I used My Fitness Pal (MFP) to log every single morsel I put in my mouth for three years, and absolutely loved it. After meticulously sticking to a macro ratio of very low carb, high fat, moderate protein while maximizing vitamins and minerals, I would proudly screenshot my food diary to share with health-conscious family and friends: “Look at how nutritious my diet is!” Of course, I always stuck to my calorie goal too, or even kept a bit under. In my mind, I was perfect. I never cheated; never wanted to cheat. I would prepare all my own food – always weighed and measured out to the gram—and never ate out… who knew what the serving size would be? Or—gasp!—if it was prepared with canola oil or something else that would give me cancer.

I also weighed myself every single morning right when I woke up. Wow, did that number make me feel good! I loved my ultra lean physique, with a weight that just barely put me in the “underweight” BMI category. I was conscientious about not being too skinny, because that would mean I had a disorder, I thought. I wanted to be the perfect amount of leanness, that would allow me to look and perform like a hardcore endurance athlete.

On the surface, none of this seems like too big of a problem. I was just data-driven, right? I mean, I didn’t have body image issues: I loved the way I looked and performed. Sure, I was a “picky” eater, but the good kind of picky. I only ate food that was ultra-nutrient dense, sustainably harvested, and proportionately served according to my energy expenditure, as calculated by MFP.

Hold up…

 This is not healthy. This is not “good discipline.” A certain kind of body love can be disordered, even if it seems positive. Although I loved how I looked, I was obsessed with maintaining that physique. This partly fueled my MFP mania. I thought that if I just ate intuitively then I would inevitably overeat (because I freaking love food so much!). And besides, this wasn’t just about how my body looked. I wanted to perform at my best and live a long healthy life (in the past few years, both my mom and dad underwent chemotherapy treatment for different cancers, so maximizing my long-term health through nutrition was a high priority!). If I just ate intuitively, how would I know I was getting all my vitamins and minerals?

Though I had good intentions, my health-obsessed rituals and overly dialed-in diet turned into unhealthy compulsive behaviors that affected my physiological, physical and mental health. I lost my menstrual cycle, tanked my hormone levels, got a stress fracture, and was on the verge of a much more serious eating disorder. The biological markers were what made me realize I had a physical problem, and, luckily, stumbling across Tawnee’s blog and listening to her story on EP helped me realize I had some psychological issues to work through too—my mind was not in a healthy state, despite what I thought, and my increasing stress and compulsions were writing on the wall. I actually was at peace with myself.

So I quit. With Tawnee’s help, I was able to step outside myself and identify my destructive behavior and the unhealthy patterns. I quit MFP cold turkey, and I quit weighing myself. I quit measuring every morsel of food, and I quit worrying about every single ingredient. I sought food freedom and new self-love. To my surprise, this new way of living freed a ton of time and energy in my life. I had no idea how exhausting these obsessions were and how much they took away from my energy—mental and physical—and ability to do the things I really wanted to do! Was I afraid of getting too fat or putting potentially “bad” ingredients in my body at first? Sure. Did I have a bad day every now and then? Absolutely. Did I need to kick and scream to Tawnee a few times? Yup. But by using facts and logic, and the test of time, I was able to put my brain at ease and believe in this new path, believe in me.

More than a year later, I can happily say I have complete food freedom. I never log in MFP, and don’t miss it one bit! And guess what? I’m healthier, happier, kicking butt in triathlon better than ever, and have remained injury free—even training for Ironman. I’m content in my own skin. I can eat what I want, and I still eat healthy, but without it being an all-consuming preoccupation.

So below, I want to help others identify if they have some unhealthy behaviors associated with food logging. Honestly, I think many of us in the health and fitness world do. But changing your mentality around food logging is possible, no matter how far gone you are down the obsessive-compulsive health wormhole. Below is a list of common thoughts and behaviors that are red flags for a potentially problematic relationship with food logging. Do any of these apply to you? If so, check out the next list, which includes all the strategies that helped me transition into a healthy, happy, high-performing lifestyle of intuitive eating.

