Why I had to stop using My Fitness Pal for good

As I began to think about the day ahead, anxiety would immediately take over, especially if there was a scheduled meal out. What would I order? How would it balance out with the rest of my allotted calories for the day? I studied menus with fervor, dissecting ingredients and dreaming up ways to make the meal even healthier.

At night, I would try and ignore my rumbling tummy. Too bad, stomach. I had reached my calories for the day. Here’s some water to tide you over until tomorrow. Tomorrow, when the cycle would begin again.

I became obsessed with MyFitnessPal for the first time back in 2014. Since then, there have been several instances when I revisited the food and exercise tracking app. Unsurprisingly, I took up my restrictive eating ways during times of stress and chaos. This is (was) how I could exert control. Forget the political climate, social injustice, and self-generated responsibilities. I could domineer my physical self. I could take up less space, slink into smaller clothes. My hip bones rose like the Himalayas. My face sunk in like Crater Lake. At my peak, I was down to my lowest weight since middle school.

But, all of this “progress” took so much time and effort. Even before eating, I would plug the contents of my next meal (or even meals if I was feeling ambitious) into my log. 24 calories there. 106 calories there. I would review my macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. Too many carbohydrates? Beef up on the lentils and legumes. Too much fat? Leave off that avocado. Each bite accounted for. Sometimes, I would race to my phone after ingestion to make sure it was recorded.

While I can’t remember all of the details from my first go-round, I do know that I was willing to cancel dates out with friends because I was scared about eating in a restaurant. At that time, it was hard enough to be vegan, But to be vegan AND on the brink of starving myself? There aren’t a lot of eateries that cater to such a lifestyle. (Note: that isn’t a lifestyle. At all. Choosing to be plant-based is one thing. Harming oneself with the intentional depletion of vital nutrients and energies is another).

Why am I sharing this? Because it’s a new year, and many people (I’m not saying you, but I bet you know someone who might be) choose to start some sort of new diet. The “wellness” trend as of late is still a diet. Yes, Whole 30 is a diet. Paleo is a diet. When we decide to label certain foods as “good” versus “bad”, we’re establishing a moral code. If we break such a code, we may experience feelings of guilt or shame.

I certainly felt a great deal of guilt and shame when my daily caloric intake was higher than whatever arbitrary number MyFitnessPal offered me based on some fast and loose algorithm. Alright, perhaps that is too harsh as I know that the app, as a tool, can be incredibly informative in understanding how the various items we put into our bodies contributes (or doesn’t) to our overall nutritional health. For me, I used the information as a weapon against myself, which turned into a weapon against others.

When you’re hungry, you are a GRUMP! You are tired. You lack energy. You probably don’t want to have sex or dance or go to a movie because you have to smell that popcorn AND HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN THAT SMALL?

In this time of resolutions and goal-setting, I want to encourage you (or those others in your life would may be struggling with weight or body image) to do some self-reflection behind the “why” of the desire to become smaller or healthier. Over the last few weeks, I have done an about face on the “Food Psych” podcast with Dr. Christy Harrison. When I first started to listen, I thought she was full of shit. Of course a thin body is healthier. Of course there are awful foods that should never be consumed.

Despite my initial skepticism (to put it mildly), I kept listening. And took in more. And allowed myself to dig deeper into the rabbit hole of “why.” When did “healthy” become part of the mainstream dialogue? How did the rise of small-bodied people as culturally superior connect with racism in our country? What does healthy actually mean? Why do I spend so much time worrying about what I’m going to eat?

I tried to use MyFitnessPal back in October (hello gala planning), and it was a flop. I recall trying to input my morning breakfast at a stoplight and feeling so stressed out that if I didn’t type in that oatmeal and banana and peanut butter right then that I would FAIL And the light had turned green and there I was…still plunking away at a screen. Not doing my job as a driver.

And then I was done. I didn’t want to dedicate one more minute of my life cataloguing food. There’s too much else in the world to do.

One of my commitments for 2019 is to continue to explore intuitive eating and trust my body to tell me what it needs, when I’m hungry (not when I think I should be hungry), and when I’m full. I refuse to spend time charting out meals and missing out on people I want to be with because of my culturally-conditioned believes around how I should show up in spaces. I wish for you, for me, and for everyone, that we are all able to find peace with our bodies, and ultimately peace with ourselves.

