I resisted keeping data logs for a long time. It's tedious. It's work. I've got better things to do. Yada yada. Skip it. I've used all the excuses. Get over it.
You can't improve what you don't manage. You can't manage what you don't measure. (Now I'm being the broken record.) How can you take control if you have no tools? Information is the only tool you've got. Create it. Gather it. Follow it.
I've met this lovely young lady who happens to have been diabetic her whole life. She's now living on her own and learning how to manage it. She's doing all the right things - testing several times per day, meeting with a nutritionist regularly, exercizing sensibly. But she relies on these professionals to tell her exactly what she needs to do (and she does it).
This bothers me. She can still paint herself into a corner following good advice. She doesn't actually "cook" in the old fashioned sense of the verb. She didn't know the ingredients in a muffin so she was very surprised at the amount of sugar they contained. She thought it would be just like bread. She eats healthy fruits and vegetables. Good. But she didn't know the difference in natural sugar between say a nectarine, a carrot or spinach. So she had no idea which of those could possibly require her taking more or less insulin. This is a level of dependance that I'm not personally comfortable with.
I need to know and understand what's happening to me. As the importance of the carbohydrate/insulin imbalances became clearer to me, the more important it became to accurately measure and track those carbohydrates. "Close enough" is not enough. It's work to monitor closely enough to stay under 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. The difference in how I feel makes it worth the while. The reduction in pain is worth it. Thank goodness for online programmes and their phenomenal databases. Calculating & balancing my own ration is vastly improved from all those livestock rations I used to balance!!!!
There's another important side of this. You need to keep that food log in order to be sure you're actually eating ENOUGH. This is a totally oddball concept to work your head around. I have literally spent my life counting calories and fighting my own hunger (real or imagined) and the cravings. Your biggest nemesis is that magic number you've chosen to never exceed.
Balancing our own low-carb food plan has almost completely eliminated ALL cravings. Even further than this, you can forget to eat because you just don't feel hungry. You can look at things you couldn't walk past before and honestly not even want them.
My friend Lesley provided a living example of this the other day. She is a married mother of two young kids, works full time, and manages to get at least one, usually two exercize sessions per day. WOW I am impressed. For various reasons in her life, she is now modifying her food regime to a lower carb version. She's in a mental transition phase, and quite understandeably with her family & work & exercize commitments, she's not all that keen on mucking around with food diaries. She mentioned to my husband that she wasn't feeling all that good the other day. She didn't have the pep she needed in her exercize class. His first question was "How much have you eaten today?". Her immediate answer - "I'm not hungry". Yes, well, that's not a good barometer anymore.
My husband plugged her food into his iPod app and showed how she'd not even eaten 1000 calories yet in the day. No - you're not hungry but thats not enough. Obviously her body was in a deficit situation and complaining about it. Once your body is fully adapted to the new regime, you can get what you need from stored body fat or what you've eaten. Your cells don't know the difference. Until you get adapted, if you don't actually eat ENOUGH, then you are going to feel like crap. The only way you know is if you track it.
My goal is weight loss, and probably will be for another year and a half. People obsess about calories and they're almost always horrified when I tell them I eat 2000-2200 every day. I'm losing just fine thank you. I just make sure I exercize enough to have a daily deficit.
Yeah yeah - I know that not every calorie listed in the tables will be digested & absorbed according to published formulas. But I have another data tool: the scales. I was losing too fast. (Over 2 pounds per week.) That was when I was balancing my ration to 1800 calories. I eat more now and the weight loss is steady and slower. I gave myself 3 years to turn my life around. My target is 1.5 pounds per week. Over the past year I'm pretty close to that figure on average. There's no way I could manage that target weight loss without all the data I keep on a daily basis: food diary, weight, blood pressure, exercize and comments.
Data analysis means control.
And now for the picture. This was taken near Radium Hot Springs one nippy day on vacation during my time at the University of Alberta. I really must go dig out those cross country skis. I wonder if I can remember how to do a proper wax job??????