Problematic Behaviors Associated With Food Logging

  • You prepare all your food in advance and have your meals logged into MFP before eating them. Then you know you’ll have the perfect eating day. You do not vary from this allotment.
  • If you didn’t log your food in advance, you log it immediately while preparing or eating.
  • You’re anxious about eating food when you don’t know the exact serving size.
  • You refuse to eat foods at events and instead bring your own food (perhaps eating it privately or sneakily so people don’t see/judge you).
  • You’ve memorized the exact serving size and calorie/nutrition profile of foods you regularly consume.
  • You look up restaurants in advance to see if they post their nutrition information online. Then you select the best option to meet your calorie/nutrition goals on MFP.
  • You feel extremely proud when you perfectly meet all your goals on MFP.
  • You feel ashamed or upset when you don’t meet your goals or forget to log on MFP.
  • You judge people you perceive as unhealthy and think they would be so much better off if they used MFP appropriately like you do.
  • The idea of not using MFP is absurd/unimaginable/scary.


Do one or some of these apply to you? If so, consider spending some time reflecting on how food logging is serving you day to day. Food logging can be productive in helping you achieve health and performance goals, especially if you don’t know a lot about the nutrition, calories, and appropriate servings of various foods. But, very simply, if you need to log your food (for any reason besides a medical condition), then you’re slipping into dangerous territory.

If you’re unsure if you’re in “dangerous territory” the best thing to do is consult a coach, nutritionist, or therapist. Even asking a trusted friend or family member, who knows you well and sees you on a regular basis, could be helpful. Often it takes an objective third person to give you clarity. I had completely normalized food logging such that I couldn’t imagine my life without it and thought everyone else was crazy for not using MFP. I was absolutely certain that my dedication to MFP was what guaranteed my success in all aspects of life. It wasn’t until a sports medicine doctor who specialized in women’s health looked at my bloodwork, checked my weight, diagnosed me with a stress fracture, and said, “You’re not eating enough to support your training, and I’m really worried about you” that I had a wakeup call: My seemingly all-knowing app was flawed.

That’s when I contacted Tawnee. After working with me for a week, she said that MFP had to go. I knew she was right, but I was terrified to begin. The first three weeks were incredibly difficult, but this is how I got through it and moved on to loving a life of intuitive eating:

How To Free Yourself From MFP

  • Getting Started
    • Just jump right in. Promise yourself, immediately, that you will not log any more food. Ever. And do your best to stop calculating in your head! More on that in a few bullets…
    • For your first unweighed/unmeasured/unlogged meal, go for something that you already know is healthy and you’re comfortable eating. The big step is to not weigh/measure/log it! Prepare a giant serving. Eat to satiation.
      • I was so scared to do this! My first MFP-free meal was a baking sheet of broccolini roasted with olive oil and himalayan sea salt. I was practically shaking I was so nervous to pour olive oil on without a tablespoon! My brain was racing, trying to imagine how many tablespoons and therefore how many calories were on that baking sheet. I ate one broccolini. It was so delicious. I ate another. And another. In fact, I ate a Costco bag of broccolini in one sitting! And you know why I did that? Because I was training for an Ironman and I was freakin’ hungry! But had I been following the app, I would have only eaten the exact amount of broccoli to fulfill my carb allotment for that meal, and probably would have walked out of the kitchen still a little hungry.


  • The First Few Meals
    • You’re going to feel anxious or just plain weird about not weighing, measuring, and logging. I kept compulsively reaching for my phone in the kitchen, so I ended up putting it in another room during meals so I wouldn’t try to log. Soon I just deleted the app. I also started playing music or podcasts while cooking to distract me from trying to count or log in my head.
    • Replace the positive affirmation
      • I really missed the positive affirmation I got from food logging and hitting my goals. So, at the end of the day (when I normally would admire my food diary) I wrote out one thing I was proud of doing that day. I encouraged myself to be creative and not comment on personal appearance. Instead, I’d write something like: “Today my student came to office hours [I teach at a university] and told me she’s never come to a professor’s office hours before, but she felt like she could come to mine to ask a question. I was proud that I created an open environment in my classroom and made her feel comfortable and respected enough to talk to me individually.” I found that it was way more satisfying to take pride in my relationships with other people and my intellectual, personal, and even physical accomplishments than it ever was to admire my food diary!


