Yeah…Immaeatthat

Mar 01

Calorie Counting

One of the biggest decisions I made in recovery from disordered eating was to stop trying to control my hunger.  This was a decision I had to be proactive in making.  I had to wake up every day for a couple month and set my intention as, “today I’m going to listen to my body.  I will listen to my hunger/fullness/craving cues and that means eating WHATEVER I am craving even if that means I go days without eating vegetables.  I will not try to make my food look a certain way.” Instead of waking up everyday and thinking the default thought which was, “I’m going to see how little I can eat today…” (and then ending up bingeing at night or on the weekends.).  

At the time when I decided to make this shift I was restricting my food in the morning and then bingeing at night and I was like, “whoa. What if throughout the day at meal and snacks I just ate the food I was bingeing on at night?”

 

The shift towards letting my body decide how much food I needed was helpful.  It took practice though.  You don’t wake up and just know how to listen to your body.  You practice it just like you would practice learning a new language.  Actually, learning to listen to your body cues really is learning a new language.  It’s a silent language that connects your body and your mind.  It takes times for you to learn how to ‘speak’ it.

The biggest point I want to make in this post is: You shouldn’t be afraid of feeding your body.  Your body has the natural ability to tell you when you are hungry and when you are full.

Today I also wanted to have a conversation about calorie counting, because from comments I’ve gotten I believe it is something that quite a few of you struggle with.  I rarely (if ever) even mention calories when working with my clients.  Calorie counting is an external activity that prevents a person from learning how to self regulate his or her food intake.  Calorie counting keeps one from using internal cues of hunger, fullness and self-satisfaction. 

When I come across food at the grocery store that is advertised as being low calorie AND when it makes some reference to how eating that low calorie food will make you thin…it drives me nuts.  Eating low calorie food only ever helped me binge on food more.

From a biological sense, low calorie food should repulse you.  You should seek out food that is going to sustain you and that is higher in calories.  My goal of eating is to be satisfied.  If you are always seeking out low calorie foods, that means you are disconnected from what your body’s needs are.  We aren’t cars.  We don’t only need gasoline to do one type of work each day.  We need a variety of types of food and a variety of amounts of food coming in each day.  Don’t let yourself ruin the joy of eating by thinking about food via a calorie in-calorie out approach.

If you are someone who is stuck calorie counting, I recommend you working with a non-diet dietitian or a certified eating disorder registered dietitian to get you on a meal plan that helps you get away from calorie counting.  Yep, a meal plan.  Some types of meal plans can serve as a bridge to intuitive eating and help you progress out of calorie counting.  A meal plan that doesn’t involve calorie counting gives you a new way to look at food, which you need.  A meal plan can be a reset to get your brain on a path to thinking a different way.  There is no form of intuitive eating that involves calorie counting.  If you’re interested in working with me, feel free to shoot me an email at: immaEATthat@gmail.com

I’d love to hear in the comments section anything you’d like to share about recovery from disordered eating.  Especially tools you used to step away from calories counting, what calorie counting kept you from, and so on and so on:)

79 comments on “Calorie Counting”

  1. I seriously wish everyone in the world (or at least America) could read this post/your blog!

    Somewhat unrelated, but I was wondering if you might be able to do a post (or just reply to this comment) about “gut health.” I know that’s such a buzzword, but I have been dealing with constipation FOREVER and it sucks. I used to restrict and over exercise and was also on antibiotics for probably 3 years straight, which likely contributed. But now I eat “normally” (normal for me) and exercise maybe a few times per week. I try to reduce stress, etc. Still the only way I can go is with coffee! So annoying. Did you have any experience with this?! I know it’s a weird topic but would REALLY appreciate any advice!! Thanks, Kylie!

    • I would also love a post on this. It’s so hard to find resources about GI health that don’t come from a place of fad diet-esque restriction. I was doing so much better eating normally after struggling with disordered eating and then I started having a lot of GI issues which lead me to become very very obsessive about food. The marketing around “fixing leaky gut” is really powerful and I would imagine a lot of others got sucked into the promise of a miracle cure by following some crazy diet. 

    • Agreed! I would also love any thoughts on gastroparesis and delayed gastric emptying especially after restricting and trying to eat more. It’s hard to listen to your hunger if you always feel bloated/not hungry!!

