You know, there was a time I believed that this wasn’t possible. I didn’t believe I could ever completely quit calorie counting and obsessing over numbers, portions and grams. But now that I am here I know I never want to go back – because life is just so much funner without it.
The concept of not keeping track of my calories seemed very unrealistic to me in the early stages of my recovery. I just couldn’t imagine a meal that I could just sit down and eat – without knowing exactly how much of what was going into it. While still deeply engaging in all my anorexic behaviors I would eat the same things – day in and day out. I would hardly ever cook, because measuring and weighing everything would take too much time. So I relied on the nutritional info on the back of the package of everything I ate to tell me weather I was “allowed” to eat it or not.
When I first started on my recovery journey I was at a critical weight so I counted calories just to ensure I was getting the bare minimum I needed to gain. Considering I was to be hospitalized if I didn’t gain a certain amount per week, and I didn’t have a diatitian to consult, it seemed the only option at that point. Needless to say at the beggining stages my food options were very limited – I had no fat in my diet, and I relied on juices to get my calories up. And by up I mean reaching 1200 calories a day, a weight loss amount for most people.
My body gained from even that in the beggining, simply because it was so desperate for food. Then, when my metabolism normalized somewhat, I found myself needing to up my calories again. By that time I had developed food ruts that I stuck to, the only variable being dinner. And still, I rounded off the calories in my head, never allowing them to cross a certain amount.
Around that time I descovered a lot of healthy living blogs, which changed my outlook towards food and healthy eating. I would look at the recipies in awe, wondering how those delicious foods might taste, while still eating the same foods day in and day out. But slowly, ever so slowly I began stepping out of my routines and ruts and challenging myself more in my recovery. I joined a pro-recovery form for people with eating disorders, and became inspired to give up calorie counting and start “intuitively eating”.
It definitely wasn’t easy, and it was a slow process. It started by not measuring all my food, or sometimes adding a little more of this and that if I felt like it. It was so scary at first, but with time things got easier. I started cooking more and experimenting with recipes. I no longer had to rely on store bought foods (with the nutritional info on the back) to snack on when I didn’t have time to measure everything out. And as I made these small steps of progress I was encouraged to try bigger ones.
I have to say cooking more definitely helped in this aspect, because I would make more then single serve poriton sizes, and most recipies did not include nutritional info. I would try to “lighten up” most recipes , but I soon found that they never tasted quite as good as the real thing. I started to eat for enjoyment, not just necessity, and I think that was the turning point in my recovery.
There was a point I had to go back to calorie counting for a time, just so I could continue gaining weight. But after a while I quit once again because it seemed to be hindering my recovery more then it was helping it. I was so bound by those numbers that I couldn’t step out and eat what I actually wanted. It was counter productive because I started obsessing over the perfect balance between carbs, fats, protien and veggies (I obsessed the most about the veggies) and started seeing food only as nutrients, something that had to be perfectly balanced or it was useless. Once I realized that this was hurting rather then it was helping, I moved on.
Now I’m at a point where I eat basically intutively most of the time. I recently overcame my long-standing fear of healthy fats and am actually enjoying their addition to my diet. I experiment a lot with other’s recipies, and even create some of my own. I eat what I like and what my body craves. Although I try to eat enough of every food group, I’m as focused on the perfect balance as I am on giving my body what makes it feel good. And I’m lovin’ it so far.
I went from eating this:
To enjoying this:
Since stopping calorie counting I’ve never looked back. Life is just so much funner without it! There’s no reason getting hung up on a number, when there as so many other factors that come into the equation – such as flavor, how it makes you feel, the way your body reacts to the food and how much you are able to enjoy it. Your body is a wonderful, magical thing and in time everything balances out if you listen and give it what it needs
So if there’s anyone reading this that still struggles with calorie counting I encourage you to slowly take steps to let go. It won’t be an overnight process, and there’s always a bit of worry and anxiety involved - but I promise you that without it you’ll feel a lot happier and freer. And don’t give up or get discouraged! It takes work and time,but it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Do you (or did you) calorie count?
If you did how were you able to break the habit?