Remember when I put the call out for guest posts a week or so ago?? I got SO many responses that I’ll probably be featuring one a week for the next 6 months (THANK YOU!!!!) I thought I’d kick off the, “Best Decisions,” series by writing one myself. I have one to share with you this week and if you’re in a place where I was just 5 years ago, you might NEED to read this.
One of the best decisions I ever made was purposely DITCHING THE MATH.
Let me elaborate…
I’ve talked about my ED numerous times before, but for new readers (HI!), you might not be aware of my history (go here for the full series). Basically, from my Junior year in High School until my Sophomore year in college (so 4 years), I had an eating disorder (anorexia & bulimia). It started out as most ED’s do – with a DIET. I remember wanting to get skinnier for Cross Country season and to do so, for the first time in my (albeit short) life, I started paying attention to food. I turned every package over and read the label. Not only did I read those numbers, but I MEMORIZED the fat grams, calories and sugar content of probably 20 different foods. 20 food items doesn’t sound like a lot – because it isn’t. When you have disordered eating habits, you stick with the same boring foods, over and over and over again. Because they’re safe.
Because you’ve done the math on them.
For four years (and honestly, for four more after that), I did my math. I counted every calorie that I put into my starving/angry/despondent body. Going out to eat or to parties were not in my comfort zone. I hadn’t done the math for those foods. How could I really KNOW?!!? How could I be in control?!?
Looking back, I wouldn’t say those years were lifeless or horrible – I had friendships and love and laughter. Instead, I would say that I was ignorant. And very lost.
When I turned a corner on my ED and started to recover, I had to ditch the math. Counting calories just wasn’t conducive to my recovery. It was hard at first and even now, my tendency is to be intrigued by apps like MyFitnessPal (downloaded it, had to delete it) and other numbers-based programs. If I’m doing my math, I’m easily hyperfocused on those numbers. This is the exact opposite approach that I would give to any weight loss client – we track food, we write everything down. Tracking can be a great and valuable tool in the right hands.
I know enough about myself to KNOW that those aren’t my hands. In my hands, I turn these types of things into IDOLS.
These days, I eat intuitively. My focus is on whole foods, but I’m flexible in my approach. I’ve ditched the math – I go to functions and don’t have to bring my “safe” foods with me. It has taken YEARS to get to this place. I just want to encourage anyone who might be reading – if you’re stuck in a place where DOING THE MATH is controlling your life and your food choices….STOP! Delete the apps, throw out the journal and start TRUSTING your body to know when it’s full and what it craves.
The math might steer you in a completely wrong direction….but I promise you, that your body will not.
QUESTION: Do you count calories? Can you do this safely and without addiction?? <-email me please if you need any further suggestions!
Thank you for writing this! I’m a restrictive type eater, the numbers scare me- I’ll eat almost anything ONCE I know the number. My psychiatrist calls it functional anorexia. All I want, more than anything is to not be isolated by my disordered eating- weighing every single piece of food and measuring every liquid and to trust myself. I’ve counted calories for over 13 years and at 28 I want nothing more than too see what life is really like. any advice is appreciated!
Late to the party on this one… but yes, this post resonated with me. Seeing it written out — confirming that it IS an idol — is a blow. BUT, it’s one that is necessary. I KNOW I shouldn’t let it control me and yet I’ve let it for years now. Thank you for this post… working on this.
I’m with you friend. I can’t count calories- messes with my head. :) LOVE YOU!
Feel so privileged to be apart of this awesome series!
And I so hear you on this post- I had to stop completely too. I just cannot do it without going back into bad habits and I don’t know how others can do it safely.
I totally felt like I was reading my own post when I read this! I was completely obsessed with counting calories; I literally felt like I was constantly counting, recounting, and then recounting again the calories that I had eaten for the day and those that I planned to eat. After treatment for my ED, it took me a while, but I have pretty much gotten out of that mode and learned to trust my body. After I had my daughter (my second child), the weight came off more slowly than with my first and I used one of the apps for a couple of months. But I was literally pulling it out at restaurants and family meals to put in my meals. Hello, slippery slope! Plus I realized what an awful influence I was being on my kids. NO MORE! I literally feel like I have a brick wall in my brain whenever I try to start counting. Thank God for that wall, built by HIS hands!