      • Hi Miranda! I commented this comment about gastroparesis on another blog post recently and thought I’d share it here too…

        GI issues in ED/disordered eating recovery occurs in the majority of those recovering. Gastroparesis is one of those GI issues and means “delayed stomach emptying” (aka your stomach holds food longer than it should and makes you feel bloated and nauseous). The treatment for ED-caused gastroparesis is consistent and adequate eating for a couple months + weight restoration if needed. This is one of the things that makes recovery from an eating disorder difficult…you body is saying “this is too much food, I’m uncomfortable” but that is because your body is out of practice on how to digest food properly and accommodate a normal amount of food. Those who are malnourished or in their ED who believe they have food allergies/intolerances because they feel bloated after eating may actually just be struggling with one of the many awful side effects of ED…gastroparesis! You are not in a place to be able to listen to your hunger/fullness cues and will likely need a meal plan for support with how to eat.

        In some cases gastroparesis can become primary and resistant to typical ED treatment. In that case a GI doc needs to be brought in to complete a couple tests for gastroparesis.

        Moral of the story: For most people, you get past gastroparesis by eating regularly throughout the day. Working with an ED dietitian/non-diet dietitian/CEDRD to establish a meal plan and give one support can be extremely helpful.

      • This totally happened to me, too. But what worked was actually eating more throughout the day…small meals every 2hrs (yes, very often). That’s just me though. Anyways, loved this post!

  2. The meal plan I received in treatment definitely helped to stop counting calories. In treatment I was given food that I couldn’t know the exact calorie count for so being forced to break that habit was the best thing for me. I went through a brief stent in college where I would add up my calories in my head (it sucks automatically knowing the calories for everything) but thankfully my life was too full at that point to feel like I had the time or desire to be that hyper focused. 
    Growing an interest in eating at local restaurants helped me to break the habit as well because they don’t have calorie information for all their food unlike chain places. I was able to choose food off of what sounded best rather than what I had looked up and chosen to get before I even I got there. (Yawn)
    Also, switching my mindset from thinking about food as calories to thinking about food as nourishing, life-sustaining has helped too. I would love to see how our society would function without calorie counts. We did so well without them for a very long time, you know? 

    • Thanks for sharing, Kate:) I always love your insights<3 If we didn't have calories I imagine the billion $$$ diet industry would find something else to make people obsess about:( But I like your point that we functioned without calories for such a long time that we actually don't need them to tell us how to eat.

  3. I counted calories for 7 years. In November 2016, I decided I’d had enough. The guilt I felt for eating high calorie foods or “bad” foods was driving me crazy. I stopped counting calories cold turkey. One thing counting calories left me with was a disconnection with my body and my hunger and fullness levels as well as a complete mistrust of my body. I felt that if I just ate what I wanted, listening to what my body was asking for, I would lose control.

    Four months later I have not spun out of control. I’ve been practicing intuitive eating and started moving in ways I enjoy, rather than unenjoyable exercise regimes. It has been scary at times, but also completely freeing. I think the hardest part has not been stopping calorie counting, but losing the guilt associated with eating “bad” foods, especially when friends are on crazy diets. I’m working towards healing my relationship with food and I know I have a ways to go, but your posts have been monumental in my healing process.

    • I’m trying to transition from calorie counting to intuitively eating. My biggest problem is that i’m obsessed with numbers and i still count them in my head. I under ate for the past 12 years and I hardly feel hungry. My question to you Lily is do you still eat when you are not hungry and you know you haven’t eaten much all day?

    • Hi Lily:) Thanks for the excellent comment. I’m so happy to hear about the progress you’ve made and all the things you are learning on your intuitive eating and intuitive movement journey.

      Another commenter mentioned that it was helpful for her to think about people who talk about crazy diets as her ED voice. I thought that was a brilliant idea and maybe you could use it with your crazy dieting friends:)

      I don’t believe there are “bad” foods because all food is protein, carbs and fat and we need all 3 of those macronutrients to sustain life. For example, a chocolate chip cookie has protein from the lil bit of egg, carbs from the flour, and fat from the butter. It’s the perfect food. :) In the beginning of my recovery when I was trying to get over “bad foods,” it was helpful for me to focus on one positive thing about the food my ED could find. My ED was still running the show (which was crap), but it slowly but surely allowed me to introduce all foods back into my life without guilt. For instance adding cilantro to nacho…I’d focus on cilantro. Adding walnuts to chocolate chips cookies…I’d focus on the walnuts. Adding spinach to pizza…I’d focus on the pizza.

