300

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Image via.

{Full Disclosure: This post has nothing to do with the movie 300. So stop reading if you were excited about that topic, because this one just might bore you to death.}

Our breakfast project started 300 days ago today. This is crazy to me. It’s crazy in the way that hearing your 2-year old correctly use the word “actually” in conversation or looking at your 5 year old and realizing that she’s almost 16 is crazy: It just doesn’t seem possible that this much time has passed.

I have often wondered if Laura is getting tired of taking these pictures (and I’ve given her several opportunities to bow out of the project, although she politely declined each time) and often asked myself the same questions: “Are you still enjoying this? Do you think anyone cares? What’s the point?”

The answer to these questions are yes, no, and, honestly, I’m not sure.

In nutrition research we often try to avoid making people keep careful record of the foods they are eating because we believe that the simple act of tracking that intake results in individuals changing their behavior. Someone who might otherwise have a candy bar doesn’t want to have to write it down, so they make the decision not to eat it. Someone who might otherwise have three glasses of wine decides that they don’t want to look like they drink too much and they limit it to one. If our goal is to understand what people usually do, we want to minimize the chance that they will deviate from their normal behavior.

This is what I thought would happen with my breakfast pics. I was sure that I would look back and what we were eating and make dramatic changes. Early on I realized how few vegetables we consumed in the morning. I started pinning recipes for breakfast salads and frittatas and looking up meals that other cultures consumed. And for a little while – like a week – I actually made vegetable salads for breakfast. But it didn’t last. Sure, we eat zucchini bread and have carrots and humus on occasion. I do spend more time thinking about what we’ve been eating recently, and when I realize we’re on day 4 of toast and butter, I’m sure to switch things up in the morning. But generally speaking, we’re not eating dramatically differently than we used to.

To me, this means two things: (1) habits are hard to change and it takes concerted effort and planning to make new ones stick and (2) if nutritional epidemiologists want a more detailed and accurate record of what people are eating, they CAN use food logs to get this information. They’ll just need about 300 of them. 

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