The decision to stop counting calories has not been a quick one, in fact, it has taken me years to realise just how damaging it can be. Getting to this point though has been a long and difficult journey and I’ve had to do a lot of self-education to get here.
Back in 2012, I discovered how I could use the popular app, Myfitnesspal, to track my calories and lose a whole lot of weight. At the time, I was around 14st, which is the heaviest I have ever and will ever be. I was miserable, I was in my second year of university and terrified to look in the mirror.
After joining a gym and researching a bunch of articles telling me that if I wanted to lose weight fast, I should cut my calories down to 1200, I embarked on my journey with Myfitnesspal.
During this time, I would actually eat between 1000 and 1200 calories a day. I would run 4 times a week and occasionally do Pilates. It wasn’t long until I started to see results and this made me even more determined to keep up with my routine.
Learning to count calories
Myfitnesspal helped to teach me about calories and how many were in all the different foods I was eating. At the time, I was in university and living off my student loan, so my food shops were pretty basic. I would eat wholemeal pasta with Dolmio sauce, sometimes with cheap chicken breast, sometimes with veggie mince.
Each meal would calculate to around 300-400 calories and I would make sure I did not go over. If I had a chocolate bar or a biscuit during the day I would either half my evening meal or just skip the meal completely. Are you starting to see where I was bordering on a dangerous habit?
The app did help me to stop overeating however, my portions had always been huge so it helped to give me a better idea of portion sizes, but it also made me very aware of how many calories were in every single bite.
I didn’t realise that it was not a healthy way to live
At the time, I thought I was being super healthy. I only ate whole grains and filled up on fruit and veg, I rarely had chocolate, cakes or cookies and when I did I made sure to burn them off with a run or make up for the calories by cutting down meals. To me, that was being healthy. I wasn’t taking in any more calories than I was burning, I was getting my 5 a day and I was getting in 4 days of cardio every week! How could I be wrong?
After a while, I started to feel the guilt and the fear that comes with excessive calorie counting. When you’re so aware of the numbers, you can’t help but be constantly doing the math in your head. Am I eating more than 1200? Is this piece of bread going to mean I can’t have my pasta later?
Even though on the outside it may have looked like I was just following a healthy diet and exercise routine, in my head, I was becoming obsessive and these obsessions were increasing my anxiety and depression.
Why I chose to stop counting calories
Recently, a film called To The Bone was released on Netflix. Now, a disclaimer – I have read many of the criticisms of this film, mainly around how triggering it is for those currently battling with an eating disorder and I do agree with a lot of the points made. However, it’s only after watching this that I started to think about my own habits and why I should stop counting calories.
Even though I am nowhere near as strict on myself than I had been back in 2013 and I had already come to terms with the fact that 1000-1200 calories a day was a ridiculous thing for me to do, I still had that mentality and belief in my mind. When I realised how much weight I’d put back on, I started back on the fad diets and calorie counting and of course, I started to lose weight. But the difference this time around is that I discovered amazing fitness bloggers who tell it like it is. They have educated me in living a more balanced and organic life, rather than forming my fitness and diet routine around strict rules and regulations.
After watching To The Bone, I realised just how many parallels there was with my own mindset, the fear of eating too many calories, the idea that I had to burn them all off so that I didn’t get fat. My issues are nowhere near as extreme as the characters of the film, but I could see how easy it would be for me to get to that point, should I immerse myself in these beliefs. It’s then that I made the final decision to stop calorie counting and realised just how much damage this simple act could be doing to my mental health.
What I’m doing differently with my routine and how I’ve managed to stop counting calories
That’s why I decided to delete the app. I want to stop counting calories, I don’t want to live my life by how many numbers I’m eating or making sure I plan every tiny bite for the whole day. I still eat healthily, I know what foods are good for me, what is bad and how much of each food group I should be eating. This time around though, I eat when I’m hungry, to refuel or to simply treat myself. I keep an eye on my portion sizes, but I’m never restrictive.
Am I putting on weight? Well, I try not to weigh myself too much and I haven’t measured myself in a few weeks, so I don’t know. I feel amazing though. I have loads of energy, I feel stronger than I’ve ever been thanks to my new found love for weights and all my clothes fit me, so why does anything else matter?
When you’re so desperate to lose weight, it can be easy to do whatever means necessary, but crash dieting and excessive cardio isn’t the answer to long term success. It’s not the answer to forming a healthy body and mind and having that balance between looking after your mental health and making sure your body is happy and healthy, should always be the end goal.