      Also, this post on guilt and deprivation may be helpful: http://immaeatthat.com/2016/05/05/how-to-stop-feeling-guilty-when-you-eat/

  4. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m trying to shift my mindset and become my own caretaker to nourish and listen to what my body needs. I was talking with my husband and he mentioned “eating like everyone else.” He was trying to be helpful and give advice, buy I responded by explaining I’m not like everyone else and what my body needs is different from the next and that is what I need to remember. I still tend to fixate on calories, but it’s getting better. I try to tell myself that I didn’t get to disordered eating overnight, so it’ll take a while to break those habits. Getting rid of MFP was a huge help. And just listening to my body is helping, too. I actually have conversations with my body and self in regards to eating, asking myself what I need/want, etc. Thank you for all your posts! I know we can all get through this.

    • Ohh I’ve always loved the term, “become your own caretaker.” Thanks for putting it here in the comments section:)

      I’m so happy you’ve gotten away from MFP. I can not stand them and I encourage clients to delete the app in the first session as a first step away from them.

      Keep trusting that you don’t have to fear feeding your body. You will get through this:) And I love that you ask yourself questions…I do that ALL THE TIME<3

  5. Ugh, this is so timely for me, since a few days ago I decided to try to give up calorie counting once and for all (and failed miserably) calorie counting is the final remnant of anorexia I can’t seem to shake. I stopped working out for 18 months to break the addiction, I ditched my food rules long ago, I’m at a healthy weight and for the most part feel good in my body.

    The thing is, I don’t know how to stop counting calories. I’ve done it since I was 14 (I’m 28 now). I struggle with anxiety and it’s my security blanket and makes me feel in control. Binging was not really something I struggled with, but I still have this fear I am going to balloon overnight if I stop. I’ve gotten to where I pretty much stop on the weekends, but during the week I have a running tally going all. the. time.

    Any suggestions on how to work through the fear and anxiety? I feel like I am SO CLOSE to getting over this hurdle, yet so far away at the same time.

    • I struggle with this too. I am always trying to feel “in control” over as much as a can, but ironically, being so obsessive about calories/working out let me down a path of binging and being completely out of control. “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food” is a book that’s been really helpful for me when I’m feeling anxious and stressed. Also, rediscovering my actual hobbies (before calorie counting and meal planning consumed my life) has also been a really good outlet for me. It sounds so silly but when I’m feeling anxious at night (this seems to be the worst time of day for me for some reason), I have found that using one of those adult coloring books has been a good way to calm down. I always used to binge when I would feel that way, but now I have found healthier ways to channel that anxiety. Hopefully you can find something that helps calm you as well! I also have the fear of “ballooning” overnight, but then I think about how if I’m truly trusting my body and feeding it/not feeding it when it feels right, it will take care of itself.

    • Yael, you took the words right out of my mouth. I’m sorry you’re struggling with calorie counting too.

    • Hi ladies! Thanks for the great comments. There are wonderful suggestions there, Samantha. I am a fan of “50 ways to soothe yourself without food” too. I’d like to put in a reminder that the moment you decide to trust your body…you won’t blow up to X pounds. I agree that if you trust your body and take care of it, your body size will take care of itself. I wrote this post on “how to be okay gaining weight” a while ago. http://immaeatthat.com/2016/05/19/how-to-be-okay-gaining-weight/ In it I site “set point weight theory,” which gives you evidence that your body is not meant to “blow up to X size.”

      Yael and Katrina, it sounds like you need a way to soothe yourself without calorie counting. Like I said to another commenter…

      I wonder if your calorie counting habits sneak in as a coping mechanism in more stressful times…it’s your body trying to take care of yourself like it did in the past. It may be helpful to remind yourself that there are ways to soothe yourself without calorie counting. Even if it’s an automatic reaction to count, it’s good to say, “thanks brain for trying to take care of me, but we don’t count calories anymore.”