I have toyed with the idea of no longer counting points or calories and just eat intuitively but I have been doing the math for so long I don’t know how to stop.
How to eat and still actively lose weight. I hate doing the math it takes the absolute fun out of enjoying my food. Which probably drives me to eating more, but I just don’t trust myself. I need help :/
I still count with my fingers so counting every single thing I eat is just far too many fingers to count ;)
On a more serious note, thank you for sharing this great post xo
Wow, like my sis Jess said here, I needed to read this post too! I also still court calories yet I know myself and my body and I don’t ‘need’ to anymore but my fears sometimes make me lean on it more than I should. Food should not be stressful and it can be fun while also fuel…that took me a couple years to realize. Thank you for posting this !
Unfortunately I do count calories. My story is somewhat like yours….I know I need to stop ,but I can’t seem to start. How did you stop? Did you just cut it all out or slowly stop? I wish I had not started =/
Needed your words today!! I’ve been a dedicated food logger for two years while I worked on getting into better shape and am now at the point where I can firmly eat intuitively and KNOW what my body needs, how much it needs and what it DOESN’T need. Yet, I’ve been using the food log as a crutch, as my self-check to make sure I really DO know that what I’m about to eat ‘fits’ for the day, even tho deep down I KNOW that it’s what my body needs. I just have gotten so used to the log that I’m having trouble putting it aside and truly and sincerely trusting myself. I keep saying I’m eating intuitively and I know I CAN do that, I just need to cut that final cord on the safety net and say ‘buh bye’ food log. THANK YOU for giving me what I needed to hear today, I love how God puts people in our lives at just the time we need them most. xo!
I ditched the math a long time ago has far as calorie counting but I’ve been still finding myself struggling with numbers when it comes to how many times i’m eating, the ratio of the macros, the time of day – intuitive eating is something i’ve never had my whole life. I’m starting a program in April in hopes to find it – I love food but it has a way of ruining my life sometimes.
GREAT POST! I agree, it has to be in the right hands but if you don’t have an ED or you don’t get freaked, for me, some just have to keep track. I am one & even more important with age but this is all very individual! :)
* I meant I absolutely do not count calories. Not telling people not to. :)
Absolutely do not count calories. 1.) Too tedious. I may be lazy 2.) i don’t want it to become a problem. I just eat when hungry and go by my pants fit as to if I need to eat less.
I am the exact same way with those “apps”. I think about doing it and then I delete it, because counting calories can become exhausting, stressful, and addicting. I am currently working on adding more calories to my eating, because I’m not getting enough. While I increase my running I need to make sure I am properly fueling this body, so it stays happy, strong, and nourished. Grateful for friends who can help me with this process. Great post Lindsay! XO
It’s funny how addicting calorie counting can be! I have had to track days here and there for school, but I found I kept tracking my calories even after I had to. I think it can be good to every once and awhile track one day to see if you’re getting enough NUTRIENTS or making sure your saturated fats and sodium levels are okay (gah my sodium is never good), but for a daily thing…yikes.
As you know, I just recently ‘ditched the math’ and oh my goodness, what a brilliant move that was. I wish I could say I don’t still try to add things up in my head, because I do…and I have put some recipes in ‘just to see’ what the approximate calorie count might be per serving, but I am moving forward, getting less and less focused on numbers and calculations and wondering what food was better to choose based on NUMBERS not nutrition. I am by no means ‘over it,’ but I’ve already noticed a relaxation in not only food choices, but exercise. I’ve been less focused on those numbers too, but still feeling fit and happy.
And oh my goodness, how much time I was wasting with that darn nutrition tracker…
I went through a phase of counting calories but I was so bad at it. I would always forget. But, at the same time, I do have a tendency to obsess over numbers like this and I know that it’s not healthy for me. But I have “done the math” in the sense that I used to stick to a small group of foods and eat those over and over again. In general, I now look at the broad strokes of my diet. I can’t do the scale either (I’ll step on it every few months at most) because it usually just ends up making me feel like a bad person. Love this post Lindsay!
