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How Counting Calories Can Turn Into an Unhealthy Obsession

via Aloha

via Aloha

I’ve never been naturally skinny.

When I was 15 I decided that I wanted to lose weight as I didn’t like the way I looked. I hadn’t outgrown my baby fat and I had also been eating like garbage and didn’t exercise. So, when I made a New Years resolution to lose 20 pounds, I stuck thigh gaps and six packs on my bedroom walls. I started counting my calories. Using My Fitness Pal, I counted the calories of every single thing I ate every day for a year. I became obsessed with it; I weighed myself every morning and my life became numbers. An innocent attempt to lose a few pounds turned into a series of unhealthy thoughts and emotions that I still experience 3 years later.

Eventually, I stopped counting calories with an app because I didn’t need one anymore. I knew the calorie count already because I was so hyper focused on it throughout every day of that year. And if there was ever a day where I exceeded my calorie limit, I hated myself for it. It was the definition of mental torture that I did unto myself without realizing it.

According to Pilates Nutritionist, it isn’t much worth it either. Labeling Laws let’s a 20% margin error pass through its nutrition labels. Meaning that legally a 500 calorie dinner plate could actually be 600 calories. Yikes.

For a nation that diets compulsively, America is the 10th fattest country in the world. Western culture is packed with ways to change who we are at the cost of poor health, and a sense of self-defeat if we eat a slice of cake. The solution is to trust our bodies.

We have a natural clock that tells us when we are hungry and when we are not. As the Diet Doctor puts it,

“What if I told you I know someone who counts his every breath and tries to make sure the number of breaths matches his calculated need for oxygen? Who’s afraid to sleep and lose count of his breaths?”

This example is not that far astray from calorie counting. When we sleep we let our bodies do the breathing for us; we don’t need to count every breath. The same concept applies to counting calories. We have to trust our bodies’ amazing ability to  give us the nutrients and energy we need, and not face the black and white comfort of numbers. Low-calorie is not the same as healthy.

I still wake up in the morning and think about the food I will eat that day, and what it will do to my body. But learning to love myself enough to trust my own internal system has been the hero to me. When I wake up in the morning, I trust my weight and I trust the food that I chose to eat.

There are other ways to achieve your goal aside from counting calories, which is something that I cannot stress enough. Self-love is the most important ingredient to every meal.

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I'm a freshman at Webster University in St. Louis, MO, studying journalism. Bored and raised in the same spot. I have a deep emotional pallet for woman's rights and vegetarianism. #havetheguts

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