      <3

  6. I love that you addressed this! Back in 2007-2009 or so, I obsessively counted calories. I had lists for lists, I’d sit and tally my day, ohmygosh it was absurd. The amount of time I spent planning when eating should just, as you stated, occur when one is hungry and stop once one is satisfied, is just mind-blowing. As a commenter mentioned above, many foods I had memorized, so I could just tally in my head after some time. It wasn’t a change overnight, but eventually I gave it up, then last year I fully gave up measuring with a food scale. It actually weighed me down (couldn’t resist the pun), but in all seriousness, I felt so free when I decided to do away with it. I didn’t “balloon up” or anything of the sort. Now I am continuing to learn more about intuitive eating and incorporating more of its principles into my daily life.

    • This is me! Every night I make lists and plans and more lists…just calculating. It starts out as a way to soothe my anxiety but then I just end up more anxious and wish I could eat normally. I’ve started during the day to gradually stop weighing out some foods (little things- vegetables, jam on my toast), but I still plan out everything I am going to eat then calculate it all obsessively and measure/weigh it all. I’d love to just go with the flow and eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. I’m slowly learning about intuitive eating and diet culture. It gives me a lot of hope to read these kinds of posts!

      • Ellie, check out Jessica Sepel (www.jessicasepel.com and @JShealth). She’s an amazing resource! She has two great books as well as a new Program, and she’s all about reducing stress, eating normally/intuitively, going with the flow, and stopping the diet mentality.

      • OMG your situation is me to a T. Right now i have anxiety as my mom sent me some beef and rice to my office, i know for a fact that i’m low in calories for the day but i can’t process to eat the food, i keep fighting with myself whether i should eat it or not

      • Hi Ellie, Sounds like you understand exactly what is going on…you’re using calorie counting/plans/lists as a way to soothe your anxiety. Have you ever thought of meeting with a therapist to help you discover other ways to cope with emotions? You may need some support teaching yourself that you can soothe yourself without calorie counting. Love to you<3 I'm glad you are learning about intuitive eating and diet culture. I would not recommend @JShealth as another commenter recommended to you. She isn't a dietitian. Nutritionist does not equal dietitian. Nutritionist goes to school for a week and gets a certification...dietitian does to school for 5 years to get their credential.

        • Thanks so much, Kylie! I am seeing a therapist and working on my anxiety…slow process but am determined to figure this all out. I follow the Real Life RD and Rebecca Scritchfield and you but that’s kind of it right now. Thank you! :)

    • I love hearing this, Kori<3<3<3 Keep moving forward on the IE journey:)

  7. I love every single one of your posts. They bring about really pertinent topics that many women (and men) struggle with in silence. I appreciate you bringing these topics to the table and bringing up a non-diet dietician’s expertise about this issue! :)

  8. I counted calories for 18 months as a college student trying to avoid weight gain. It sucked all the life out of eating for me and filled me with so much unnecessary anxiety. I was able to let go when I shifted my mindset to focus more on nourishing the body God has graciously given me. I started asking myself what my body needed, not what my brain needed. I had to be okay with not always having a plan or following a plan when it came to eating. No food rules = a lot more joy.

  9. Yes yes YES! The hardest part for me about quitting calorie counting was that calorie information is everywhere! So many products list it on the front of the box (I had to stop buying that stuff) or in bigger print on the nutrition label. The worst is when I would go to a restaurant and the calorie info would be listed on the menu. That made it so hard to pick what I really was craving. After calorie counting for so long, it was easy to trick myself into thinking that the lowest calorie option was what I was craving. I finally had to just let it go. I stopped doing the internal tally of calories when I was ordering, I stopped even glancing at food packaging and I just forced myself to stop. It does take practice, but it gets easier!

    Thank you so much for always posting such honest and relatable content!

  10. I found that over time I just stopped. Stopped wanting to be a slave to numbers. Stopped writing things down. Stopped thinking about it. From time to time, I thought about it in the back of my head but I just don’t like feeling like a prisoner to my own obsessions. I took control in another way.

