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How Tracking Calories Led to Disordered Eating.

April 21st, 2018 it is my grandfather’s (mom’s dad) birthday and it is desserts galore. Also tacos. I ate without restrictions knowing the next day I was starting my six-week “get ready for Mexico diet”. My plan after watching numerous YouTube videos was to start tracking macros/calories for the first time in my life. I came home that day after my grandfather’s party and jumped on the scale: 147 lb. This was not alarming since that had been my average weight for years. BUT with Mexico (beach) in the near future, I wanted to see if I could change my body. My goal was to lose anywhere from 5-10 lbs. in 6 weeks, which was a pretty big goal to me.

April 22nd, day one of macro counting! If you are unfamiliar with “macro counting” in simple terms it is counting the macronutrients you are eating on a daily basis. It is like counting calories but a step further by tracking the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat you intake per day. First step was downloading My Fitness Pal. Then, based on a VERY GENERIC formula from bodybuilding.com, I found what my macros had to be in order to lose .5 -1 pound per week. The greatest shock for me was how I needed to stay under 40 grams of fat. Well…that was hard! I was coming from eating mainly paleo which is pretty high in fat and on average I hit 40g of fat after breakfast and a few snacks. Hello egg whites and ground turkey goodbye almond butter and avocado.

April 23rd-June 3rd, 6 weeks of macro counting in the books! I survived having on average 37g of fat per day for 6 weeks! I had about 160g of carbs and 140g of protein (1400-1700 cals per day). I thought I felt great since my body was changing. I was lean and mean, LITERALLY (mood swings lol). The weekend before Mexico I jumped on the scale and was 132 lb. That’s 15 pounds down! I was proud of myself and thought I had found “my thing”. I was constantly receiving compliments and “felt great”.

June 4th-June 12th, MEXICO! I had reached my goal of loosing weight and felt amazing. I was the most confident I had ever been in a swimsuit. I told myself I would lay off My Fitness Pal in Mexico but I had become so attached and was afraid to over eat and gain the weight back I had lost. While I was not restricting myself, I was still entering all of my food WHILE ON VACATION! Not fun I know.

My husband always says whenever I use the saying “long story short” my stories are never short (LOL) BUT…long story short, I continued tracking my macros after Mexico religiously. Here’s where the negative side of macro counting hit me. I have become OBSESSED with tracking my food. My Fitness Pal is my most used app. I have become attached with My Fitness Pal that until this day it gives me anxiety with just the thought of not tracking my food in fears of “overeating”. I have lost sense of my intuition, I no longer trust my own body.

Now, for the more personal talk: period talk. Right before I started counting macros, I came off birth control and got my period weeks later, yay! The following month (1 month into macro counting), no period. I surely thought it was because of the 5 year IUD birth control. 2 months…3 months…9 months…1 year…no period. This comes in a time when EVERYONE is wondering when my husband and I are having a baby. It is very hard when 500 family members constantly bring up the baby question and you are struggling. Without getting too science-y, over-exercising, constantly being in caloric deficit and under-eating fat causes and immense amount of stress (especially to women). Our body is smart and it wants to survive. When all of the stressors listed above are present, our period goes away because our body cannot support our reproductive system. Also, dietary fat is a precursor to the production and/or regulation of hormones: WE NEED FAT. (RESOURCE FOR YOU: “Beyond the Pill” by Dr. Jolene Brighten AND “Period Repair Manual” by Lara Briden)

After over a year with still no period and not agreeing with going on “the pill” to regulate my hormones (counterintuitive), here’s my solution: eat more and exercise less. WHAT? I literally live in a gym and eat more? Gain weight? I was not having it. I was fighting it…I am fighting it. I consider myself a confident woman but seeing my body change the past few months from my “Mexico” lean body has been a huge struggle. I no longer have visible abs, legs are not as lean, and the scale has gone up. But why do I care? Why should I care? I WAS NOT HEALTHY. People may see a lean body and think healthy, but our body image is not indicative of health! As a coach in the fitness industry this is hard. People (whether they say it or not) validate you based on your appearance. These are the struggles I am dealing with today and this is why I am sharing my experience.

I want to spread a new message about health and wellness and even fitness. We cannot tell if someone is healthy based on their physical appearance. Period. When we are are seeking health for the sake of truly being healthy versus weight-loss goals our body will be at its optimal weight. This may look like six pack abs for some but not for others. It may mean being okay with those extra 10 pounds we are constantly tying to loose. This is hard and it’s a mindset shift I have been trying to work towards. As far as fitness goes, remember that exercise is stress on your body. Our bodies cannot tell the difference between stress coming form exercise or stress caused by a work deadline. If you need to scale back on exercise THAT IS OKAY.

If you are struggling with something similar to what I have been going through, here are my thoughts:

  • Everything around us is telling us and showing us what the ideal body looks like (or should look like). It is not your fault.
  • No one has the right to comment on your body. NO ONE.
  • We don’t have to LOVE love our body everyday, it is okay to feel neutral. There is so much more to love about ourselves than physical traits!
  • Once again, our body image is not indicative of health. (RESOURCE FOR YOU: “Health At Every Size” by Linda Bacon)
  • Our bodies are not failing us, they are trying to survive and get us healthy, we are in charge of that INCLUDING our mindset.
  • You have to be your own advocate but also, seek help. I started seeing a therapist that specializes in eating disorders and advocates intuitive eating through Kaiser (Bay Area) and she is amazing! She suggested writing this post and sharing my experience.
  • Ladies, we have a clear “report card” of health: our menstrual cycle. Pay attention to what is happening along with other markers of health. (RESOURCE FOR YOU: “Beyond the Pill” by Dr. Jolene Brighten AND “Period Repair Manual” by Lara Briden)
  • Dieting is exhausting! A quote from Healthy At Every Size: ” Instead of putting our energy into thinking about how we can improve the world, we obsess about how we can change our bodies.”

I hope this post has sparked some thought and from here on out, my website and blog will focus on health and wellness which ironically, was my original goal. The past year I have neglected my blog because I felt like a hypocrite posting while I was eating egg whites, protein bars, chicken breast, and “zero calorie” foods. The therapist I saw asked me to think back to before I started tracking calories and what my relationship with food and my body was back then. Well, I was eating intuitively and confident with how strong my body was. That is my goal today. To get back to where I can once again trust my body and focus on all the other amazing aspects of my life that are not entirely about my body.

Disclaimer: There is nothing wrong with having weight-loss goals. Same goes for tracking food which can lead to positive changes, this is simply my experience. When your motivation and mindset surrounding weight-loss comes from a healthy place, I think it’s okay, BUT BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.

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