Two months ago, I wrote a blog post explaining my addiction to calorie counting. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading that first to give this one more context.
I was still a devoted [closet] calorie counter at the time of the posting. However, I desperately wanted to stop because I knew it was doing me more harm than good.
Yet, I couldn’t even imagine a world where I didn’t care about the calories I took in; a world where I just ate what I wanted, when I wanted it, with no regard for numbers. I didn’t know what to do anymore, so I decided to write about it.
So how did I stop?
By admitting my problem and revealing the truth to the world (or, more accurately, to the couple people who read my post). It became exponentially easier for me to stop counting after that day.
Although there is probably a combination of reasons why the blog made it possible to let go of the habit so easily (it held me accountable to my issues, made me realize how damaging it was, and gave me more reason to change knowing that I had people rooting for me to get better), I think the prevailing reason is that writing about it made it real. It forced me to remove my unhealthy thoughts out of the safety of my brain, bring them out into the open, and articulate them.
What made it even more real were the reactions I got from readers, telling me how strong I am, how grateful they are that I shared my story, and how inspired they are. I was no longer the only one involved; this wasn’t simply an intangible object in my brain anymore, it was actually touching others.
In retrospect, I wish I had spoken to someone about it sooner. I received overwhelming support from friends and family after I published it, and I know that if I had been more brave/self-aware that I had an issue, I would have been liberated from my restrictive habits sooner.
The first few days after that day were challenging; I was tempted to start the calculations in my head after every meal. However, I’d stop and tell myself that I could add up all my calories at the very end of the day if I really wanted to. I did this a couple times, but quickly realized how pointless it is to count calories at the end of each day. It simply wasn’t necessary.
After that realization, the habit disappeared in a matter of days.
I’m not saying every day is a breeze; there are days, especially when I eat more dessert than usual or drink a couple of beers, that I find myself wanting to count calories. When this happens, I remind myself that eating a few extra calories once or twice a week won’t affect anything. I remind myself of the triviality of it all. I remind myself that if I truly wanted that dessert or that beer with friends, it’s perfectly fine that I consumed it.
All this also made me realize how vain I was. I was only counting calories to ensure that I was comfortable with my body image, and that I was in control. I was letting myself do something incredibly narcissistic and pointless every single day, for the benefit of no one else but me. And the saddest part is, it wasn’t even benefiting me.
The switch from calorie counting to intuitive eating also made me acknowledge the extent of my prior restrictions. I used to calculate the calories in all the dishes I made—soups, curry, salads, rice bowls, cereal, etc. I wasn’t consciously aware of what that was causing me to do, but I would frequently add less– less tahini, less sauce, or less rice– than I probably would have otherwise. I only did this because I was limiting myself to a certain amount of calories per meal. Making a dinner with more than 600 calories was extremely rare for me.
Now I just add however much looks right to me, and it is so incredibly liberating. I still try to take portions into account—I’m not dumping entire boxes of pasta into the pot—but I’m also not obsessing over the thought that I should cut back on other parts of the meal since the 1 cup of pasta already accounts for 200 calories.
Intuitive eating is definitely still a work in progress. I’m trying to figure out the right balance of eating when I have an appetite (no actual hunger, just a desire to eat), eating because I know I should (on days with lots of activity, or on days that I have less of an appetite than usual), and eating when I’m truly hungry (the ideal scenario, and also the principle behind intuitive eating).
Nevertheless, I am shocked at how quickly I was able to let go of calorie counting once I publicly exposed the truth. I went from not being able to even fathom how I ever lived without counting calories, to never wanting to go back to that state of mind, all in a few days.
If I can do it, you can too. What is occupying your head space? What are you addicted to? You’ll be amazed what can happen when you let yourself be vulnerable and admit to what you’re going through.