Shifting from “resolutions” to “feelings” for 2018

Four days into the new year: how are you holding up? How are you making progress to the goals and commitments you set for yourself as you seek to be healthier/happier/more sane in the days, weeks, and months ahead?

Perhaps you didn’t set a single resolution. In fact, you’re scoffing at this post:¬†oh, another piece on goal-setting in the new year. How cliche, Katie.

First: I kind-of like cliches, so there.

Second: Fine! Whether you are have established intentions for who you want to be and what you want to experience in this new year is moot. Because, I’m going to throw out a question that I bet you haven’t asked yourself yet:

How do you want to feel in 2018?

During an annual girls’ weekend last November, our friend Michelle posed this question to our group as we tromped through the woods in Uwharrie National Forest, our feet crunching the remnants of fall foliage into dust while the nearby shooting range provided a constant and eerie soundtrack.

How do you want to feel next year?

Michelle had been asked this question as part of a recent yoga teacher training and found it to be incredibly illuminating. Feelings don’t typically factor into goal-setting. Our resolutions are most commonly born from desired behavioral shifts (“I want to spend less money on Amazon” or “I want to spend more time with my friends”) and measurable accomplishments (“I want to lose X pounds” or “I want to work out X number of times each week”).¬† But, it’s not often that we associate particularly¬†feelings with these goals.

Sure, we can assume that we will likely experience greater happiness due to successful integration and completion of our resolutions. But, is happiness the only feeling we want in our lives? And, are our goals really means to an end goal called happiness? If so, we may need to re-evaluate how we craft our resolutions moving forward.

Post of Pushkin, the cat, showing the difference between New Year's Resolutions expectations and reality. The expectation is to workout, so Pushkin the cat is wearing a headband and has weights. The reality is Pushkin sleeping in a chair next to a remote control.

Oh cats. Always living the dream, right?

How do I want to¬†feel this year? Here’s what I offered to the group and now to you:

  • Challenged: As I outlined in a previous blog post, I felt like I hit a professional wall in terms of my ability to stretch and grow in 2017. Part of that was due to misalignment between what I was doing and what fulfilled me. Part of it was also due to a hunger to take on new responsibilities and tasks that were out of my comfort zone. Lo and behold, this is where I am now: a new job with a great deal of expectations for me and by me. I want to build up my resilience and grit again — and diving into the deep end as a full time development director will put me in the position to be challenged each and every day.
  • Free:¬†I’m not referring to the freedom encapsulated (whether real or symbolic) in the Bills of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. For me, I wanted to feel¬†free to dictate my schedule and calendar once again. By the end of last year, I was fried. I forgot what true relaxation meant (and I also continued to insist upon a life of productivity — look at all that I’m doing every moment! Never waste an opportunity to do something!). Bologna. With freedom comes choice on how to spend my time and remove the shackles of social pressures of what I¬†should spend my time doing.¬†No one should feel shame for taking time to read a book for pleasure. Could you be washing your kitchen floor? Learning a foreign language? Sending out one more work email? Of course. But, what will be lost, forever, if you make one of those other choices is your ability to feel¬†free and empowered to refill your cup in a way that satisfies you. We spend a lot of our time working to satisfy others. Feel the freedom to put your needs and care first when you can.

How do you want to feel in 2018? Acceptance? Joyful? Curious? If you’ve set resolutions, what feelings can you attribute to each of your goals?

Meme of T-rex with a claw under his chin. Text around T-Rex reads: "What if your new years resolution was to not follow your new years resolution?"

Meta.

#ResolveToGrow

ynpntrianglencBackground: I have the privilege of serving on the Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN) Triangle NC Board of Directors. You may try saying that three times fast, if you so desire. We’re an affiliate of our national chapter (YNPN), and our mission is:

“To cultivate and support young nonprofit professionals in the Triangle by fostering networking, skill-building, and resource-sharing.”