  11. When I counted calories, it sucked the joy out of food and took up so much time and headspace! Instead of choosing what I wanted to eat, I was trying to make all my choices fit into a math puzzle (if that’s a thing lol). I eventually stopped counting calories because it got old and my choices were unsatisfying. I still had ideas about good/bad food, which I have worked on in my intuitive eating journey. Thanks so much for all you do, Kylie! It has helped me and others in my life I’ve shared your work with. 

  12. I’ve been calorie counting free 2 months now and I love it. I know you’re not a huge fan of Whole30 but I spent January doing that and I really enjoyed the time away from the scale and weighing/measuring. I’m a lifelong yo-yo dieter who lost X lbs on WW and over the past 8 years gained all but about X lbs back. Since Whole30 I’ve added back pretty much everything, but I am still not calorie counting or measuring my food. I’m down X lbs and it feels effortless. I am deciding what is worth it or not, I had a slice of a friend’s birthday cake but said no to greasy bowling alley food at a work event. What I’m doing really feels sustainable.

  13. Uggghhhhh….calorie counting.  Almost two years ago I began counting in an effort to lose a few pounds.  It seemed so innocent at first and then it ended up becoming a full blown addiction that I’m just now starting to get away from.  I lost my period and became very anxious around food and exercise.  I lost my period and am working hard to regain it.  I’ve gained all the weight I lost back (on purpose) and have cut way back on exercise and still no period.  :-(  I’m so sad and have a lot of guilt for what I’ve done to my body but I’m hoping to come back from this healthier and happier.  Thank you for shedding light on an important topic.

  14. when I worked with Robyn/Cody, something that really helped me to get out of the restriction/calorie counting cycle was that they gave me “permission” to eat whatever I wanted. similar to the meal planning that you suggested above, it helped me that it was robyn/cody who told me what I had to do, instead of constantly fighting an internal battle with myself. i was like, “well I HAVE to eat the whole justin’s packet of PB because they told me i did!” maybe that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but giving the control to somebody else eventually allowed me to gain more control in the long run.

  15. This is a great article. I have always considered my self a food based RD (as opposed to putting too much focus on macros) but I love the idea of a “non diet dietitian”.

    • Non-diet dietitian FOR THE WIN! We need more of them in the world! I can not sit through one more Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics dinners where someone says a comment connecting guilt and food. Ahhhhh

  16. Absolutely love this.  I have practiced flexible dieting/”macro counting” for two years and realized how obsessive and disordered it was when I wasn’t in a contest prep setting (I’m a bikini competitor/bodybuilder).  It’s taken me so long to realize that healthy eating is an intuitive practice that shouldn’t be confined to specific calorie goals – so while I do believe it is the best way to diet for a bodybuilding show… its not for the rest of the 99% of the population! OR for me when I’m NOT dieting.  It keeps me in that diet mindset and is so horrible! Still learning how to let go of looking at something and just seeing numbers, but working toward it everyday (:

    • The bikini competitor/body builder would be a tough world to be in. The entire concept of bikini competing is manipulating your body size…which is something someone with a history of an ED shouldn’t do or what someone with obsessive tendencies shouldn’t do. Do you like Layne Norton? I’m sure you’re familiar with him. Most of his stuff doesn’t make me cringe haha, which surprises me for someone in the bodybuilding/powerlifting community.

  17. This is such a great post! When I was in my ED, I ALWAYS ate under X calories. I had no idea how dangerous that was to my body at the time. What’s even more curious, the way that I came up with this number was based on online food trackers. Though I think sometimes they can be helpful for some people, this is also an example of how some may not understand how food trackers work. Many don’t take into account the calories we burn everyday just LIVING. Once I got started on that roller coaster, it was something that was very difficult to change. For individuals with ED’s, perfectionistic tendencies and numbers are THE JAM, so having a numbers system to track progress can be very obsessive and addictive!

    • Agreed that individuals with ED’s have obsessive, perfectionist tendencies and they can become fixated on calories! But I don’t think online food trackers are helpful for anyone. I much prefer apps like “rise up” that allow you to input food you eat AND also input emotions you were feeling that day that may have triggered food behaviors – overeating or restricting. Then that can lead into a discussion on how thoughts influence feelings and feelings influence behaviors (cognitive behavioral therapy FTW:)!).

