I suck at math. So much so that when Dylan was in third grade his teacher pulled me aside and kindly begged me to stop helping him with his homework because I was confusing him. Honestly, anything more than long division and I confused myself. That being said, after years living with anorexia, I can mentally calculate the calories in any meal within seconds. I do it automatically, like flushing the toilet or covering my nose when I sneeze, it just happens.
“I think we need to pay more attention to what we eat,” I announced one evening to Marc several days after my dad’s kitchen inquiry. I was determined to drop the last of the baby weight and I knew Marc was trying to get off of his medication for high cholesterol so I thought we could be weight loss buddies.
“Ok, what are you thinking?” Marc asked cautiously, already sensing I had a plan in mind.
“Well, I was watching Dr. Phil (insert Marc’s eye roll here) and his guests have had lot of success with his Ultimate Weight Loss Solution program, so I bought the book. You in?” Despite the Dr. Phil reference Marc agreed.
I knew from my obsessive calorie counting phase in college that tracking calories was the best way to keep my weight where I wanted it. I bought new tools like measuring cups and a food scale to ensure I was eating EXACTLY a half a cup of cereal, rice or pasta each day and ensure a precise four ounces of meat or five ounces of wine.
Every night Marc and I would sit down with my red spiraled notebook and log our consumption for that day, consulting Dr. Phil’s’ book for the calorie equivalent in each food. (It was 2004 and Alexa and Siri were not yet a thing so I actually had to use glossary). I accounted for every nibble off a fish stick or bite of mac and cheese from the boys’ plates, in addition, I dusted off my old scale and Marc and I would weigh ourselves every Tuesday morning and track it on the notepad on the bathroom shelf. A little friendly competition.
I continued exercising daily. Walking hills, lifting weights, sweating on the Stairmaster and dancing to The Firm. Sometimes I might allow myself an extra treat usually in the form of a chocolate mint Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich, but overall I closely stuck to the daily calorie allowance. A number ingrained in my brain to this day.
Marc was with me for the first few weeks but the man did not have a solid recall of his food intake and the book did not have a measurement for “I don’t remember” and “I’m not sure,” so eventually he did his own thing which conveniently allowed me to focus on myself.
Tracking food and calories again after so many years of "guestimating", felt like slipping into a perfectly worn pair of sneakers or sliding into my own bed after a long trip. It was easy and comfortable. More importantly, it provided a structure and sense of control I found very comforting and comfort and ease were something I would desperately need the not so distant future.