Fancy, right? Essentially, our purpose is to help bring nonprofit professionals together in various spaces – whether physical, online, etc. – and bridge connections to other people and knowledge. I “joined” in 2012 (we charge $0 for membership currently) and fell into this amazing group of individuals who had the same passion, commitment, and goofiness that somehow nonprofit professionals either are born with or develop over time.

Amazing “When You Work at a Nonprofit” Tumblr

Alright, enough background. We started a campaign for 2015 called #ResolveToGrow. Yes, it’s a sly way of asking folks to make resolutions for the new year, but we would offer some accountability support along the way.

The problem is: it required me to think of how I wanted to #ResolveToGrow this year – what would future Katie be like? Or, should be like, both in my professional and personal identifies.

Initially, I targeted a professional (and arguably super nerdy goal) of how I wanted to grow: to become much more knowledgeable and skilled in the art of Google Analytics. GA is gold, and I had skimmed just the surface of this data dashboard to help inform work at my previous and current job.

Taking this #ResolveToGrow challenge by the horns, I have already completed the Digital Analytics Fundamentals course through Google’s Analytics Academy. Step one of many, for sure. I have even put into practice some of the infrastructure recommendations for tracking our three websites along with testing out some “Goal” conversions and other nebulous Google-terminology meaning “bring people to website and keep them engaged longer.”

Wow, that got in the weeds quickly. In the spirit of always striving forward, I’ve come up with a few other ways I #ResolveToGrow in 2015:

  • Make homemade seitan. It’s been on my vegan cooking bucket list for a few months now. I plan on trying Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe, unless you have a “MUST MAKE” one!
  • Return to the lap pool. I’m not sure sure why I use “return” to imply that I was once there because I never participated in organized swim ever. I learned how to swim, thankfully, as was practically state law in Arizona. And, I spent 90% of my childhood summers in the water. But, to actually move my body up and down in formalized motions is not something I have undertaken outside of a few half-hearted attempts a couple of years ago when I learned that swimming laps is really hard. With enough friends who either are aficionados or taking on the similar challenge, I plan on incorporating this back into my workout routine post-marathon.
  • Plant a garden. So, I literally #ResolveToGrow my own herbs and a few vegetables (peppers, squash, tomatoes) in 2015.

Three might be the best, more reasonable start to this life campaign. We’ll see if others make it to the list (Chicago marathon? Brewing my own kombucha? Getting more involved in local government happenings?)

How do you #ResolveToGrow in 2015 and beyond? If you’re on Twitter, you should tweet at YNPN Triangle NC (@YNPNTriangleNC) with your response. Made sure to include #ResolveToGrow!

Day twelve of vegan challenge: throwing in a non-food resolution and then joining the gravy train

In the midst of this self-imposed #Veganuary recipe challenge, I missed an opportunity to jump on the new year’s resolution post bandwagon. Last year, I set several personal growth goals for 2014. After reviewing the list, I feel that I accomplished several of them (more yoga, growing in my relationship with Aaron, hiding my smartphone at night) while others will circle back for a soon-to-be-written 2015 goals to espouse post (I MUST GET TO THE RAMP FESTIVAL!)

To indulge my Instagram addiction (and to diversify my posts beyond food and beer), I am participating in the #npcommpix challenge sponsored by the team at Nonprofit Marketing Guide under the leadership of communications guru Kivi Leroux Miller. Check it out:

npcomm

So, for yesterday – Resolution – I literally looked over my shoulder at the bookcase full of spellbinding and unread books. I. love books. It’s impossible for me to walk into a bookstore (especially used) and not walk out with something. Unfortunately, the pace of reading said books has not kept up with the purchasing, therefore leaving me with a bookcase full of unread books. Ding! That lends itself to a perfect (and I believe attainable) 2015 resolution:

booksThis is my kind of stacks on decks.

12 books. 12 months. Seems feasible. Based on Instagram feedback, I’ll be starting with “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kierman. Any in this photo that you have read and would offer feedback on?

Shifting gears back to the land of #Veganuary, today’s recipe is (confession) not one I have made personally. BUT, it was made for Aaron and I by our wonderful friends Jen and Chris. Inspired by a dish from The Grit in Athens, GA (which has now been added to the bucket list), this bowl of gravy-goodness is mind-blowing good. Rich and creamy, this golden bowl will do you right (and impress any guests you have over – this is vegan?!) I will note: this recipe takes about 45 minutes to an hour start to finish, so consider this one of your investment dinner evenings. I promise: it is SO worth it!

