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Why I (probably) will never calorie count again


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Hello all. It's been a few years since I've used Calorie Counter to log calories but I feel it's important I share this with you. It's long, but it's my first time talking about my experience. (**Trigger warnings**)

A few years ago, at 5'1 and 115 pounds, I decided I wanted to lose 5-10 pounds and came to Calorie Counter. It was my first serious attempt at weight loss. I was never 'thin' like most of my friends and it didn't bother me too much. But when my sister, who I share a lot of friends with, started losing a lot of weight, I noticed all the positive feedback and extra attention she was getting. She spoke about her fear of gaining weight and picked her body apart. I thought,  if she thinks this way about herself, what kind of fat hog must she think I am? (I was not even close to being overweight). Also, because I am curvy (breasts and bum), I always got a lot of unwanted attention for my body. I didn't want to be perceived as sexy, I just wanted to be. I wanted to walk to lunch (wearing trousers and loose fitting shirt) with my male boss without a random guy on the street shouting 'Look at that ass!' while I looked down in discomfort and shame. I wanted to wear all the pretty clothes in every color and material, every pattern and every embellishment, without worrying about a protruding belly, in-your-face cleavage, or a 'big ass.'  I internalized the view that curvy = sexy = less self-control (gluttonous), less sophisticated, less intelligent, less worthy, and skinny = beauty = strength, sophistication, a woman to be admired and respected. There's also an ethnic dimension to this; as a Middle Eastern woman, I felt I had to try harder to gain respect for my intelligence and talents.

I started with the goal of 1200 calories a day. After just a few weeks I started noticing a constant desire to binge, and every 2 weeks or so, I just couldn't stave it off anymore. I would eat all the crap I could find until well beyond the point of fullness, stuffing myself to the point of nauseousness. Food and calories were constantly on my mind. I tallied calories all day long, in the middle of work meetings (trying to be inconspicious as I jotted it in my notebook), in my head at the movie theater, adding to the tally every time I ate another handful of popcorn. I felt guilty constantly. Food was scary, food could take control over me at any second, and food, often, was deeply shameful, if I 'succumbed' to the 'wrong' foods or too much food.

I had days when I ate as little as 600 calories but typically ate around 900. I restricted my calorie intake severely to counter the binges. I also got a major high from seeing my thinner body in the mirror, seeing my hip bones for the first time, touching my now-prominent collar bone, seeing the weight drop on the scale, being able to fit into a 00, and to finally being able to wear white, a color I long ago wrote off as being too 'chubby' for.

I dropped down to 92 pounds at the lowest, but 'stabilized' around 97 pounds. I never thought I was skinny. And certainly not too skinny, even though the BMI calculator said I was underweight. I knew my arms were Angelina-level scary. But my thighs were only a few millimeters away from touching; I coveted the wide gap that models and celebrities had. My belly still had a curve to it, and if I didn't suck in I still had that early pregnancy look. My butt was still 'bubbly' so I didn't feel comfortable wearing tight pants or a tight skirt. (I know this is very unhealthy, distorted thinking but I'm just trying to honestly convey my experience).

There are lots of horrific experiences and feelings I could recount, but I don't think I'm up for it emotionally. However, I did lose my period during this time, scooped up big chunks of hair from the drain every time I showered, was constantly tired, and came close to nearly passing out a few times from not eating enough.

I struggled with what I would call disordered eating (though was never diagnosed) for roughly a year. I'm so thankful it only lasted that long. When I went off to graduate school in another country, I found it very difficult to continue to restrict my eating, but deathly afraid or trying to eat healthy without calorie counting. If I gave up just a bit of control, I ended up eating a whole box of cereal in my bed, stuffing handfuls into my mouth. I believe my eating issues were a major contributing factor to developing severe depression, which caused me to drop out of my graduate program (at one the top schools in the world). For nearly 6 months I was unemployed, but now have a temporary position with a good salary but no benefits, and no possibility of becoming permanent. I have no job prospects for the future, though I'm constantly applying to open posts.

After months of constant binging, with very little 'dieting' in between, I quickly went from 97 to 118 pounds. I am happy to say that only a few months later after I "gave up control" and stopped trying to diet, my binges went away entirely and I dropped down to 115. A year later I am now about 113 pounds. I try to eat healthy, lots of veggies, fruit, lean meats, whole grains. But I eat chocolate/icecream/cake/movie theater popcorn when I want it. I just listen to my body and my soul. No calorie counting, no dieting. I am still working on making exercise a part of my weekly routine, but haven't gotten there yet.

I am not suggesting that no one should ever calorie count. What I am suggesting is this: If you tend to be compulsive, very hard working and often hard on yourself, think of yourself as or are known to be a 'perfectionist,' prone to depression and anxiety, PLEASE DO NOT 'DIET' OR CALORIE COUNT. You are taking a major risk towards developing disordered eating. You may be getting 'enough' calories a day, or you may not be, but you are highly susceptible to developing an obsessive, unhealthy, control and fear based relationship with food. AND THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. When you severely restrict or have stringent rules when it comes to food, your brain reacts by going into starvation mode and wanting to binge. At some point you will gain the weight back. I remember seeing a thread of someone saying they've been yo-yoing for years and thinking "Oh that's never gonna happen to me. I'm never gonna gain the weight back!" But if you are in the restrict/binge cycle, you are very likely to continue yo-yoing until you finally decide ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, no more dieting.

