This is a topic that’s been on my mind for awhile, but I didn’t quite know how to put it into words. I’m going to try my best and apologize in advance for the length of this post.
I believe I’ve mentioned my old habits of calorie counting briefly before, but today I want to talk about it a bit more in depth.
When I was a sophomore in college, I interned for a Pittsburgh-based fitness-tech company [called BodyMedia]. The company’s product was an armband that users would wear 24/7 and it would track calories burned throughout the day and while sleeping. It also came with software that allowed users to input the foods they were eating throughout the day. Ultimately, it showed calories consumed vs. burned, and provided tips on how to burn additional calories.
I immediately fell in love with the product. All of the employees wore an armband and I was given one as well to have during my time with the company. I wore it all the time and loved when people would ask ‘Hey, what’s that on your arm?’ I would give them the whole spiel which made me feel like a real fitness guru.
It took me about a month of using the device to become really obsessed with it. There were certain moments when I wouldn’t wear it, but most days, I wore it proudly. I “had to” for my internship. I would go the gym most days, track calories consumed while sitting in class and come home eagerly at the end of the day to see how many calories I had burned/consumed.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t need to lose weight and I knew that, but I still had some weird fascination with knowing how many calories I was consuming. Deep down I knew I didn’t need to be tracking calories, but I “had” to know how many calories were in my turkey sandwich every day and how many calories I could avoid if I didn’t eat cheese etc. The thing that got me most was alcohol. And, let’s face it, avoiding alcohol in college is difficult. If you avoid it, you seem antisocial, and I never wanted that. Instead, I just wouldn’t eat much throughout the day if I knew I was going to be drinking that night. Let me just say, that rarely ended well. My internship lasted 6 months and afterward, they let me keep my armband. Technically you had to purchase a subscription with the band, so after having the band for nearly a year, my subscription finally expired. I think that was the best thing to ever happen. Being the cheap-ass I was (and still am!), I knew I didn’t want to pay for the subscription, so I stopped counting calories.
….until I discovered the Lose It! app, which I was so excited about. I didn’t have to stop tracking calories! I could continue this process forever, I thought. I couldn’t tell you how long I used the app–not long–before I just couldn’t do it any longer. I didn’t want to track my calories anymore. I didn’t want to put forth the effort and something in my brain clicked that I didn’t need to track calories. That tiny voice that had been there all along started screaming at me and telling me that I was being ridiculous, so I listened. It wasn’t until after I stopped that I realized what a toll calorie tracking had taken on me mentally. I didn’t have an eating disorder, not even close, and for that I am thankful. What I did have was an obsession with calorie counting, even if only for a semi-short period of time.
Lately, I’ve felt so disconnected from calories and I couldn’t be happier. I still sometimes get curious about how many calories I’m burning during my workouts, but the majority of the time, I focus on how I feel after I workout. I focus on how both exercise and food make me feel. I eat when I’m hungry and I stop when I’m full, though I know that simple statement can be much easier said than done. It takes work, but it’s very rewarding to be able to do both of those things with ease.
I believe that health is a feeling of confidence and happiness, not a number on a fitness tracker or the scale. I think it’s good to be mindful of what you’re eating rather than paranoid, and to remember that numbers do not define who you are and how you should feel about yourself. YOU get to define that. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Eat food that nourishes your body and your soul, and try to exercise most days, but for goodness sake, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t fit a workout in or if you eat a piece of cheesecake. We all need cheesecake sometimes! And while you’re eating that cheesecake, savor the moment rather than thinking, Hmmm I wonder how many calories are in this. That completely defeats the purpose.
Phew, I’m exhausted, and now I kind of want cheesecake, and a salad, followed by a nice power walk. I don’t know how many calories are in a piece of cheesecake or how many calories I burn when I go on my power walks, and that’s ok. I don’t need to know. I love both of those things so I’m going to eat my cheesecake and go on my power walks because they make me feel good. That’s what life’s all about isn’t it?
No questions, just thoughts <3