I’ve always been a journal keeper. My very first journal was a plain blue number that I illustrated myself by drawing… a gigantic toilet bowl on the cover with the words MY LIFE swirling metaphorically down the hole. I was 10. Two things you should know about Young Charlotte: a) I was every bit as dramatic then as I am now but without the perspective of three decades to temper me and b) I was an excellent artist. To this day I’m impressed with that toilet. It was 3-D and everything. Another thing you should know about me: I always liked things to be ranked. Me, especially. In that first journal I ranked every day on the A-F scale. “A” being days that Tim (*sigh*) talked to me. “B” being days that Tim (*sigh*) looked in my general direction. And “F” being every other day. Seeing as Tim pretty much thought I was pond scum, there were a lot of F days. And creepy drawings of Tim. (I’m sorry Tim! Facebook me! Kidding!)
Then came middle school and I got introduced to a whole other kind of journalling. In 6th grade (6th!) my health teacher had us all keep a food journal for two weeks as part of our section on healthy eating. I still have that journal. I still cry looking at that journal. The first week showed a fairly normal pre-teen diet. But when I brought it in for a check-in my tiny size-0-even-in-90′s-sizes teacher frowned and commented, “You ate all that?!” And that was all it took*. The following week in my journal saw a drop off so steep the Grand Canyon is envious — a nosedive that my teacher commended me for with a pat on the back and an admonition to keep my grams of fat under 5 per day, like she did. (GAH THE 90′S!)
After that, my little blue toilet-journal stopped being about existential angst, boys and homework and soon turned into entries of everything I ate. But that wasn’t enough. So I started tallying fat grams and sit-ups and push-ups. That held for a few years but then I got clued in that it wasn’t just fat grams I should be worrying about — seriously, there were several years in there where I ate less than 1 gram of fat per day (it was the SweeTarts and air-popped popcorn diet) — and I added calories to the list. As the years went on I added tracking of animal products (I was a vegetarian or vegan). And then when I hit college and learned Microsoft Excel, I was in food journal heaven.
My food journals became so elaborate that I had graphs tracking macronutrients and micronutrients, meal times, portion sizes, ounces, calories, workouts, diet plans, carb cycles, calories cycles, supplements … if it could be tracked, I tracked it. By the time 20/20 found me I had literally thousands of sheets detailing everything I’d eaten, every exercise I’d done and every article I’d read about nutrition/fitness. (Now they have apps for all that. You’re welcome.) But do you know what I didn’t have in there? How I felt about any of it.
I’d completely given up writing about my dreams, my family, my achievements, my blessings and anything else that would matter 10 years down the road. Who had time to count blessings when I had to add a 27th column to break down the soluble vs. insoluble fiber in my diet? All of my life became laser focused on one thing: losing weight.
It was insane. Literally. I had lost my nut.
One of the first things I did when I started treatment for my OCD/eating disorder was give up that journal. It was absolutely terrifying at first – like a child losing their security blanket. But it wasn’t long before I was overjoyed by the freedom of living without it. I had no idea life could be this, well, simple! It was a couple more years before I found Intuitive Eating and put some more pieces of the puzzle together but no matter what, after that point, I did not go back to food journalling.