I have seen so many arguments online. Should you calorie count? Is it really that helpful? Or is it damaging?
Some people argue that it can lead to eating disorders. I can understand that point. I can see how it would be so easy for a person to latch on to the calorie counting–to let the numbers come to control their life. It starts as a simple task of reducing your daily intake. Then it becomes a game of how low can I go. Then it becomes “I have to eat under 1000 calories a day” and “I’m such a disgusting human if I go over.” And finally you’re in the hospital because your mom saw every last rib when you were trying on prom dresses and didn’t lock the changing room door behind you.
I tried calorie counting for a while and lost 70 pounds very quickly. Of course, I was also going to the gym three days a week and seeing a nutritionist. And then it all went to hell. It was insidious at first. I played fast and loose with measuring my food. Then I stopped being religious about recording what I ate when I ate it, so by the end of the day it was inevitable I would forget things. Then I would skip days because “I ate really healthy today, I know I was totally within my calorie budget.” And slowly I stopped altogether. And I stopped going to the gym. And I started rescheduling appointments. And I gained back twenty-five pounds in four months.
In a lackluster, not-really-a defense, I was super stressed out because we bought our first house and immediately everything started breaking / going wrong.
When I stepped on the scale a month ago I knew it couldn’t continue. No matter what life was throwing at me (and trust me, some days I feel like the dartboard at a state fair) I have to take care of myself. But I could not let myself become obsessive. I have a very “addictive” personality in that I can latch onto things very easily. Before (as now) I had to be aware that I could not let myself go down that path. As much as I want to weigh less, I can’t let myself live off of celery sticks and seltzer water. Because I would do it.
So, I tested out several different calorie trackers to see if there was another one out there that might work better for me than my old one (there was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t my favorite). And when I found one I really liked I ponied up and purchased the premium membership. I am notoriously frugal, so I felt that this would not only unlock some features I wanted but it would encourage me to use it. This app analyzes my eating patterns and make suggestions for ways to optimize. It notices that I eat less calories in the afternoon on days where I have a second cup of coffee in the morning. Does that mean anything? Maybe, maybe not. But I’d rather know so I can make my own inquiries.
I think the key this time around is moderation. I don’t want to live off broiled grapefruit and Metamucil. What’s the point of living longer if you aren’t going to enjoy it? So I have decided that this time the purpose of the calorie tracker isn’t to shame me into eating the “right” foods. It’s to give me perspective on the quantities of foods and let me live my life. If I’ve only got 100 calories left for the day and I’m dying for some candy I can have four Peeps… Or only half a Snickers. If I’m going out to eat for dinner and I only have 600 calories left I can still order anything I want, but if it is 800 calories I can only eat 3/4 of it and the rest needs to be put in a go-box. Better yet, since it’s hard to accurately portion food out at a restaurant, err on the side of smaller and only eat half. And if I accidentally go over, tomorrow is a new day with new choices and new ways to improve, but I won’t learn anything if I don’t track it.
So that’s why I count calories. Do you track? What app do you use? Let me know in the comments below.