The Grit Restaurant Golden Bowl (via BigOven.Com)
Serves 4

the-grit-restaurant-golden-bowl-4Droooooooooooool

For Grit Yeast Gravy:
1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance rocks!)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup unsweetened soy milk (almond could substitute)
1/4 soy sauce (or tamari)
3/4 cup hot water (or more depending on how thin you want your gravy)
1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce

For Grit Style Tofu:
15 ounces extra-firm tofu
Vegetable oil (can substitute)
Soy sauce
Nutritional yeast

Sauteed vegetables:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (sub olive, sunflower)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and then sliced
6 medium button mushrooms, quartered (or substitute other favorite mushroom)

Preparation

GRIT YEAST GRAVY:
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine completely. Stir in flour and yeast until blended and continue to heat roux until mixture begins to bubble. Use only enough heat to maintain vigorous bubbling, whisking constantly for 4 minutes. This is the time required to cook the flour to smoothness, and vigorous whisking is important to avoid burning.

Continue rapid, thorough whisking and add soy milk gradually. The mixture will quickly become thick and custard-like. Combine soy sauce, water, and Worcestershire sauce and add to gravy gradually. Blend well after each addition, and do not add liquid so rapidly that gravy is very thin. If gravy does become thin from the addition of too much liquid, continued cooking will thicken it.

Set gravy aside, and reheat before serving, or hold over very low heat while preparing the rest of the Grit Golden Bowl. Add more water as needed to maintain a good consistency if holding over low heat.

(note: I halved the gravy recipe in The Grit cookbook to come up with these measurements, so you might have to adjust the flour/yeast and water measurements a bit to arrive at the desired consistency (we always make the full amount, because we use the gravy on other things))

GRIT-STYLE TOFU
Cut tofu into cubes smaller than playing dice. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to heat slightly, and add tofu. Saute, tossing with a non-metal spatula until evenly and lightly golden brown. Sprinkle lightly with soy sauce, saute briefly to further brown tofu. Remove from skillet, draining and discarding any excess fluid.

Rinse and wipe skillet dry, lightly oil and place it over high heat. Allow oil to become very hot and add tofu. Saute tofu, tossing with a non-metal spatula almost constantly until very well browned. Sprinkle with soy sauce to taste. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast to coat tofu cubes and, tossing vigorously, saute for a few seconds and remove from heat. Keep warm in the oven while you finish cooking the veggies.

SAUTEED VEGETABLES
Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high to high heat. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add bell pepper and saute for 1 or 2 minutes, until slightly cooked, but still firm. Add zucchini and yellow squash, and saute for another minute or two, until squash is slightly cooked but still firm. Add mushrooms and cook until they give up their water. (note- other veggies of your choice can be substituted; onions are always a good base, and the zucchini and yellow squash go well with the gravy, and so we always use these as a base, but we’ve also used other bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and peas with tasty outcomes).

TO SERVE
Spoon 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice into a bowl, top with veggies, tofu, and gravy, and enjoy!

For a tasty option, you can also garnish with shredded mild cheddar. (Veganize it or just leave it off!) We had it without cheese, and it was perfect.

Goals/Values to Espouse in 2014

Happy New Year! No, I’m not going to use the “R” word for this post. Even with discussions amongst friends last night to ring in the New Year, we avoided articulating our “resolutions” for 2014 and instead focused on what initiatives and visions we wanted to see in ourselves moving forward. There seemed to be a more general focus on processes rather than outcomes, which I definitely adhere to in my own list below. I had created a list last year for 2013 on some old school paper (with an INK pen!) Alas, during the move this summer, that list disappeared in transition. I do recall a few items: run two half-marathons (check!); do not purchase any Ziplock bags (check check!); visit two new states (half-check: I made it to Indiana in 2013); visit the Farmer’s Market monthly (not even close); host a monthly dinner event (ambitious and unachieved); see all the movies nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture in 2012 (I think I saw two).