Thank you so much for this post! I’ve just “ditched the math” so to speak, and it’s so hard to get out of my ED mindset. I’m inspired to see you, happy and healthy on the other side, so I know my journey will get me there one day too :)
I used to be obsessed with calorie counting! In fact, I finally wrote “My Story” on my blog. However, I use calorie counting today as a weight loss tool. I’ve gained about thirty-five pounds since high school and I’m hoping to lose about twenty of those. For me, it isn’t realistic to lose weight without calorie counting! I wish it were, but it just doesn’t work for me.
Love this post. I can’t wait to continue reading the series!
Awesome post! As a dietitian, a lot of people ask me if they should start counting calories. I say “no” for many of the reasons you talked about! I try to focus more on lots of whole foods and intuitive eating – no math involved!
Awesome post! As an dietitian, people are always asking me if they should be counting calories. I always say “no” for many of the same reasons you stopped! Focus on whole foods and intuitive eating, don’t be a slave to numbers!
i don’t count calories… i did for a period once in my life and nothing good came of it.. i sure wasn’t happy!
I used to count calories like a crazy lady. I’m SO glad I’m past that. Eating intuitively and what my body wants is SO much more satisfying and FUN!
This is a great post that I NEEDED!!! I just found your blog off of Lindsay’s “theleangreenbean” and I will be following you from now on! My ED started my sophomore year of college and is still with me (now as a Senior in college) And ditching the MATH is my next step for sure!!! It is so addicting to be in control of those dang numbers though and that is my BIGGEST STRUGGLE!!! I count calories in/out all the time. I rarely go out to parties. I restrict all day then to binge at night because I feel guilty that I have worked out so hard and did not give my body the necessary calories for the day. Thanks again for the inspirational post!!!
I did some calorie counting back in college, and am sooo glad to have that phase behind me. I agree, it’s so much better to enjoy food and eat intuitively. We need to feel free! And it’s very possible to be at a healthy weight with no counting at all.
This is definitely great for you- and I applaud you. I wish I could lose weight without counting calories, but it’s just what I have to do. I do think that I can do it safely without getting “addicted” though. I try to just plan out my day in the morning and then not have to think about it after that. And I’m flexible and go with the flow and have some wiggle room when needed.
If you’ve never been a really overweight person, it’s hard to identify with the idea of “needing” to lose weight for health reasons. I think that if you struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, you may NEED to hold yourself a little more accountable, rather than someone that just wants to lose 10 pounds to “look better.” And I’ve been both types of people- so I can say that from experience!
When I was trying to lose my college ‘freshman 15’ I found that counting helped to get the weight off, but all it did was send me into an obsessive spiral and not so great mental place. I stopped for years successfully, but recently tried out a calorie counting app and once again found myself spiraling into those dark places. It helped me lose a couple pounds, but nothing more. I ditched it after a couple months once I found my obsessions coming back. I totally agree – listen to your body. It will tell you everything.
i’m too lazy to count calories. I’m horrible at math, thank you GOD!
So glad you made that decision. Hurray for health! :) I do count calories, but only as a guide. I regularly “go over” if I’m hungry. I also refuse to count on the weekend. It’s more of a guide for me than a rigid rule.
I agree with you, Tiff, and I try to follow this same principle of calorie counting as a “guide” rather than dictating what you absolutely can or cannot have.
Very honest and inspirational post, Lindsay! Thanks for sharing :)
Love you and love your view on the counting cals! I do not count calories, but I make sure to eat enough to keep my body healthy and baby healthy too! <3
**LEAPS TO HER FEET AND APPLAUDS**
no cal counting
just intuitive here, too.
I used to count calories, but now I don’t. I have a general idea of how much I eat every day and think, for me, it’s a lot less stressful to not count calories and just listen to my body. Plus, who wants to look up the nutritional value of a Shamrock shake? Ignorance is bliss!
Good one!! I went through a small period of time counting calories . . . and then realized it wasn’t for me. It was just too time consuming!! I wasn’t enjoying my food anymore because everything was a math problem instead of good food and good fuel. And being a math teacher already, I had enough adding and subtracting in my life already!! No need to do more. ;)