost eleven pounds in the last ten days, a rapid weight loss by conventional wisdom, faster than recommended by the medical community. Yet that is how my body is reacting to the absence of those highly-addictive substances, what can I say? I started this journey at 200 pounds, but my healthy weight, even considering my muscle mass, should be closer to 150, maybe even 130.

So, blogosphere, pray for me, pray to whoever you believe in. Pray for me to make it to bedtime tonight, that is my most pressing goal.

“her mourners spoke of her as being a goddess…”

At her funeral, her mourners spoke of her as being a goddess, used that exact word several times.  It was fitting and true. One spoke of seeing her root cellar and being in awe of it. Another spoke of working beside her at the community farm and how once she stood, leaning against her pitchfork, and declared that the best baked goods are made of lard. Her dorm parent remembered that she wore her prom dress to the laundromat. Another recalled her time working in the stern of a lobster boat, another her excitement to own her first tape of music that she would study and sing for the rest of her life. Another regaled the crowd of her athleticism as a skiier, fast, expertly, truly a vision to run into around a corner.

One mourner hoped that they all told her they loved her while she was still alive.  She had to believe they did, she did.  She only considered herself a mere acquaintance, and she wrote her the best letter she could muster in a state of shock from finding out it was the end.

She too aspired to be a goddess.  She did not care if anyone said it at her funeral, she wanted to feel it right now.  For the most part, she was already there.  The other day, a customer had told her that the customer could tell she put her heart and soul into her job, and she agreed, she wanted it that way.  She wanted to feel like what she put in her body made her a goddess, and she was beginning to make that happen.  She always wanted to find a lover who would make her feel like that, and she finally had.  He treated her like a goddess in and out of bed….

Losing my most valuable possession

Today I lost my most valuable possession. It was a sweater, a hand-knit red-white-and-blue sweater, hand-knit by my grandmother and worn on many a cross-country ski by my father. That is, until I stole it. At some point, early in my college career, when my father had abandoned it in a never-used bureau, I decided it would be mine.

I wore it all across the University of Vermont campus. It was my signature. I would run to class as a blur of red, white, and blue. I adored it. My friends called it the Amy sweater. Ever since my dad told me that my nana said she sewed a prayer in every stitch, I always felt safe in it. In periods when I have been too poor to afford a winter coat, I would just layer thermal undershirts under the sweater and go off on my own cross-country ski adventures.

I honestly believed I would own it forever. I thought it would fit me even once I was ready to have children. I thought it would be the perfect pregnancy sweater, the thick wool protecting the most valuable thing that I could every carry.

If I were to lose it, I would want to lose it in the Bigelows, or on the Allagash, or even on the mountains in my backyard. Instead, I have lost it at the grocery store, a place where people think nothing of throwing things into a dumpster. It makes me so sad, sad in a way I do not usually feel about possessions.

Yes, indeed, it was loved. It was cherished. It is hard to imagine my universe without it. It will be missed, truly truly missed.

First Fire on the Night the Red Sox Won the World Series

I had moved back to my winter place that morning. My lovie and I decided we would celebrate by lighting a fire in the wood stove and watching the game, me determined to have lots of fires this year and he the son of an exceptionally talented ball player. We had no wood, and so we headed to the Somesville One Stop, in search of something that would help make the evening happen for us.

I knew the exact distance of the One Stop from my house, both being on the marathon route. By eight PM on a Wednesday night in the end of October, the One Stop had less than a dozen cars parked around it, mostly beer and Subway sandwich runs before the game. I did not miss the congestion of the parking lot on a summer afternoon, but I missed watching the networking between contractors in their respective trucks, the conversation of workers tired but with their wallets full.

We found a log wrapped in paper, designed so that the paper would be lit in three places and that one log would last a couple hours. For three dollars, we thought we would try it.

It was designed more for a fireplace than my narrow bellied Swedish wood stove. I held and fed it in while my lover lit the designated spots. When we shut the door, he stayed on his hands and knees, face four inches from the glass, as I had done whenever I had a fire two seasons previous.

Satisfied with ourselves, we found the game. I did not have tv the last winter that I lived there, it was a strange new addition to a house that I often described as “straight from 1992″. Yet my company and the television strangely made the house feel less empty, more grounded in reality, more part of my adult life.

I fell asleep after the Star Spangled Banner. My love watched every inning while sitting on the couch next to me, and woke me up when it was over.

“They won. Time for bed.” I looked to see the three dollar log still burning, and I was happy. Yes, happy for all the Red Sox fans who truly want victory and care more than anyone else I know, and happy for myself, happy to be back, happy to have my fire, happy to fall asleep next to someone who wanted to share all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful parts of my life with me…

“like tossing the bouquet to the next to be engaged….”

On the Friday before the MDI marathon, I decided I wanted someone to dangle a Whoopie pie at the finish line for me like I had done for a friend two years prior. I wanted the marathon to become a new fall tradition, and the Whoopie pie at the finish line would continue to be my own quirky fun twist on a quirky fun event. I decided to ask my mom to carry out this responsibility, and of course she said yes.

A week prior, I did not think I would still run. Despite having signed up in February, I trained in an unconventional at best, inadequate at worse way. I had not run longer than 14 miles. I whacked my leg open in July and could not run for three weeks. Some weeks I would be gung ho about running, other weeks I would be jazzed about hiking, other weeks I just wanted to lift and use the elliptical machine. I was ready to skip the marathon and hike the ten highest peaks again.

That is, I was ready to bail until a friend told me that would be unacceptable. This particular friend was the first female thru-paddler of the northern forest canoe trail and an accomplished firefighter and aspiring deer hunter (she just bought her first tree stand). “Amy, I will run up to ten miles with you. You cannot quit.”

I decided to take her up on the ten miles, and race with her companionship to look forward to. I asked her to meet me at the intersection near the Asticou.

By the time I arrived at the Asticou, mile 11 or so, I already knew I could make it to the finish and would be running next year. I thought I would feel way too self-conscious in front of spectators, but in fact I so appreciated the energy, the recorded and live music at water stops, seeing produce customers cheer me along the way. For the first time in my life, I felt like a runner.

My mom and her friend were waiting at the Asticou intersection, as was my friend. I was there earlier than expected, she was not quite ready to join me but I was not stopping. I knew she could catch me.

She was not there to push me. She entertained and distracted me for what turned out to be the last fifteen miles of the race. I could have run it without her laughing and telling stories the whole way, but I would not want to.

When we reached the last mile, I told her to run ahead so I would have to try to keep up. Then I told her, “Go grab the Whoopie pie on a stick from my mom, I want you to dangle it in front of me the last .2.” Yes, just like two years ago.

Just like two years ago, the crowd appreciated the performance. More importantly, just like two years ago, the Whoopie pie stick holder said shortly afterwards that she planned to run the marathon.

“It is just like throwing a bouquet at the wedding reception picks the next bride. Whoever holds the stick runs the next marathon.” At least I hoped so. I wished so.

When I am feeling grandiose, I think I would like to inspire more of my friends to run a marathon, not necessarily a fast four hour marathon (though those who do are incredibly, incredibly admirable), but a steady marathon, a six hour marathon, a seven hour marathon, a hard-earned feat at any time.

Letting go of the grandiosity, I am content that I inspired one. That is an accomplishment.

P.S. In case you missed it, here is the link to my account of the 2011 MDI marathon, when I started this tradition:

Dangling a Whoopie Pie at the Finish Line of the MDI Marathon