3198 days I did the same thing every day.
The streak began on December 29th, 2008. New Year was coming, we just had a baby boy, and I’m sure I had eaten horribly unhealthy at Christmas. I didn’t want to go back to “2005 Tom” (a much fatter version, you’ll learn about him soon enough).
I wanted to remind myself every day of the food that went into my mouth. I decided I would take a picture of anything I ate that had calories. I didn’t tell myself how long I needed to do this for, but it became my first streak.
I figured that if I had to truly look at what I ate every day that it would force me to make changes. At the least, it should help me track my calories. Tracking calories is what helped change “2005 Tom” in 2006 Wedding Ready Tom. I hoped to repeat my success.
Recording of calories was sporadic throughout these nine years, but I always took pictures. For the first few years, I even maintained the pain in my ass of making a collage every day.
Another important note here is that no one saw these pictures besides me. I wasn’t posting these on Facebook or a blog, I just took photos. I took photos everywhere. At bars, on planes, baseball games, nice dinners, I didn’t care, I knew I had to take a picture. I would even turn down food if I didn’t have a camera with me. Half of my pictures of our 2010 Australian vacation are of food!
It was my thing. I very quickly stopped caring what other people thought as they’d watch me take out my camera. Because even though I was not losing a lot of weight, I wasn’t ballooning back to ‘2005 Tom.’ Food has always been a love in my life and the pictures helped trigger other great memories
In the beginning, I was very focused on strict measurement and accurate reporting. I actually wanted to take a picture of only exactly what I ate. This has its pros and cons. It helps stop you from taking a picture of a container of chips, instead of only grabbing what you want to eat and taking a picture of that. But you also can’t be carrying a scale around all the time and if you take a picture of a donut, but you only want half, you may end up just eating the whole donut.
After losing some weight I started to just focus on taking the pictures. It was a way to reminding myself that I was eating something and that my actions had consequences. It also allowed me to keep track of how much alcohol I had consumed.
Although I was taking pictures, I wasn’t really being reflective of what I was consuming. As a kid, a lot of my pleasure came from food and sugar gave me a lot of joy. Even as a high schooler my favorite breakfast was a Jolt (now defunct Cola company) and a Happy Face cookie.
In April of 2010 I had a co-worker who saw one of my collages and said it was insane how much sugar I was eating.
Going Without Sweets
On April 11, 2010, I challenged myself to go a year without eating anything that had added sugar.
I thought maybe I would last a couple days, but I wanted to be healthier for my son and family. I was having pain in my knees that a 28 year old shouldn’t be having.
I said that I would not have any high fructose corn syrup and I would avoid things like honey and syrups, even if they were natural as I knew they were just other forms of sugar. But I did allow myself to eat bread or chips that may have some sugar added to them. I was trying to eliminate the true enemy without trying to completely change my whole diet.
I think I might have actually started drinking more alcohol and there was a margarita or two that slid in there, but the point of my experiment was to avoid desserts and sugar snacks, not a drink when I’m out with friends from work.
I even started eating fruits, but then also drinking fruit juice because I thought that was healthy (whoops). I also occasionally had ketchup or bbq sauce on a sandwich but would try not to dip my fries in ketchup.
After I got to a year I tried to push myself further.
I made it two more weeks.
I decided that I would allow myself to have “one sweet a week.”
I didn’t want to just waste the one sweet a week on something silly like a fun size Twix bar. I went through all my photos and picked out my top 100. I continued this until around November of 2011, I’m basing this off of the fact that my collages seem to stop after October. I’m guessing Halloween and the birth of our daughter did me in.
Come January 1, 2012 I wanted to fight back, I decided to do a juice cleanse.
You know it’s a bad diet idea when you decide you are too tired to make dinner for yourself. I distinctly remember getting up from the couch, my stomach gurgling, and walking up to bed instead of the kitchen because of how weak I was. I don’t know why I tried it, I didn’t even research it, I just wanted to stop pigging out on sugar again.
My juicing career lasted probably a week. Thankfully we were able to sell our juicer to some other poor soul who hasn’t realized how pointless juicing is.
Picture taking just became a way of life. With my phone always nearby it wasn’t an inconvenience, but I slowly started asking myself why I was still doing this. The pictures would just clutter up my photo album and make me realize how few photos I had of my kids. My fitness was no longer fully correlated to my calorie consumption, I had new streaks handling that for me.
On September 30, 2017, I saw a double rainbow in my front yard.
I decided to stop.
I have a compulsive personality and intentionally stopping a streak is something that is very hard for me. I was glad I did it, because it helped remind me why it was part of my life.
On April 14, 2018, I restarted my streak.
I try my best to take a picture of everything with calories I consume, but more recently I’ve realized it’s more important to actually track the calories. I found an app, FatSecret, that lets me upload my photos there and leave it off my real photo album. Even if it just stops me from eating 4000 calories after I’ve already eaten 3500.
I take pictures of my food and that makes me smile.