When I first got this shirt, Aust mentioned “well, isn’t that just making fun of people who do count their calories?” I just want to clear things up at the beginning of this post– I do not judge people who count their calories!! I do not think that I am better than people who count their calories!! If you count your calories and you feel like it genuinely enhances you life… that’s great!! But I just want to share the side of calorie counting that I personally have experienced… and the reason why I am proud to wear this shirt for me.
To be 100% honest, I don’t remember exactly when I started counting my calories, or when I got the idea that downloading MyFitnessPal would be the key to my health. Maybe it was from health class when they taught us “the golden formula” of less calories in – more calories out = weight loss = health, maybe it was from stuff that I had read online… or maybe it was a combination of the two. BUT, moral of the story, sophomore year MyFitnessPal became my best pal.
I was hooked to the app. I had to put every single crumb of food, and every single ounce of liquid that entered into my body into MyFitnessPal. If I didn’t enter what I ate in, I would feel panicky, stressed, and I could barely function until I got the food inputted. I couldn’t explain it… I just had. to. enter. the. food. in. I had such a drive to account for every single calorie, and every single calorie had to count. I loved seeing my daily calorie count under my ‘set calorie limit’ for the day. I loved seeing the “if everyday was like today, you would weigh ____” message that you would get at the end of the day. Seeing those numbers and messages reassured me that I was being ‘healthy’, they made me feel safe. I felt that as long as I tracked my food and what was in it, I could control my body and my health.
Fast forward through my recovery (without counting any calories) and to my senior year of high school– I started to track my calories again. This time, it was because my high school cross country coach wanted to make sure that us girls were eating enough. I told my parents about it, and they thought that I was in a good place and could handle it, so… I started inputting my foods back into the app. While I thought I could handle myself, my old demons crept right back in. This time I didn’t restrict my calories to such a low number as I did my sophomore year, but I definitely wouldn’t let myself go past my ‘set calorie limit’. I allowed myself to eat treats in which I wouldn’t allow myself to have my sophomore year, but I hated seeing them on my screen. Those numbers worried me. Even though I wasn’t as insanely invested in MyFitnessPal as I was my sophomore year, I was still in its grasp. It still provided me that sense of safety from the fear of not knowing what food was going into my body.
My calorie tracking lasted from senior year into my first year of college, and if you’ve read my story, you’d know that my freshman year of college I began to binge eat. I account a HUGE part of that to my calorie counting. Like I mentioned, I would eat desserts, but I would always feel uncomfortable inputting them into MyFitnessPal, and because I was now a college athlete, I thought that I should pull in the reigns of my eating. I started to get more fanatic about tracking my calories… and when I would binge on the weekends, I would feel such extreme guilt inputting every bit of my binge into the app. I started spending so much time making up meal plans to hit a certain amount of calories. And every time I binged I felt that I needed to cut down my calories throughout the week to make up for it. I was stuck in the vicious cycle of binge eating, but keeping track of my calories gave me that sense of safety, and a false sense of hope. Somewhere down the line I ‘switched’ to counting my macros… but it was just the same situation.
Keeping track of my calories (/macros) was like pushing a sliver in my hand deeper and expecting the pain to go away. While I was trapped in the cycle of binge eating, I thought that keeping that tight grasp on what I was eating was going to pull me out of the cycle. In reality, it was just making the cycle worse. When I finally came to the realization that I needed to let go of the compulsive control, I deleted the app and stopped counting calories cold turkey. I wish I could say I turned around and never looked back, but I wont lie. Giving up counting calories for good was hard. In the beginning, there were so many days where I would feel so anxious about how many calories I must’ve eaten. I was paranoid that I was eating so many extra calories that I would start gaining a ton of weight. There were days where the pressure got to me so much, that I estimated the amount of calories of the food I was eating and added them all up in my calculator ‘just to check’. It’s been about four and a half months now since deleting MyFitnessPal, and I feel free. I didn’t gain a million pounds without counting my calories. I didn’t keep bingeing out of control without counting my calories. Even though it was difficult– giving up counting calories has made such a big impact for my health, my wellness, and my life overall.
If you’re someone who is counting their calories (/macros) and any of this resonated with you– I urge you to make the change. You don’t need to delete the app and go cold turkey as I did (though for me that’s what has worked best!) You can start by not tracking for one day… then two… and slowly work your way to getting rid of tracking for good. But again, if you count your calories and you don’t feel that it is taking away from any aspect of your life… then that’s great!! But for me, I’m proud to wear this shirt because it represents me pushing through something that has taken years to overcome. It represents me taking my life back from the unnecessary need for control and false sense of safety.
Btw, shirt credit goes to – Become The Change