On (Not) Counting Calories

I have a feeling this post is going to be exceptionally wordy, so I apologize in advance 🙂

I love weekends because I have time to eat a real breakfast, not just shoveling down a bowl of cereal so I can get to school on time. Sundays require French toast!

I soaked two slices of Ezekiel bread in 1/4 cup of egg whites and pumpkin pie spice and topped them with maple syrup and warm apples. God, it was good. I wish I had time do this every morning. (Another reason I am counting the days until winter break…)

I had grand plans of going to a farmer’s market near my house and then seeing a matinee with my sister this morning. When we got to the farmer’s market, we saw a sign that said it didn’t open until 10! We didn’t want to miss the movie- it’s only $6 before noon, and it was the only time it was playing. Rather than go to the market, we went to a nearby trail to take a picture of what is quite possibly the only leaf changes in Orange County.

If you look closely, you can see almost yellow leaves!

I know it’s horridly blurry, but I dropped my camera (um, two years ago) and it takes really bad pictures!

We stopped at Whole Foods to get something to snack on during the movie. I couldn’t resist getting ice cream. Yes, I ate ice cream at 11 this morning. 🙂

I packed a lunch to eat after the movie. This is what happens when you let a wrap sit in your bag for hours.

It looked horrendous, but it was so good! Feta cheese, leftover cranberry sauce, and leftover sweet potatoes.

I finally found pumpkin yogurt! At Target, of all places.

It was alright. I mixed it with Fiber One, as usual. The kind I make myself is better 🙂

Popcorn was my mid-homework snack.

Dinner involved cranberry sauce again…

…as well as tofu, spinach, and a potato. Someone’s gotta eat that 10 pound bag, and I’m up for the challenge!

Although my meals were rather unspectacular today, they were special for a different reason. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t count my calories today and I did not binge eat. For most people, this is a common occurrence. For me, it’s an anomaly.

When I first started losing weight in April 2009, I signed up on a calorie counting website. I went from stuffing my face with processed junk with no regard to nutrition information to tracking every single calorie that went inside my mouth. At first, I didn’t care too much about the nutrition of what I ate- all I cared about was staying under my calorie goal. Eventually, I started eating a lot healthier and in addition to eating a certain number of calories, I made sure that I was getting enough protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, and so on.

Being obsessive worked- I did start losing weight, and physically, I felt a lot better. But counting calories can cause extreme obsessiveness. A lot of times, I refused to eat anything if I didn’t know the calories or nutrition information. On days where I let myself eat something “off limits,” I would begin to binge eat. I’m not talking about a few hundred extra calories- I’m talking about thousands, and thousands. I have literally eaten to the point where I have unintentionally made myself sick. My mom calls it “feast or famine.” I went to Portland and Seattle in January with her and my sister, and was determined to not blow my ‘diet.’ Every morning in Portland, we would go to a cute little cafe and get breakfast. While everyone else enjoyed coffee and pastries, I would pull a Kashi granola bar out of my purse and eat that instead. I couldn’t bear to eat a pastry, thinking that if I did, I would binge eat throughout the day.

By the time we got to Seattle a few days later, I was going crazy by depriving myself. The hotel we were staying at had a ton of free food in the lobby, mostly candy and ice cream. As soon as I had a handful of candy, it was all downhill from there. I figured that I had already blown that day, and I kept eating, and eating, and eating. Every day we were there, I would eat past the point of fullness. I would eat until I felt I could not eat one more bite, and then I would eat some more. You name it, I would eat it.

This pattern stopped for a while, and I lost a few more pounds and got almost to my goal weight. Then, when I started training for my marathon, I started binge eating more than ever. I gained 24 pounds in less than 4 months, and despite my best efforts this month, Thanksgiving has put me right back to where I started.

Today, I was looking through my fridge and didn’t know what to bring for lunch after the movie. Most of what we have is leftovers, and I didn’t even consider eating them. After all, I don’t know the calories of anything that I made. I thought that if I had even a bite of cranberry sauce or mashed potatoes, I would binge eat throughout the whole day. I remembered last Thanksgiving, when I ate so much that the only thing I had to eat the next day was a Clif bar and a slice of pie, and then forbade myself from eating leftovers at all, determined to stick to my calorie goal.

