I Compulsively Kept A Food Diary For Six Years

If I told you that in this time I lost and gained within the region of 25 Kg and was diagnosed with an eating disorder (twice) you might ask why I still kept the food diaries – after all, there was definitely a correlation between my illness and the notebooks.
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Publish date:
February 20, 2013
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Tags:
eating disorders, diets, weight, Food Diaries

In 2006 I gained weight; 'Fresher's Fifteen', 'Gap Fat', you name it, I gained it.

I already had ‘issues’ with my weight and size, so it was important to me that I kept on top of this expansion. And plenty of people had advice for me on how to keep my size down.

Weight touches everyone in some way, and so the whole world felt like they had to impart their advice with great gusto - whether or not they had followed their own words of wisdom or not. And, more fool me, I listened, and took everything they said to heart.

One piece of advice that kept coming up from various people and from the magazines I torture myself with, was that I should write down everything I eat, so I could see what I was consuming and ultimately work out how many calories I needed to lose through exercise/not eating.

This made perfect sense and I’ve always loved lists and order, so it sounded right up my street (apparently a very long street that I am still travelling down).

So, I began keeping a food diary. In A5 diaries, ring-bound diaries and girly notebooks, on hand-bound pages, A4 sheets from the clinic (another story maybe), I kept keeping a note of what I ate.

Sometime I measured the food using calories or Weight Watchers points, or using grams or tbsp, but I always kept a note of what I ate.

From country to country, city to town, holiday to home, class to work; I kept a note of what I ate. Written in pencil, sharpened to within an inch of its life. I. Just. Kept. a note of what I ate.

They evolved, as does a good novel, but each diary was written with the same purpose – that it would help me lose weight. The information varied, including; exercise taken that day, or titles for meals e.g. 'Christmas Party' but the theme remained the same.

If I told you that in this time I lost and gained within the region of 25 Kg and was diagnosed with an eating disorder (twice) you might ask why I still kept the food diaries – after all, there was definitely a correlation between my illness and the notebooks.

But when treatment generally involved keeping more food diaries, who was I to dispute the instructions of my own therapists?

What might concern you more is that I still have the diaries. Lined up on the bookshelf in my old bedroom at my parent’s house, they sit in their various forms, waiting for the next instalment.

However their safe haven is under threat; my parents are moving and there might not be space for all of my neat, handwritten records in their new abode.

Naturally I should recycle them, evict them along with all of the other clutter from the past few years and consider it cleansing. That’s what someone normal would do, at any rate.

Instead, I told my sister that I was going to box them up and keep them under the bed ready for their move. To some of the notebooks this will be small fry, having travelled round the world and back with me. For others, this is an exciting new adventure.

My sister, horrified at the secret harboured in my bookshelves, pronounced me mental and questioned the wisdom of keeping six year's worth of food diaries. Six years!?!

What can I claim to have done for six years other than document my meals in calorific numbers?

I have been on a Gap Year to NZ and returned. I have begun and completed a degree, had my first serious boyfriend and broken up. I got a real job and resigned, moved out of the nest and moved back in, applied for and finished a Post Grad Diploma...

And over the last six years, nothing has lasted quite like the diaries. Certainly not anything as tangible and as poignant.

Do I end this now? Call time on another long-term commitment? Sounds like a sensible plan, but what if, at some point in the future, I want to find out what I ate for lunch on the 13th June 2009?

Today, in an old notebook bought on the wave of new semester exhilaration (first University, second year), so far I have eaten:

B/F - Toast (109); Honey tbsp (45) Sn - Apple (60);

Lunch - Cup a Soup (45); 3 Cracker Bread (57); Yogurt (48);

Ex - 1.7 miles walking (roughly 160 calories)

All very important information that can't bring myself to part with just yet. So when do I stop?

I can visualise the demise of my library of diaries at the hands of my over-zealous Mother, in a frenzy of moving while her eldest child is embarking on her second Gap Year (that'd be me).

I can picture her finding a box of notebooks that have ridiculous numbers and lists of some code and yelling "chuck it" to a removal man. In the blink of an eye, they will be tossed into a waiting skip along with probably half the contents of their house.

But then, maybe that's what I want to happen?