  18. I love this “You do not have to be afraid of feeding your body.” I am a month into recovery and I have tried every day to embrace the idea of listening to my body when it’s hungry. The biggest shock to my recovering brain is how HUNGRY I am all the time – after a long period of restricting, my body is still SO hungry, and I often find that I can’t even recognize the extreme hunger until after I start eating. What has helped me cope with this stage in recovery and continue to eat is reminding myself consistently that my body is rebuilding, and does need more food than a person who was not actively restricting. Everything about my ED wants to tell me I’m the exception to the rules, but in reality my body is reacting just like anyone’s would from starvation – it wants fuel!

    • Hello, Metabolic Boost!! Metabolism sky rockets when rebuilding heart and brain muscle. Another analogy that may be helpful is that of burning furniture to keep a fire in your fireplace going. If you had a fire in your fireplace crackling away, you wouldn’t break off the leg of your sofa and throw it in to keep the fire burning…you’d need to go outside and get more wood. So the leg of the sofa is your heart/muscle mass and the wood outside is food. You want to utilize other food for energy…not continue to deplete your heart by requiring it to give up energy to sustain you. I hope that makes sense:) Love to you, Maddie<3

  19. Thank you for this. I’ve stuck ‘You don’t have to be afraid of feeding your body’ on a post-it note on my mirror!

    I still struggle with calorie counting, but one thing that is helpful is buying things that don’t have any nutritional information on them, and making meals from scratch. So rather than buying pre-sliced bread, I’ll buy a whole loaf from the bakery, and rather than buy packeted meat I’ll buy it straight from the butchery counter and so on. That way not only is what I’m buying usually more nutritious, but I physically can’t count the calories in it. Challenging, but rewarding! 

    • Great ideas, Suz:) And I’m so glad that sentence is on your mirror now!

    • I really like this strategy! There aren’t “serving sizes” when you buy food like that either, which encourages us to really listen to how much our body needs and wants. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Cutting calorie counting when the numbers are in your head is so hard! When I got pregnant I told myself I didn’t want to raise my kids worrying about calories. I want to lead by example as an intuitive eater. It took about halfway through the pregnancy to convince myself that it was ok to trust myself. It helped of course that I was supposed to gain weight but I was still worried about gaining too much! My daughter is two months old now and I’m amazed there are actually lots of days I don’t count any meals. Old habits do sneak through here and there but I try to listen to my body as much as I can. I think making recipes you don’t have nutritional info for helps and not measuring things.

    • Thanks for your input, S<3 I've never been pregnant, but I think it's comforting for pregnant women to know that your body knows how to gain weight during pregnancy, just like your body knows how to find the right weight when you're not pregnant. I wonder if your old habits sneak in as a coping mechanism in more stressful times...it's your body trying to take care of yourself like it did in the past. It may be helpful to remind yourself that there are ways to soothe yourself without calorie counting. Even if it's an automatic reaction to count, it's good to say, "thanks brain for trying to take care of me, but we don't count calories anymore."

  21. Wow! I really, really needed to read this today! Thank you for sharing!! <3
    I have personally battled with an eating disorder in the past that has led to some disordered eating now. I use to use "MyFitnessPal" obsessively to count my calories in high school. I would get major anxiety if I did not stay under my allotted calories for the day. When I got to college (I am a junior now) I decided that I didn't want to count my calories anymore, it was becoming too stressful. (I also met my boyfriend around the same time and it was sooo annoying to have to go out to eat and then remember what I ate in order to track it. Talk about taking all the fun out of dating!!!)

    I haven't counted calories in a couple of years but I still struggle with days (like today) where I FORCE myself to eat kale for lunch when all I really want is some Justin's peanut butter eatin with a spoon and some chocolate chips. On days like today, I usually grab that PB after dinner anyways…even if I am not hungry. I just eat it because I feel guilty somehow for not eating it when I wanted it for lunch.

    Our minds are so confusing.