I give this website kudos for promoting healthy weight loss in that (1) 1200 calories is specified as the minimum, (2) Moderators actively respond to posts with unhealthy goals or body image views, (3) there are tools like BMI calculator, Food Log analysis, Exercise Log to try to promote healthy eating and lifestyles. However, dieting and calorie counting just isn't healthy for everyone. For some people, it's best just to try to eat healthier, try to exercise, and realize it's going to take a long time and you may never be 'skinny.'

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading about my experience. I hope yours is much less agonizing and a lot more of what you want it to be -- successful, enjoyable, and healthy. Love to all x

12 Replies (last)
You are awesome!!! You just made me wonder if this is me???? Kinda scared me into really thinking what the Heck am I doing to myself and it's not worth it.

Hi Kimberley!

I wish I had read something like this when I was calorie counting. But to be honest, I don't know if it would have had much effect because I was SO SCARED of gaining weight and being skinny was really the most important thing in my life. So much so, that I pretty much stopped having a social life just because I didn't want to be tempted by alcohol and food. So I spent most of my time alone, shopping, looking in the mirror, exercising, and weighing myself. What a sad life. I thought it was all worth it when I could walk around knowing I look thin and get a some glances from other girls (which I assumed were envious). Those little highs you get are not worth the rest of the misery.

I have a very happy, healthy life now, with a boyfriend who loves me as a I am. It's still hard sometimes and I have to remind myself from time to time how miserable my life dieting was whenever I see skinny girls and think for a second, "I want to be like them."

Also I used to think that I became pretty, and desirable as a person, friend, woman, when I got skinny. What I realized was when I got skinny I started putting more effort into my looks, which led to more attention. I'm a healthy weight, not skinny, but I still like looking good and put some effort into my style and makeup. What I've noticed is, I have many more friends, much more meaningful social interaction, and actually more interest from guys I like, because 1. I can still be pretty without being skinny, and 2. I am much happier, funnier, and a much better friend now.

Best of luck Kimberley :)

thhq
Jul 29 2012 18:33
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Most people that come here are overweight and are looking for a way to lose a lot of weight to get back to normal BMI. Calorie counting works well in that situation. It's not a very good tool for body sculpting, which takes more specific diet and exercise. I have noticed that unless I exercise there's a tendency to lose muscle tone. My arms and shoulders are a place that I lose muscle though not to the point of being scrawny.

Your point of view was very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing.

I wrote a similar post a while back. I hear your pain. It is just food; and as long you are healthy should not be a main concern. I do think that in the past people were much more wise about their body image... When women as marylin monroe were considered beautiful because that is closer to what most of us would naturally tend to be. I'm not saying people should not strive to be healthy or cc ... I'm just saying i don't consider smart to give appearance and food such an importance.. Overall when our society standards are so far from "real people". And btw... I do consider 1200 cals awful low for any woman that is not sequestered in bed all day...
Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading this :)

This really hit home for me. A few months ago I found myself being obessive compulsive about food and calorie counting. I still occasionally log food or look up calorie content, but this time around I have decided to just eat normal, healthy servings and focus more on exercise. It's okay to have that occasional treat or higher calorie food. Having a healthy attitude towards food makes it much easier to maintain the weight loss. Thanks for sharing your story!

Very interesting thread, and it was enlightening to read how negatively calorie counting can effect some people. For me, however, calorie counting has been invaluable and I have learned so about my metabolism as a result.

Hey =)

Thanks so much for sharing!  It has totally been my experience and I fully agree with everything you say!

Well done on your recovery!

Libby =)

calories intake matter but u have to be carefull. when u start counting calories as first step u should start log ur food without any change...so u would understand how many calories u eating and what kind of food u eat...when u do ur food log after one week u should start do small changes...(ive never count my BMI) so when u see that u eat 2200 kcal pd u should cut down 300-500kcal =u should start eat 3 days 1800kcal, 1day 1600-1700kcal, 2days 1900kcal, and that last day u can eat how u feel but not over 2000 kcal....if u cut calories to down u will confuse ur body u probably slow ur metabolism down and yes u lose weight but also this losing is not healthy and u will probably get ur kgs(pounds) back when u stop counting calories...ive started counting calories 5weeks ago...ive lost two kilos and i feel awesome...i dont starving myself ...i actually eat more food and more often...i used to eat 1900-2000 kcal crap food!!! i had two meals per day and between them i was starving....i want lose two more kg and than start building muscules (so gain two kilo) so my goal is be 58kg and have muscules no fat...if u count BMI it will probably shw me as underweight ....everyone is different...some people have heavy bones some people are musculy etc...when u do ur diet u should know what u do wrong and how  become to be a "good" guy/girl... i know that i was surviving on ice coffee and quick meals and now im on less calories and more food.... :)

 

i hope it makes sense for u guys...

I've been struggling to stop calorie counting for over a year now. I am at a healthy, stable weight but I just want to be rid of it. It's like a nagging voice over my head 24/7 - "You ate this much today, now you have this much left!!"..ugh. I have gotten better though - instead of tracking I merely keep estimations in my head, but still, it's annoying. Hopefully one day I'll be able to kick it to the curb entirely and go for intuitive eating.

Yeah ppl do that with or without counting calories. Doesnt matter. You know youre not eating enough even if you cant see the numbers but skinny tastes so good.  Happy to hear your found your way to a healthy lifestyle. thats the idea:P

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