The outlook for 2014 (and sticking with my thematic numerical associations, there are 14 goals and visions thus far) has some similar elements but some departures, again reflecting back to the idea of improving life processes (i.e. PUTTING DOWN MY MOBILE PHONE!) Without further ado…

1) Visit a new state and/or country (This makes the cut again to further my passion for exploration and travel. My sights are set on adding North Dakota to my “visited” list this June).

2) Add practicing yoga back into my life. I departed from this greatly, and I miss it. While I could blame the fact that my favorite YMCA yoga instructor left teaching the 6am class, I would only be making an excuse. I’m good at that.

3) Read, on average, one book a month. As a lifelong voracious reader, I find cracking open the spine of a new book one of the most pleasurable activities imaginable. Instead of spending time with electronics in the evenings, I want to spend more time under soft reading lights and letting my imagination soar.

4) Take a one-time class, whether for cooking, crafting, etc. Learning is good. Learning with friends is better.

5) Take advantage of an evening adventure one night, Monday – Thursday. As someone who works from home, I have discovered that it is very easy to stay at home throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening. This seems to conflict with my extreme extroversion, but it has become a habit. Granted, I know and recognize that some nights are meant to be enjoyed in pajamas. However, there are always dozens of incredible offerings in the community, from free lectures to movies to music, that I want to experience and further enrich my life. It takes some planning, some flexibility, and some willingness to compromise. I’m all in for 2014.

6) Plant an herb garden. I have been talking about this for years, and since Santa brought me my own kit, it’s going to happen!

7) Attend a festival in North Carolina. One of the items on my 2013 goals list was to attend a sweet potato or ramp festival. Since I was unable to fulfill that vision in 2013, it’s going back on the list for 2014. The sights are set on the Mount Olive Pickle Festival that takes place in April. Sweet. (Or, I should say, dill. Who likes sweet pickles?? Blargh.)

8) Hide the phone! Seriously. Hide the phone. I spend too much time on my phone, and it has become a bad habit. Instead of pulling out my phone on the couch, in the car, at restaurants, etc., I want to be present in the moment, even if it means sitting quietly and taking in my surroundings. There is nothing that urgent on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/email that I need to check. The world will go on, even if it means people won’t know what I’m drinking via Untappd until much, much later.

9) Be more responsive to personal emails. Speaking of technology, I have a tendency to read emails from family and friends and then….star them in my Gmail…and then…let them sit. For days. Sometimes even more than a week. While I do recognize that I experience email burnout from work, I also need to be respectful of those who took the time to email me and respond within 24 – 48 hours.

10) Continue to grow in my relationship with Aaron. This might seem like a silly vision or goal to have on a start of the year list, but what is more important than renewing one’s focus to the most important person in one’s life? This year offers some challenges for us: from building a new house, selling the townhome, moving into newly built house, and getting married. And those are just the big ticket items. The ebb and flow of relationships is constant, as we continue to learn about each other, our desires, our quirks, our needs, our fears, our hopes, and our goals. I feel that I’ve made great strides this year in growing as a partner, becoming more in-tune with Aaron and those items list above. Again, it’s a process, and I want to be mindful of that each and every day. Thus far, it has been one heck of a fun, loving process!

engagement2

11) More foam rolling. I live by the foam roller, yet I have drifted away (similar to yoga) from using it daily. So…instead of spending the time waiting for the cats to finish eating by flipping through my Pinterest boards (which, arguably, is highly enjoyable), I want to be more proactive in using that time to roll out. Roll out.

12) More Farmer’s Market visits.¬† Yes, it’s getting back on the list! I think of the challenges of me going to the market isn’t so much the time – it’s using cash. I never, ever carry cash. I need to figure out a system that works for me to acquire said cash and have it on hand for Saturday mornings. It will be so worth it, both in the quality of food and aligning to my desire to lead a more locally-sourced lifestyle.

13) See more live music. ‘Nuff said.

14) More dance parties. Probably also enough said, but this used to be one of my favorite activities to do in the living room: crank up some hot jams and rock out, whether solo or with AT. It has been far too long, and what a great way to end the day.

What are your goals for the new year? How will you hold yourself accountable?