    Anyways, Thank you for writing this article! Your body positivity and embracing who you are gives me ALL THE FEELS. You are the best!! <3

    • There was a dietitian who had a fear of chocolate chip cookies. So she did an experiment where she ate chocolate chip cookies for EVERY meal until her mind was like, “okay you can have cookies.” Sounds like you should do the same with peanut butter and chocolate chips. The goal isn’t to get tired of cookies or PB + chocolate chips…it’s just to stop putting them on a pedestal and realize they are just food:) My life changed when I just ate what I was craving when I was craving it…and I had so much more time to think about things that really mattered!! It’s a waste of brain space to overthink food. Thanks for commenting, Anastasia!

  22. Love this!!! I totally agree on everything! I know so many smart woman who are way too cautious of their calorie and fat intakes.. it’s upsetting to me. I have learned intuitive eating over the past year or two and am feeling much more comfortable with it! 

    • Yay, Krista! Glad you found IE!

      I wanna say to those women…”you’re only using half your brain!” The other half is being clouded with food thoughts! Just think of what you could accomplish if you could harness the power of your entire brain!!!

  23. I struggled on and off with eating disorders and exercise from early high school through college, marriage, and the start of my career. A year ago I got pregnant and figured I’d throw in the towel because if I was gonna be huge, I might as well enjoy it. I ate and ate and ate. I ate white carbs at every meal for 9 months straight and it was amazing. I haven’t looked back very many times since she’s been born (baby is now 7 months) but have been amazed that even with eating a ton (breastfeeding = hungry) I am effortlessly back to my normal size. It blows my mind. I can’t figure out why I spent so long trying so hard to achieve pretty much nothing.

  24. Thank you so, so much for this post and for your social media presence lately in general. I’m finally tackling my ED head on after pretending I was fine for 7 years. Yes, it’s been 7 years since I’ve gotten my period naturally, since I went more than a day without overthinking food choices and feeling guilty for consuming certain things, since… I had a full, real life outside of food!

    This post is very timely for me. I stopped counting calories about 10 days ago, once and for all. I woke up one day and realized enough was enough, I had to just do it and never look back. For the first couple of days, I felt like a smoker getting all twitchy for my fix!! It was crazy how engrained calories counting had gotten. The numbers of what I eat still want to pop in my head but I refuse to tally them. It became a matter of asking myself whether calorie counting was worth the time and energy, and ultimately whether it was a part of the life I wanted. When I finally asked myself this seriously, I knew the answer and that was that!

    Thank you for offering encouraging, body-positive counter narratives in a pop culture world that feels so sizeist and food-fearing. You inspire me every day that recovery is worth it. I just have to stay on this track and celebrate the successes… 

    Cheering you on (usually silently) from afar! x

    • Katie I just wanted to say this is SO inspiring! It has been 7 years for me as well (no cycle etc). I’ve gotten to the place where I start to feel that twitchy feeling you talk about, when I say I’m not going to count calories… but then I give in. I can’t seem to get past that moment of discomfort and anxiety and… twitchiness! I keep trying.. but it just keeps coming back. Anyways. Thank you. 

      • Cora, you got this! Trust me, if I could shake the twitchy feeling, you can too :D It is doable, as obsessed as we are with that count, and as reliant as we’ve become on that validation from keeping it below a certain point..

        It is so, so freeing to have that first day without counting calories. Maybe you can try in steps? ex count one less meal’s worth, and keep doing that til you feel comfortable enough to gradually count no meals?

         Keep trying! You’re worth so much more than the numbers!

  25. So I read your post yesterday and it had me thinking a lot about this.  I don’t know how I stopped counting, but I do know it was a gradual process.  To be honest sometimes I do stop and think “this larabar has such and such calories” but now I can tell myself “ok cool” and just eat it.  So I guess I never really quit counting but I have definetly quit caring.  

  26. Hi Kylie, I so appreciate the message that you are putting out into the world. In my disordered eating healing journey, I always look to your site for encouragement.

    I have a couple of questions though… 1) I stopped caring about calories last fall and I gained 20 pounds pretty quickly. I’ve read what you’ve written about set weight and I believe in that, but I also believe that I am 20 pounds heavier than what my comfortably healthy weight was prior to my significant weight loss due to restriction and over exercising. In reading this post, I realize that while I stopped caring about calories, I wasn’t really listening to my body either… because I overate sweets practically every night. Do you think this is because I had been so strict for so long that I did kind of go crazy with food once I wasn’t restricting? 
    My second struggle is that I am a type 1 diabetic, so counting carbs is something I have to do in order to calculate my insulin dosages. This is where I think my struggles with food originated. It’s really hard to not have that mentality of “good vs. bad food” when I have to worry about my blood sugars every time I eat. I wish I could completely stop counting everything but that’s not possible… and this is why I struggle with most advice on intuitive eating. Managing diabetes has engrained in me a need to be perfect around food, and while I can try to recover from restrictive eating, I can’t heal my diabetes. I just wonder if you have any thoughts on that. 
    Thanks so much! 