But something changed today. I really, really wanted to eat those leftovers! So, I decided that I was going to eat them, calorie count unknown. I’ve tried this in the past, thinking that I would go one meal without counting and then come dinner, begin a binge that would leave me sick and feeling guilty. Today, I felt confident that I could eat what I want- within moderation- and enjoy my food without worrying that I’d gain ten pounds overnight.

So, I ate the leftovers. I even had a potato with my dinner and I didn’t weigh it, or measure out the cranberry sauce. And after dinner, I decided I wanted something with chocolate. So I made some chocolate chia pudding that I am currently enjoying, even though I have no idea how many calories are in it.

One of the reasons I love reading food blogs is because I admire how I see people eating healthy, well balanced meals without fussing about the calorie content. I want to eat foods that are good for me, not just low in calories. It feels scary, and a little like riding a bike without training wheels. I’m still scared that this feeling will go away and that tomorrow, I’ll binge eat again. That’s why I’m going to post pictures of my meals to keep me accountable. I don’t want to deprive any more. I want to enjoy eating and take the stress out of it.

Here’s hoping this lasts 🙂

Have you ever counted calories? How did you eventually stop?

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13 Responses to On (Not) Counting Calories

  1. squigglefloey says:

    Hi there 🙂 Just found your blog! Yay for finding other So. Cal bloggers 🙂
    Congrats on the intuitive eating. That really is quite an accomplishment…I don’t really count calories, but sometimes I find myself estimating in my head. I used to though, but now my meals are small and spread out at random times throughout the day so I tend to not.

    • Are you in Irvine too?! I just read your page and I saw that you go to UCI. That’s awesome! I don’t go there but I live fairly close. 🙂 Thanks for the support! It’s not as scary as I thought it would be yet. I’m also trying to move towards small meals throughout the day. Feeling like I’m constantly eating seems to be a good defense against binging.

      Thank you for commenting!!

  2. Good for you! I saw a dietician in college and she always told me that the more I feared a binge, the more likely I would binge. I was scared of bingeing, all I could focus on was bingeing so I just did it. I binged so I wouldn’t have to live in fear anymore [that day]. Does that make sense? She advised me to 1) eat more and 2) plan a binge. Not a big one, but a moderate one. Plan to eat whatever it is that’s unknown i.e. coffee and pastry. Then when you end up eating it, it’s not “getting off track” or “messing up.” Try it and see where that leads you. Perhaps your eating won’t be as extreme on both ends.

    Also there are a ton of books you should check out: Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth, Fit from Within, Intuitive Eating. All great books.

    • THANK YOU! I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and a lot of your posts helped me make this decision! What your dietician said makes sense. I will definitely give it a try, as well as the book recommendations. Again- thank you! Your blog has been so helpful to me, and I really appreciate the advice 🙂

  3. Thank you for your comment on Meals and Miles. I gave it my all and never gave up.. Have a great night.

  4. Rachel says:

    Wow! Brain twin!! I feel like you just told my story with food/eating. I just found your blog, but I plan to keep reading. Hopefully, we’ll both get the hang of this eating thing. 🙂

  5. Runeatrepeat says:

    Totally appreciate this post and I “get it”. It’s the best feeling to just be okay with what you eat and not restrict or binge.

    Wait, you’re in SoCal?! Very cool 🙂 I am too!

  6. Colleen says:

    Sorry to be so late in posting, but I just found your blog too! First of all, you’re off to a great start – being out there and honest with yourself about what is happening with your eating, and figuring out the cause-effect thing (i.e. restricting often leads to a binge) is a HUGE first step. I struggled with this for about 2 years and have recently gotten it way more under control. I recommend the books Allie mentioned and try to not label foods as bad or off limits. It’s just a food, and yeah, while many foods aren’t good for you, if you want something, eat it. If you restrict, you’ll pretty much set yourself up for a binge, and it sounds like you have acknowledged that. A “mess-up” doesn’t HAVE to lead to a binge – it’s about your attitude about the “mess-up.” I know that sounds really black and white but labels, and also how you view certain foods and yourself when you eat them, are important!

    • This is a great point- thank you! I agree with everything. I saw everything in black and white in terms of eating, and that’s what set me up to binge. The more lenient I’ve been, the less I have wanted to binge 🙂

  7. Pingback: Just Say No? | What Kate is Cooking

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