Weighing In: The Great Calorie Debate

Thank you Karen for the comment yesterday! It got me thinking about how goals are awesome! We need goals in order to keep us on track and motivated, but we do not need them to be another reason for negative self-talk.  They are just goals and tomorrow will always be a new day! Phew, I needed that because I am having trouble with all one specific goal…listening to my body.

Calories used to control my life.  I had so many rules regarding nutrition labels, daily allotments, how much I could have by certain times of the day…and regardless of what my body said, I could not/would not listen, if it broke one of my rules.  Sounds silly right?

There was a point when I had a relatively healthy relationship with food.  In college I was pretty active.  I was a cheerleader for both football and basketball, which meant practice or games 3-4 times a week, sometimes more.  I was a waitress so I spent 6-8 hour shifts on my feet 1-2 days a week.  And I still went to the gym every day to lift, walk, run or do some other form of cardio because I liked the stress-relief and “me-time” it provided.  Not to mention I lived with four boys who always kept me on my toes and usually drug me along on their daily shenanigans.

With all this activity I was hungry!  I usually ate breakfast alone, had lunch in the cafeteria with my girlfriends and since the guys played hockey and had practice as well, we would typically have dinner as a “family” after we were all home from a long day.  In between I would snack when I wanted, usually ate before bed as we were all sitting around watching tv or talking.  I did not restrict or really worry about calories, I just tried to eat whole grains, incorporate fruits and veggies in all my meals, and have an adequate amount of protein.  So when the heck did calories become such a big deal?!

I can’t pin point the exact time but I do remember several situations where I became more aware of calorie monitoring…

1. Magazine articles

I love SELF, Shape, Women’s Fitness, Health, etc.  I love these magazine because I think they provide interesting information and a ton of healthy recipes, stories, and ideas, but I can also remember reading articles about 1200-1600 calorie diets and thinking, “omg, I should see how much I am eating because if these women can run fast and look this great on this many calories then I should do this too!”

2. Biggest Loser

I love this show.  The stories touch my heart and I just want these people to have a better life but the show does revolve around extreme food restriction and excessive exercise.  I understand these people have a limited amount of time to lose a huge amount of weight, so I don’t understand how my mind decided I should adopt some of the same calorie cutting techniques as the contestants, but somewhere along the lines their suggestions seeped into my brain and translated into an obsession.

3. Post-College Job

This is probably the biggest factor I can think of.  When I graduated college I had a history/political science degree.  What the heck was I going to do with that?! I was fortunate because I applied for a job at the VA Medical Center in the HR Department and got it.  Full benefits, awesome starting salary, paid travel time…on paper the perfect job for a newly married girl in her young twenties.  WRONGO! I HATED HATED HATED sitting at a desk.  I hated that I disappointed employees because I could not give them everything they wanted.  I hated feeling so helpless.  There were things that I loved, like the people I worked with and my nice new paychecks, but money isn’t everything.  I started thinking, “I am sitting all day, I can’t eat like I used to!.” And in a generic sense I was probably right, but at the same time I started running farther, faster, and competitively.  I got up every morning religiously and ran anywhere between 4-10 miles.  I never ever ever missed a day.  It was like the only way I knew how to function.  (Hello, that’s what they call addiction!)  So regardless of my thoughts of not being able to nourish myself because I was leading a “sedentary” lifestyle, I probably still needed a relatively high amount of energy to function properly.

So my dilemma now is how does one get out of the calorie counting mind-set?  How do we ignore the multiple sources out there that state women should only have this amount per day.  How do we override this destructive mentality?  Because some days my body wants more than the number I want to allow myself.  Sometimes my body is hungry at times other than meal times.  So how do you listen to your body?  Do you think these numerical restrictions are a bad idea? 


3 thoughts on “Weighing In: The Great Calorie Debate

  1. What a really great post CJ!! I definitely have days where I struggle with a similar battle. I go through phases where I count calories and then phases where I don’t and I have yet to find the happy balance in between. I know that some of it has to do with loving my body for what it is – and I’m working on that. I’m generally happy with my body but I have my days where I get down on myself. I just try to remember the big picture and my goal of leading an overall healthy life. Twenty years from now do I want to look back on my life and remember the days I struggled with these issues or do I want to remember living a fun life guided by basic healthy living principles.

  2. I really enjoy the way you write. I don’t know if I have an eating disorder, as in I have no official diagnosis as I have not sought any help. I work in mental health, i have worked in eating disorder units and if I was looking at me from an outside perspective I would agree that I am ill. But I can make up excuses for myself because I am me-I’m too fat to have an eating disorder, people who have ED are elegantly tragic etc.
    Part of me doesn’t want to seek help because I am not ready to let go yet, I tell myself I will seek help when I have reached my target weight and dress size, and by then I’ll be in total control and I wont need any help. Baring in mind I am much nearer to overweight than underweight (as things stand) I can’t eat any more than 1000 cals per day.
    Your post made me think about all the nutritional knowledge I have gained over the years. I have no idea where or when I started to notice calories. At high schoool I’d heard about them but I certainly didnt think they were real.
    I feel like I have been crept up on and kidnapped….

    • if there is any question, i would say you have an eating disorder, especially judging by what you said about “reaching your target weight and dress size and being in total control.” you need help and get it fast. trust me, the longer you wait the harder it is. if you ever need to talk hun, feel free to e-mail me. you sound like you have such a kind heart, and i do not want you stuck in a life of misery. please please please seek help.

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