My Fitness Enemy

Have you ever seen the app or website called myFitnesspal?  If you have not seen that in particular I can almost guarantee you have seen some form of digital calorie tracking.  In a world where there is an obesity epidemic I agree that we need to be more aware of our food choices, portion size, dietary needs, etc.  But at the same time, and I have expressed this in a previous rant about calorie counting, I think it distorts our perceptions of hunger and fullness an aids in an already too-high amount of negative self-talk/thoughts.  I am probably definitely biased in my opinion but I know from my personal experience if I did not end my day under what the computer or my phone deemed appropriate it was just another reason to berate myself.

Let me back track a little and explain how I ventured down the road of obsessive calorie counting…

I cheered in college and we got physicals before every season.  Other than that and the doctor’s office I did not really ever go near the scale.  And then senior year I weighed a number I was not too comfortable with and decided I would just ramp up my workout routine and everything would be fine.  At this point I had already exercised in some form every day since I was in high school.  I loved sports, the outdoors and I have always loved the treadmill so increasing my daily amount would be no big deal.  Then I read an article in a magazine that discussed the 1600 calorie diet.  Hmmm 1600, that seemed pretty reasonable and even though I had always eaten healthily I had no idea how many calories I was consuming on a daily basis.

Quick Side Note: My house was pretty clean on the eating front…there were no cereals with sugar added, we did not drink juice, we ate a bagillion vegetables, whole wheat everything, etc.  I had not even had a birthday cake since I was a little girl…later I would realize this narrow way of eating did not help my recovery because I had a lot of food phobias and categorized food as good or bad, which I still very much struggle with, but I will save the rest of this story for another post…

So how was I going to start counting calories?  This was easy to figure out since diet reading material pretty much infiltrates our culture but my first step was to  find out how many calories my body “needed” throughout the day.  Well if this tells you anything I got about fifty different answers from the variety of sites I checked.  (Shouldn’t this indicate that no website can tell you what your body needs?)

The second step was to buy a food scale and some new measuring utensils.  I started weighing everything I ate, measuring things like ketchup, vinegar, lemon juice even.  Then I would write it down what I planned on eating for that day and look it up in an online database, add it up to make sure it was under what the computer said was appropriate.  It had to be more than 500 calories less because as we all know it takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound of weight and 500 calories decreased meant one pound per week.

And then I discovered the world of dieting apps!  Oh my gosh this would be so much easier.  Less math for me, a database right there and a whole new number plan to follow since my first app, Lose It! said my calories should actually be lower than what I initially found.  So in addition to my new math skills I hired a trainer and started training for m first 5k.  Ryan and I were running one together and although I knew I could never keep up with him I wanted to come in under 30 minutes.  I ran every day, rain, shine, pain, anything.  I just wanted to be faster and go longer.

Pretty soon I was up to almost seven miles daily.  My goal was always between four and seven but never ever could I go below four…and I never took a break.  I am really lucky I did no injure myself. *Knock on Wood*

After our wedding Ryan looked at me and expressed his concern, urging me to go see a specialist at the hospital he works.  They enrolled me in their day program, after much protest and deliberation but I was not mentally there.  I didn’t follow any of their advice, still ran every day and sometimes increased my mileage because I was mad at how much they were forcing me to eat! It was more than Lose It! said I could have!

Ryan clicked on my phone to answer it one day and found the app on my phone and he nearly lost it.  How could I still be counting calories and eating way under what the doctor recommend when I was enrolled in a program, not working and going to counseling to work on self-esteem.  I couldn’t answer any of these questions, all I knew was if I did not count, if I did not run, I could not function.

Once he caught on to Lose It!, however I had to find a new app.  Enter myFitnesspal.  This sounded a little more innocent and I hid it in the very back page of my iphone.  This program also gave me a completely different number I was “allowed” to eat and I did whatever it said that would make me maintain, or lose all the weight they made me gain at these stupid programs.

*Note: The only time I did not use the apps was when I was in programs where I was monitored 24 hours a day*

Only recently have I given up my entire devotion to myFitnesspal.  Some days I will completely delete it and then something will compel me to download it again.  It is my form of control, but it is also a source of misery.  Most people determine what they can have to eat by hunger or taste preference.  I went by numbers.  “No CJ you may not have bread with dinner because you had too much for lunch….you need to exercise more tomorrow because your number is red not green meaning you went over your allotted limit!”  It is as if the stupid app is yelling at me.  But sometimes I am more hungry than the number determined.  Sometimes I go out to dinner and do not want to worry as much about what I can and can not have.  But I still have so much difficulty with this.

A computerized program should not determine the function of my body and yet I still let it.  We are all worth more than any number.  We all deserve to enjoy a piece of cake on our wedding day, or any day for that matter.  We should all be able to go to bed without berating ourselves for being “bad” with our diets today.  I wish it were that simple…For anyone else who has a similar problem I understand and can obviously relate.  Sometimes it is really nice to know that at least you are not alone…

How do you feel about the diet-obsessed society?

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6 thoughts on “My Fitness Enemy

  1. You are most definitely not alone!! I go through very similar stages with my “diet” obsession. I have the SparkPeople app for my phone. There are some days where I measure and log all my food and there are days where I don’t log anything. Right now those days where I don’t log anything are becoming more frequent – and I’m okay with that. The days (and weeks) that I have measured and logged my food have not been a total waste though. I learned a TON about portion sizes during those times. All that measuring has given me the ability to eye-ball portions a little better and thus roughly calculate calories in my head for the foods and meals that I’m consuming. Right now, at this point in my life, I’m not focusing on calories, I’m focusing on quality – making the best choices I can at that given moment. I still eat “bad” foods but I know that overall I’m making good choices.

    • Karen that is so awesome! You have such a great outlook on life and I can’t wait to meet you in person! Thank you for all the inspiration!! You are an awesome role model for your girls.

  2. For every time you berate yourself, I want to say one milion times…you are so much more than any number, any amount of exercise or any calorie count! You are a wonderful, kind, caring, intelligent, beautiful woman that i am so glad to be getting to know better and better all the time! I love you girl, you know i do!!! always

  3. I used the LiveStrong app for awhile. And no, I didn’t do it to track dieting and lose weight because I needed to, it was ED driven. My gym actually advocates the “My Fitness Pal” and tries to get people to sign up for it.

    I don’t think the apps are a bad thing, because some people really do need to lose weight for health purposes and could probably benefit from them. But, it is numbers based and I can see where even someone using it in a healthy way could get obsessed with counting and not want to eat with friends or have a random bowl of ice cream, etc, or even eat if they were hungry, if they’d already “spent” their calories for the day.

    These apps are one of the reasons I do not own a SmartPhone anymore, actually…

  4. Pingback: App-Session « Healthy, Happy, Whole

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