A few weeks ago, Laura wrote about how she had begun counting calories as a means of losing weight. I was really interested in this piece as calorie counting has often been employed by me so that I can try and lose weight or at least maintain a healthy weight. However, since the beginning of May, I have neither weighed myself nor actively counted calories.
“I am an eater of numbers. I prefer packaged foods, foods with a bar code, because they make the math simpler in counting calories and that gives me a sense of peace. It’s just an illusion of control, really, but that illusion is everything.” – Melissa Broder
As someone who has very polarised views, as well as being wholehearted and putting my all into everything I commit to, I could probably rightly claim to have an addictive personality. This clearly has its downsides. If I’m trying not to worry about what I’m eating, I might eat too much and put on weight in a short period of time. The biggest problems for me come If I’m intent on losing weight, however.
I will weigh myself daily and count every calorie that enters my mouth. I become obsessive. I have been in tears if the final meal of the day puts me seven calories over my recommended daily allowance. I will avoid any packaging that shows food that contains a large portion of a particular food group. I will spend ages in front of a supermarket chiller, trying to find the lowest calorie sandwich. If, after all this deliberating, I have still put on weight, I will reduce my intake the next day. My meals, in those moments, have become about numbers instead of nourishment.
I’ve been overweight and in that period of time, I really didn’t like the way I looked. I was desperate to look like I thought I was supposed to, forgetting that at 5 foot 10, I’m unlikely to ever be a size 6. I was appalled at myself and yet, even then, I knew that losing weight wouldn’t change the way I saw myself. Alas, now within the healthy range again, I still dislike what I look like. I’m learning that weight doesn’t equate with happiness.
So what does this mean for me?
I want to be healthy. This is so that, as Laura said, I reduce the risk of disease later in life and my body works well. I want to be eating a balanced meal, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have the occasional cake or a tub of pick ‘n’ mix if I feel like it. I want to treat myself respectfully and this means both not overeating, but also not under-eating as well. Food is meant to nourish us and give us the energy to live our lives. I want to know that I have the capability to do what I want to do, without being hindered by myself. I want to be happy because who I am is enough, whether that person fits into a smaller pair of jeans or has a little bit of flesh overhanging.
The more I practise eating in a way that allows me to keep fit and still enjoy food, the easier I hope it will become. I think I will gradually continue to adjust to what works for me in terms of portion sizes and the food I eat, but I don’t want weighing or numerical values to be a part of that. Having my happiness decided on by something as changeable as a digit means my mood and my self-worth are likely to be all over the place and we all know that’s not helpful.
I'm excited to try and find a place where food isn't another addiction for me. I’ll let you know how I get on in the months ahead!