A LEGO Exchange Tracker
Food is complicated. Love, fear, shame, pleasure, joy, comfort, confusion- I feel a lot of different ways about food.
This is a conversation I have been having with myself for over 30 years. It is not new. I have had several wonderful professionals that have supported me in finding creative ways to grow over this long bumpy road: counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and dietitians. I am very lucky.
I am finding ways to feel settled in my skin and feel peace with food. It's a journey, but I am solidly on it now.
Two years ago I worked with an incredible woman who is both a psychologist and a registered dietitian, with a specialty in eating disorders. Despite being sure that I knew everything there was to know beforehand, I learned quite a lot. She taught me how to practice thinking about foods in terms of exchanges. It was similar to what I did in the 1990's as a teenager with my Mom at Weight Watchers, but not so similar so as to bring me back to that feeling of despair that I had waiting in line to be weighed along with 15 women who were 20-40 years my senior. (In retrospect it feels more awful than I think it was in the moment.)
Lately I have been noticing specific occasions when I turn to eat instead of face a problem, large or small. I wanted to pay attention to what I was eating, but it had been so long since I had the structure of exchanges in my head, I needed a new system. I had success in the past with writing in a small notebook, but I hated having to carry it around, and I was embarrassed by it. I tried keeping track on my phone, but I would forget to click through every time I wanted to sit down to eat.
If only there were some kind of manipulative I could move up and down or across every day...
Enter... the LEGO Exchange Tracker!
I dove into my daughters' miscellaneous LEGO box, pulled out a 8x6 rectangle, and lots of different-colored one-dot discs. All I needed was a Sharpie and I was done.
Here's how it works:
In my case, my goal is to eat certain numbers of exchanges of dairy (D), protein (P), starch (S), fat (F), fruits (F), and vegetables (V) each day to maintain my weight. There are between 2 and 7 exchanges per food group. On the short side of the rectangle (now the top) I wrote "D-P-S-F-F-V." Starting at the bottom, I made columns, using one disc for each exchange. As I eat an exchange, I move the disc to the top of the rectangle.
This way I can see quickly how many exchanges are left for the day and group them into reasonable meals. I can remember to eat enough protein and not fill up on vegetables and starch. I can remind myself I actually NEED to eat more fat before the day is over. I can make informed decisions to give myself a balanced diet every day.
LEGOs keep judgment at bay as well. It's hard to beat up on myself for eating too many fruits or fats if all I am doing is playing with LEGOs.
And if someone sees, I won't be embarrassed. How could I be embarrassed?
I have invented the coolest way to track a diet ever.
Now, let's go play with our food!
*If you are struggling with food and/or body image, I hope you can find help. Along with some great therapists, there are websites and authors that are doing important work that you can check out for more information and for inspiration for your own path. Two of my favorites:
Sonya Renee Taylor writes about body positivity in a new and energizing way. Her masterpiece is "The Body is Not an Apology" and she now has a book for young girls that is everything I dreamed of: "Celebrate Your Body."
Twin sisters Lexie and Lindsay Kite, PhD are co-directores of Beauty Redefined, "a non-profit working to help girls and women improve their body image and self-worth as they wade through harmful cultural ideals."
If you are in the Philadelphia area, I highly recommend Meghan DeFino of Remedy Therapy.