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Do You Snack, Graze or Super-Size?

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Do You Snack, Graze or Super-Size?

Track your eating style.
Chris Sparkguy Downie
Chris Sparkguy Downie More by this author
Sep 06, 2010 at 10:00 AM

If you laid out on a picnic table everything you ate in a given day, you might find the display surprising. Did you really consume that half bag of potato chips, that mound of lasagna, that whole pile of cookies?

Eating, like breathing, is an act that most of us aren’t conscious of as we rush through our days. We grow hungry—or frustrated or lonely—and we find something that fills us up or makes us feel temporarily better. It’s often a blur of grabbing a bite, grazing off our child’s plate in between deadlines, gobbling a meal on the run. Yet the amount, quality, and quantity of our food intake often elude us.

This week, we’d like you to begin focusing on what you’re eating—simply becoming aware of what would be arranged on that picnic table at the end of each day. We’re not going to ask you to alter what you’re consuming, or to worry about it—just begin to be conscious of it.

Spark members are often surprised by how much they’ve been eating once they track their food. And they’re often confused by portion size. It’s easy to fudge the truth when you’re not paying attention. That Cobb salad drenched with oily dressing and fried chicken is mentally filed as a “vegetable” and transformed into a healthy lunch. In memory, four pieces of pizza metamorphose magically into one. Grazing directly from the refrigerator or off the stovetop doesn’t even count.

Once members begin tracking their food, they’re often shocked to learn that they’re eating the equivalent of 4,000 calories a day, or that some of their favorite foods are actually calorie culprits. Others experience a sort of “perception gap” where they honestly believe they are drinking enough water or eating enough protein, only to learn after tracking that they really aren’t. Once you start logging your food intake, you’ll see how awareness is in itself a huge step that will change the way you look at what you put into your body each day.

It’s easy to guesstimate what you’re eating until you actually see it written down in black and white. Then you come face to face with the facts—that what you may have perceived as a single serving of mashed potatoes was actually a triple-serving mound, or that the burger you thought was modest was actually a super-sized protein portion, enough for several days. And that all those bites out of the refrigerator, stolen snacks, and midnight nibbling you barely noticed could add up to enough calories for several meals.

Ask yourself the following questions to help discover how, why, and when you eat:

  • How many calories are you eating? Is it generally the same each day? If not, why?
  • Are your meals well balanced, with adequate fruits and vegetables?
  • Do you load most of your calories in one meal?
  • Are you aware of portion sizes? In this era of exploding super-sized meals, it’s easy to underestimate that large milkshake or that 16-ounce steak.
  • Do you have a tendency to eat convenience foods and snacks?
  • Do you drink water with your meals, or high-calorie sodas and fruit drinks?
  • Do you count condiments? How often do you bathe healthy choices with fatty additions—a salad with blue-cheese dressing, a turkey sandwich with high-fat mayonnaise, air-popped popcorn with melted butter?
  • Do you eat breakfast?
  • Are you a solitary eater, apt to binge when you’re alone?
  • Are you a social eater, liable to lose control when you’re at a party or out with friends?
  • Do you favor buffets or all-you-can-eat restaurants where the food just keeps on coming?
  • Are you a drive-thru fast-food cruiser?
  • Do you tend to overeat when you’re drinking alcohol?
  • Do you tend to eat heavy dinners but skimp on breakfast and lunch?
  • Do you graze all day without even realizing it?
  • Does the routine of a workday keep you in line, while the freedom of the weekend weakens your willpower?
  • Is food a comfort when you’re sad or lonely?
  • Do you tend to eat when you’re angry or disappointed?
  • Does being overworked or under stress make you eat more?

Don’t beat yourself up about your results. Keeping track of typical days of food choices simply provides you with a better handle on what you need to work on—problem times, situations, or circumstances that make it difficult to eat healthfully.

About Author
Chris Sparkguy Downie
Chris Downie is the founding force behind SparkPeople. He used proven health, goal-setting and motivation techniques to co-found an early Internet company, which became eBay's first acquisition. With the freedom and the capital to help other people r Continue reading