Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I Stopped Counting Calories

I've always been a perfectionist. I still am. For the most part, I think it is a good thing. It motivates me to work hard and usually, succeed at my goals.

But other times, being a perfectionist is a curse. That is what I want to talk about today... how my never ending battle to become fault-less easily turned into something that damaged me both mentally and physically.

I started to count calories around age 11. Looking back on this, it sounds so depressing. An 11 year old shouldn't be worried about calories, she should be focused on school, friends, and having fun.

Around this time, I also started to work out. I found simple workout videos on YouTube and did a few each week. I lost weight, and was so proud.

Now, I don't think counting calories is necessarily a bad thing. If someone is very over weight or has a specific goal, counting and tracking food intake can be very useful and sometimes even mandatory. However, I was doing this task in a very wrong way.

1) I ate processed, fake food. Special K, Yoplait, and 100 calorie packs were my friends. I cared only about calories, not food quality.

2) I restricted way too much. Counting became obsessive, and soon I was eating below 1000 calories.

3) I thought I could "reverse" eating with working out. Ate an extra bowl of cereal? Time to walk on the treadmill for an hour.

4) In relation to the above, I would over eat "bad" foods (like cake, cookies, candy) as a reward, or because I felt so restricted and let wanted to let myself "loosen up."

This was a bad phase in my life. My parents were divorcing, I was not living in my own home, and school was becoming very difficult for me. I used food as my only means of control in this hectic time.

About two years ago, I was at my lowest weight ever. I might make a different post addressing this area in my life, because so much happened then. I was dangerously sick with an eating disorder. However, I will not go into great detail in this post.


Powerlifting saved my life, seriously. This was last year when I first dipped my toes in the world of weight lifting. Still very underweight.

With much struggle, I gained back a healthy portion of weight. Along with outside support, I found it easier to gain weight through heavy lifting/ powerlifting. Eventually I stopped weighing myself all together (I have not been on the scale for months.)

About three weeks after I posted that I was going to start counting macros, I quit counting calories entirely. One day at lunch, I felt weighed down by the fact I was going to have to track what I just ate. I looked at my mother sitting across from me, and simply said, "I'm done."

I have never felt so free. No longer am I bound to a railroad track by the ropes of food restriction- because, honestly, counting calories/macros is exactly that. A form of restriction. (This is just my opinion. If you have a different one, feel free to share, but don't bash me just for thinking differently than you might.)

As I mentioned before, I developed a very bad relationship with eating. Hunger cues were (and still are) all over the place, and the horrible cycle of "restrict/binge" happened a lot. Since I have stopped counting calories entirely, I have improved in the area DRASTICALLY. If I want something sweet, for instance, I will make a batch of healthy, gluten free cookies and have one or two and be done. I never could have done that just a year ago.


My best friend Abby and I, enjoying some fresh cookies before I left to return home to Texas. I act and look so much happier now that I don't count calories!

So, why did I stop counting calories?

To reshape my relationship with food.

To stop over eating.

To stop hating my body or feeling guilty for eating.

For freedom.

Do you count calories? Why or why not?

Natalie

2 comments:

Rachel Gilmore said...

I think personally, at least for me, it is in the eye of the beholder. Now, with your experience at least what I see from this post- I would NEVER recommend counting anything. I think you are right that it is a personal restriction for you that is not necessary. You would be fine reaching your goals with 'guidelines' as per how to portion, etc. at the most for now or until you wanted to fine tune...Now if the person has a goal of say losing weight, then yes the 'restriction' is/could be positive for them. Tracking leads to the goal success and can aid in measuring what is needed to reach the goal (IE: you have to be in a small caloric deficit to lose weight)...But on the other hand, like for myself; I track everything also for a goal, but to gain weight. So I am taking in a ton of food (around 2400 cals at max for now) that is steadily increasing...do I track everyday? I try to; the thing for me is that it doesn't control me. I say that with the utmost respect for your journey and where you are now :) A lot of people struggle with this and for you to experience this at such a young age is heartbreaking. And I am pretty young myself. But I am happy to say that the balance I have found allows for flexibility and avoiding at all costs the control/obsessive traits that can come with tracking everything. I guess I see two sides. But this is something people need to hear, because the more women get into the 'fitness industry' and aren't capable of holding those reigns...well, let's just say it isn't good for some ya know. Congrats on your decision and I think you are doing amazing to have come back from everything you talked about. Feel free to message me anytime about this stuff :) Good post!

Natalie Wester said...

Thank you so much for your comment Rachel! I agree with you, I think it is a very personal choice depending on the person at hand. I am glad to hear you have never struggled with disordered eating and are currently tracking to reach a goal. !!

VGN