  27. If there’s one thing I want most in this world… it is to stop with calorie numbers. To stop the counting.  Its just so hard to believe that this will EVER be possible… ESPECIALLY (my absolute biggest pet peeve and cause of anger right now) since every restaurant has their calorie contents smacking me in the face. I can’t go anywhere any more without seeing calorie numbers … more and more restaurants and chains are now posting their calorie contents right there on their ads and billboards and stick labels. Starbucks has them every where. Mcdonalds has them flashing on their screens as if they were part of the food’s title. Even the fast food pizza place I ordered from on the weekend online had the calories per slice listed beside each ingredient I wanted to add. What are your thoughts on this place our society seems to have come to? Of course, I wish I could see these numbers and not them affect me…. but they do :(. 

  28. I did it for a long time. I am a statistician so I LOVE numbers. It just became 2nd nature which was of course not a good thing. Crossfit changed my life. Not only did it shift my focus from “food is bad I need less of it” to “food is fuel I need more of it”, it also satisfied my number-loving brain as I tracked reps and set goals for lifts, etc. I remember being shocked when I realized I had put on X lbs after a few months – not shocked by the weight but shocked that I was excited about it!

    I would love to hear your thoughts on counting macros though, since that has become so popular. Do you see the value, or do you think it is also a slippery slope? On one hand it makes sense, but on the other, it doesn’t seem to allow for an intuitive eating approach. Thanks!

  29. Loved this blog post!! For me, it relates a little bit to the anxiety accompanying eating while on vacation…it’s easier to eat intuitively when everything else in your environment is staying the same, but when you’re visiting a foreign place that need for control definitely seeps in! I was wondering if you’ve ever done a blog post pertaining to anxiety accompanying eating while on vacation? Or even more specifically (and pertinent to myself as a college student), eating while studying abroad in a foreign country? Thanks always for your posts <3

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  31. Wow this post came at a perfect time! I was just discussing calorie counting with my dietitian this week! She also has a non-diet intuitive eating approach, so her ideas were similar to yours. But the more places I see it, the better. :)

    I know there were a few comments on GI issues, but I would also be interested in more info. I don’t suffer from gastroparesis anymore (although I did seem to have this type of issue when I first started recovering). But I still have lots of gas/bloating. Is this also normal during recovery? Do you have any tips to help with this?

    And one last thing… I subscribed to your blog, but somehow I still don’t get them emailed to me. Did do something wrong? I still check your blog to read the latest posts, but I’d love to get them emailed to me. :)

    • Hey Megan, 
      Just wanted to pop in and say that I too struggled with gas/bloating/constipation during and after recovery. I wish that I would’ve realized that a lot of “healthy food” like raw vegetables, apples, high fiber bars, and beans caused my digestion to be super duper slow, especially since I ate them in large amounts because eating “healthy” was so important to me. I think during recovery GI systems are just a lot more delicate than we realize and could benefit from lower fiber, easier to digest foods. It’s something I wish I would’ve been told! 

  32. Giving up calorie counting is hard. For me, even once I deleted MFP, I still had the caloric content of food stuck in my head since I had logged it for so long. It’s definitely a process. Adding in lots of new foods helped me though, since I had never had them before and had no history of ever looking at the calories!

    Also, I should add that I’m studying dietetics and all of those calorie counts are basically out of my head now. Food doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it :)

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  34. SO MUCH yes to this Kylie; I used to always want to eat things that said ‘100 Calories’; now I usually go for more fats and higher calories.  I’m thankful our bodies were made to tell us what they need.

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  36. Like you said eating low calorie, diet food will only leave you hungry and liable to binge later. It’s always best to listen to your body and fuel it with heathy, nutrient dense foods when hungry.

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