I recently went through a break-up, but it wasn't with a man. Ladies and gentlemen, I have officially broken up with calorie counting.
This may not seem like a big deal to some people. However, I have been counting calories every day for close to 10 years, so doing away with it completely was one the the most terrifying and satisfying things I have done in a long time.
Now, I have been trying to give it up for a long time. Since I started my recovery last November, I have been telling myself that I need to give up calorie counting. However, I feared that as soon as I stopped keeping track of everything I ate, I would just eat everything in sight and balloon to an unimaginable size. So, I kept counting, telling myself that I would do it until I gradually got my intake up to a normal level and then I would stop.
That was my excuse. "I'm still counting so that I can make sure I eat enough." Well, I was not being honest with myself (Sam gives some great insight into this topic in this post) and it was not working for me. I thought that since I was eating more than I had in the past, I was healing my relationship with food. But the fact is, I had no idea what a proper intake should be, and all I was doing was encouraging myself NOT to listen to my body.
I was also overcome with guilt all the time. If I went over my set level, I felt like I had eaten too much. If I was below it, I would worry that I was starving myself, so I would eat at night even when I wasn't hungry and I would go to bed over-full and still feeling guilty. Then I would have binges, and to compensate I would lower my calorie intake for a few days, and then (BIG SURPRISE!) I would binge again!
I have even tried to quit counting before, but those numbers have become so engrained in my head over the past 10 years that I would always end up counting subconsciously; I was never truly free.
I don't know what lightbulb went off in my head this past week, but I decided I was just going to start eating differently, to see food in a whole new light. I realized that I would never get up to a proper intake if I were tracking calories because I would just question the number and wonder if it was too much.
From now on, my body makes the decisions, and that is final. I have already noticed a difference in my energy levels, my happiness and my satiety.
Right now, I am starting to eat larger meals instead of grazing constantly. Before, I was afraid to eat too much in one sitting because I didn't want to blow my calories, but then I would just pick at things for the next few hours until I had eaten what I would have in the previous meal had I not restricted.
Yesterday, I even had dessert in the middle of the afternoon, which would have never happened with my calorie-counting ways. With counting, I never would have had something like that early in the day because I would be trying to save my calories for later... only to eat even more sweets at night because I felt deprived and hungry.
I can't even tell you how freeing it is to not measure anything or keep track of what I am putting on my plate. Now, I will eat a handful of almonds, not a handful of 17 almonds. I will eat a small bowl of greek yogurt, not a 1/2 cup of greek yogurt. It is not until I take a step back from my old habits that I see how restrictive and disordered they were... even in "recovery".
The other day, I threw together this little snack plate with no regard for how caloric or balanced it was and it felt awesome.
As part of breakfast yesterday, I threw together a yogurt bowl with zero measurements and whatever toppings I wanted.
That is greek yogurt and fruit topped with PB and cherry vanilla jam. Even when I was doing well with challenging myself, jam was a fear food. I saw it as unnecessary, too sugary and empty calories. Actually, jam is delicious and it is completely necessary!
Even my salads used to be very controlled and measured, so for my first salad sans calorie counting, I threw the most delicious, nutrient-dense things I could find into a bowl and ate it all up. There is miso salmon, guac, hummus, olives and goat cheese in there and it was the most satisfying salad I have ever eaten!
If anyone out there is struggling with giving up calorie counting, I urge you to just take the plunge and quit cold turkey! Easing out of it doesn't work, or at least it didn't for me. The only way to do it is to give it up completely and push numbers out of your head as soon as they creep in. It is not easy, but it is so worth it.
I don't know why it took me so long, but I am finally ready to nourish my body on its own terms. I am number-free; that means numbers on the scale AND numbers on a nutrition label, and I have never felt better :)
Have a good one loves! xoxo
What are your views on counting calories?
How did you free yourself from numbers?