  • Eating With Other People
    • Sometimes eating with others is a nice distraction from the nagging urge to log or count food.
    • But, it’s also worthwhile to appreciate meals alone to really focus on your food.
      • I’d eat slowly and only eat (no TV/phone/book around) focusing on all the flavors and how much I enjoyed them. I’d also pay attention to my hunger signals. It took me a long time to figure out what a good full felt like. I’d spent so many years letting an app dictate my consumption that I didn’t know when to stop eating naturally. Sometimes I ate too little and was hungry again in an hour. That was annoying. Sometimes I ate way too much and would have a majorly upset stomach. That made me feel ashamed or frustrated. But I did figure it out with trial and error, and learned to be gentle with myself emotionally in the process.


  • Discussing Feelings With Others
    • I had three go-to people to share my feelings with during this transition: Tawnee (my coach), my boyfriend (who became my fiancée through this process), and my sister. I liked having multiple people to talk to so I never felt like I was complaining to one person too often. Plus each person fills a different role in my life. Tawnee is my role model and an expert in health and fitness, so I trust her advice 100%. She reassured me that I was on the right track physically and mentally. Talking to my boyfriend was scary at first because it made me feel vulnerable, but that actually brought us closer together. He allayed my fears that I wouldn’t be sexy if I wasn’t super lean or if I ate a lot of food… in fact, he’s found me wayyy sexier since gaining a little feminine weight and not being neurotic around mealtime! Finally, my sister would understand me when I was all-out crazy (sobbing or otherwise freaking out) and I was less embarrassed to let loose with her. She reminded me that I’m worthy of love regardless of what I look like or what I eat.


  • After The First Few Weeks
    • You’ll probably start to see changes in your body, and you may not like them. You’ll be tempted to go back to food logging so you can have your control back. You’ll say, “I’ve given this a fair shot. I know what worked before. I’m going back to that.” DON’T DO IT! Now is the time when you need a mantra to help you stick to your mission: food freedom. I posted sticky notes all over my bathroom with positive messages to myself. Here were some of my favorites:
    • “SEXY is what you look like when you feel strong, energized, and mentally sharp.”
    • “Eat to train, not the other way around.”
    • “You are not more loved, more fit, or more high-achieving because of a number.”
    • “Be gentle with yourself, babe.”
    • Ok, this one is a super geeky. It’s a math joke that I taped above the scale, which I eventually stopped stepping on: “Your mass times the force of gravity on this planet DOES NOT MATTER. You are equally beautiful, on Earth or on Mars, even though you’d weigh differently on each 😉 ”


  • Moving Forward
    • Start incorporating intentional cheats
      • Go to restaurant you’ve never been to before, don’t look up the nutrition beforehand, and order whatever sounds tastiest!
      • Eat a healthy version of a “bad” food you would never have allowed yourself when logging food
      • Tawnee turned me on to HaloTop ice cream, available at Whole Foods. It has lower sugar and no icky filler ingredients, though it does have dairy so if you’re intolerant to that, I’m very sorry for you. If you’re ok with some diary, I highly recommend the birthday cake ice cream flavor!
    • Use your vast food logging knowledge for good not evil!
      • I’ll never be able to forget the nutrient profiles of some of my favorite foods (broccoli, avocados, salmon, coconut cream, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, etc.). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you can make informed decisions about your meals to ensure you’re eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet, but you don’t feel compelled to hit super-specific food goals then you’ve really attained food freedom.

The New You

One final thought for you if you’re making (or made) the shift to intuitive eating. There will come a point when you realize how vastly superior this more relaxed lifestyle is to your old ways. Don’t fall into the trap of being too hard on yourself for earlier habits. Instead of telling yourself the more negative story, “I had disordered eating habits, but now I’ve figured it out and am so much better,” try telling yourself this one: “I had some obsessive habits around food in the past, which weren’t the best for me long-term. But I did learn a ton about nutrition, which I incorporate in my life today in a more flexible way.” I’m a big believer in the power of storytelling, especially the stories we tell ourselves. A small shift in the words you use during self-talk can make a huge difference in how you perceive yourself and the world around you.

—Samantha Morse