Why I chose to stop counting calories

Until today I was a calorie counter.  It started about 5 years ago after I stopped breastfeeding my daughter.  When I was breastfeeding, I ate healthy food and I ate when I was hungry.  I did not put a lot of thought into how much I was eating, I just ate until I was satisfied and went about my day.  I did not have to worry about my weight, because breastfeeding burned up a lot of calories.  I was staying at a steady weight of about 115.  When I stopped breastfeeding, I continued to eat as I always had and I noticed the pounds starting to creep up on the scale.  I was slightly overweight when I was younger due to drinking on the weekends and making poor food choices, and the thought of putting weight back on scared me.  I was miserable in my overweight body and I did not want to go back to that.

I started using MyFitnessPal to keep track of what I ate.  It worked like a dream!  I set myself up with a 1200 calorie/day plan and stuck to it pretty closely.  I am also a runner, so that gave me extra calories I could consume throughout the day and still stick to the 1200/day plan.  I was back down to 115 in no time and I was very happy with how it worked.  But it didn’t last long.  It was very rigid and hard to conform to.  Trying to only eat 1200 calories per day is not something I could stick to.  I was constantly over my number and constantly feeling bad about myself.  Consequently, my weight fluctuated over the years, but I still continued to keep track of my calories.  I went from 115 to 112, up to 124, then 127 and now back down to 123 presently.  No matter how hard I tried, I could never keep my weight at 115 and it really took it’s toll on me emotionally.  The bad thing is, is that I didn’t realize it until yesterday.  I didn’t realize how much of a grip my calorie counting had on my life until I started reading articles about people who used to count calories.  I was shocked to hear that the behavior of others was EXACTLY what I had been doing.  I was in constant failure mode, I was anxious about food and I was becoming obsessed and depressed.  I was so relieved to have finally realized what calorie counting was doing to my life.

I was talking to my mom yesterday and I made a comment about not knowing how to eat anymore.  I have been having major stomach issues and I went to see a doctor and they did tests and found nothing.  I thought maybe I was eating too much fiber or too much protein.  And then a light bulb went off.  I was just eating too much.  When you calorie count, you become obsessed with the number you have left.  You can eat a tablespoon of peanut butter, or you can pack yourself full of fruits and vegetables.  I was doing just that.  I take supplements daily, but I still felt like I need to get “x” amount of fruits, vegetables and protein to be healthy.  I knew what number I could reach, so I would snack ALL DAY LONG.  My stomach was constantly bloated and I was miserably stuffed.  I forgot what it even felt like to be hungry, because I was constantly snacking, knowing I could because I had calories left to consume.  But, if I went over my allowed calories for the day, I became depressed and the feeling of failure consumed me.  I would eat mindlessly at work all day long, and then by the time I got home and dinner came around, I didn’t have any calories to spare so I got panicked and stressed.  I knew I should sit down and eat a meal with my family, but I knew it would put me over the limit for the day and sometimes I just couldn’t do it.  I was in a never-ending cycle of self-loathing and self-defeat.  I felt horrible about myself every day because I couldn’t stick to the plan.

So here I am on day one of not counting calories.  It’s very weird, but I feel very positive about it.  I ate oatmeal this morning before leaving for work and I mentally calculated the calories and then tried to push it out of my head.  I also just got done eating my lunch–a lunch I never would have normally packed because it wasn’t my usual low-calorie easy to track fare.  I took my time eating, and tried to enjoy my food.  When I was done I sat back and monitored my fullness.  I felt full so I put the rest of my food away and got back to work.  I wasn’t sitting here thinking about what else I could eat with my allotted calories.  I was full, the food tasted good and I am satisfied.  That is all that matters.

I did reach for my phone a few times to log and then remembered the app is gone.  I weighed myself this morning, and I was happy with the number so I immediately went to log it and remembered again.  The app is gone.

Today is day 1.  I’m giving it a solid week before I determine how I really feel about it.  At this point I feel like a weight has been lifted because I feel like I will start to trust myself and my body more if I just listen to it and not try to stuff it full of tasteless boring food to fill a number.  I am looking forward to making healthy food choices that taste good and I enjoy eating.  I’m really hoping it will ease the anxiety I feel around food and I hope it will allow me to be social without mentally trying to figure out if I have enough calories left to enjoy myself.  I will keep you posted on my progress and let you know if my decision to stop counting calories was the right one for me:)

10 thoughts on “Why I chose to stop counting calories”

  1. The program that my doctor put me on doesn’t count calories. The reason she gave me was that she wanted to limit certain types of food. When I think about it, when I counted calories, I was eating too many carbs.

      • I’m not sure what it is called. I think that it is a modified low glysemic diet. The handbook that I got was published by American Diabetes Association. I get a number of exchanges for various food categories on of which is carbs or starch. Fruit and vegetables are separate categories. I can’t say that it is low carb but it is certainly significantly less than what I normally ate.

        It is working for me. Starting on it was a bit of a challenge because I’m tracking seven numbers instead of one or two (plus, I love my carbs). I can’t argue with the results. My A1C went from prediabetic to normal and I’ve lost about 60 since September.

  2. Best of luck! I know the struggle of counting calories, and feeling like a failure with weight gain. I don’t count calories anymore, but when I did I was super obsessive with it as well. It took me awhile to realize that while on prednisone it’s basically a loss cause 🙁 It still takes a toll on me emotionally when my munchies get out of control, like today. But again best of luck! Don’t beat yourself up to much if a week goes by and you’re back to calorie counting. Just stay healthy 🙂

  3. This is some great insights for people trying to be healthier. I myself tried the calorie count before and it worked to some degree. I quickly found out that its more complicated, and that certain calories say those from avocados or cashews are better for your body. Calories from a cheeseburger, with gooey fat and salt saturated cheese, and meat with packed full of preservatives, hormones and food dyes are going to be worse for you. Its like the fat argument, people thinking they have to avoid fatty foods really just have to avoid certain fats, because there are beneficial fats such as omegas. I think you will succeed in not only being your comfortable weight but being comfortable with yourself.

    • Thank you! I agree, it’s all about healthy calories, not just calories as a number.

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