I'm sorry, Mr. Gump, but your mama was just...wrong. I live for analogies, as it is often how my strange, scattered mind works, always grasping for something solid to compare things to (maybe I can blame that on my boyfriend), so when I hear one that doesn't mesh (some of which I'm guilty of creating myself), it bugs me. If the wise Mrs. Gump was trying to suggest that life throws us curve balls, she was quite right, but Sally Fields's wisdom falls short when she claims, "You never know what yer gonna get." I love that movie as much as the next person, and I've watched it far more times than any human should have. Who'da thunk that chick from THE PRINCESS BRIDE would someday be considering suicide in hooker heels after playing naked guitar for a bunch of sleaze balls? Does Wesley know about this? "As you wish!" Anyway...my point is that Hollywood wisdom isn't always so wise, and here is what I mean... If you buy a box of chocolates, you DO have the CHANCE to know EXACTLY what you're going to get. If you're wondering what flavor you're about to bite into, there are often those handy-dandy little chocolate maps inside the box, but even if you don't know that, Russell Stover is obligated by modern law to tell you what you're gonna get in nutrition.
I recently mentioned that I don't confess anything to a robed man in a booth, but I will confess something odd here: I do NOT like to read. Yes, I'm a writer and have been writing for publication since I penned a really nasty editorial about the gambling Pete Rose when I was 14 and the sports editor freaked out to know he gave a byline in his Sports pages to a teenage girl. Yes, I worked at a public library for six years, and my satellite office is now the corner of a bookstore (but that's only because my boyfriend's hot cousin Latte lives there). Yes, on a daily basis, I read, read, and read some more, and since 2009, I've edited at least 500 books for authors and publishers all over the place, in every conceivable genre and on every conceivable topic. In high school, the longest book I really read was OF MICE AND MEN, which I loved, seconded only by THE HOBBIT, which I only read because I loved that old 1970s Rankin/Bass animated one that popped up on TV every now and then. Nevertheless, forced reading aside, if someone gave me the choice between reading a book - not for pay-by-the-word - and going on a blind date with an orc, I might be compelled to do the latter. I have a few favorite books, most of them very short, but staring at black and white words on a page is definitely not my favorite hobby. I love writing, and I love working with writers, but I don't ever, ever read for fun. I don't really do any reading unless I have to, like for work or when I had to peruse page after page of Ohio Revised Code to do my divorce pro se, when I have to read those mind-numbing instructions for my self-employed tax forms, or, these days, when I have to take a look at nutrition labels. I am not really alone in this, I suppose, as my daughter told me today that she learned in school that only 7 percent of people read the Terms and Conditions when they make purchases, etc. Maybe that's why people don't know what they're gonna get. If Mrs. Gump had taken a moment to read the student handbook, maybe she wouldn't have ended up having to earn the extra credit, so to speak, to get poor little Forrest enrolled...but I digress.
As a person on a calorie-based weight loss journey, if you are using the Spark Nutrition Tracker, which I would nominate for sainthood if I was a phone booth confessor, you have a responsibility to do a little light reading. I am an editor by profession, so I have somewhat of an eagle eye for things like transposed letters or misplaced semicolons or even apostrophes and quotation marks curled the wrong way. Typos and misspellings bother me (even though I do make many of my own). That careful eye comes in handy, I suppose, when I'm looking at nutrition labels, but I've often overlooked things that have gotten me in trouble with my weight loss. Not too long ago, I bought some clearance popcorn balls that I thought were 120 calories, only to find out that they were actually 240. My sister-in-law-to-be is often bringing me goodies from her home country of Japan, and the labels on those goodies are in traditional Japanese, which I can't possibly read, not to mention often microscopic, so finding that little "kcal" number and trying to determine serving sizes is sometimes impossible. A lot of the individually wrapped snacks, like the Jack Links chicken jerky I love (do you know that stuff actually has applesauce in it!?), don't list nutrition facts on the individual packages, especially in the checkout lanes and at mini-marts, so I have to pick up the box or carton at the store and look all around the bottom and back to be sure. Reading is part of our job as weight losers, and as painful as the bitter truth may be when it comes to calories and serving sizes, adhering to what we read there is the only way to avoid looking like we ate a whole box of chocolates.
For those who use the Spark Nutrition Tracker, the other part of reading entails carefully making sure that you are logging the right foods. One of the greatest things about Spark is that the community of 5 million or so users has the ability to add foods to the database, but for this reason, we must all be very careful that we are entering the right foods, in the right portions. I cannot stand typos in food names, like this horribly distracting dairy felony I spotted when I logged my "yogret" for breakfast today (I didn't create this food in the database, folks), but that is not nearly as detrimental as when foods are entered with the wrong nutrition information. Be careful when you are entering new foods, because others may be depending on you to be accurate, but also be careful when you are logging the foods you ate, because someone else's typo might have you experiencing a thigh-grow.
My advice for the day? Read. Read those nutrition labels, and read the foods you log. Read and reread the information before you add foods to the database, because others might be relying on your accuracy when they eat the same things you have, and you want your own counts to be accurate too. Even if that person behind you in the olive aisle gets really ticked off at you because you are trying to calculate how many olives are in the jar and how long they will last based on how many you can eat per day, read that label and do the necessary math anyway. You CAN know what you're gonna get, and while you may not know what life is going to throw at you, you CAN absolutely know how many chocolates you can afford to eat.
P.S. All this Gump talk has me wanting shrimp. Thanks a lot, Bubba! I don't even wanna know how many calories are in a "schhriimp sammich."