Hi Ladies - I am after some advice.
I am finally after many many years of ever exercising under eating vegan hell i am choosing recovery with the help of a wonderful therapist and support team. This site is amazing and i have followed Swigg for years and recently started binge listening to and watching Tabitha Farraar who i am really enjoying. I am conquering a few fear foods and releasing the gym obsession however i cannot stop calorie counting. I have no idea how to eat without those numbers. I always try to keep to 1300 however yesterday i hit over 2000 and the guilt i feel is so extreme. Guilt because i am still hungry and can only imagine how much i would overshoot if i wasnt counting. How on earth do people eat and not count? How do they stay a standard size. I want out of this mental prison so badly but just cannot stop. My Fitness Pal was such a bad idea for me and i just cannot release it. How did you overcome this if it was something you did? I would appreciate anything you could offer.
Hi Sherlihy. I’ve been working on becoming a Happy Eater for the last couple of months, so all of this is very much a work in progress for me too. The way I started was to just eat anything I wanted. At the beginning, I had several days where I ate chocolate all day long. I probably at over 5000 calories and it was really scary. I felt the guilt and anxiety and out of control and thought “this will never end”. But it really doesn’t go on forever. My appetite has really started to go down and my plate looks like a “normal” amount now. I’ve been following my own rule - that if I trigger an anxiety attack when I go to get a food because that was previously on my “bad” list, that really means that I should eat it. Once you get into it, it is actually fun eating all the foods you’ve missed out on for so long. Also reading The F*ck it diet was really helpful for me starting this too.
The latest Tabitha video is on "How to know how much to eat without counting calories."
I really appreciated the part where she talked about the "I'm only counting calories to make sure I'm eating enough" argument. She says, "No you're not." LOL It's true. All of my reverse dieting math stuff was still ultimately about the fear of eating too much and gaining weight. I was willing to eat more, but only if I was doing it right and safely according to internet gurus. I also loved the "Why aren't you trying to measure how much you're peeing?" part. Hey, there's another bodily function you don't have to worry about at all because your body handles it. Another really important point is that the calorie information on various foods is seriously wrong, and that all bodies handle the food differently anyway. So your math is bogus even if you're diligent about it. I've seen a definite difference in how my body handled food when I was chronically underfed versus how it handles food now that there is always enough. Now, I can truly eat whatever, whenever, and as much as I want and my weight is completely stable. Then, I was experiencing big, scary weight fluctuations any time I changed anything, which in my disordered mind only confirmed that all this math stuff was important and necessary. In fact, it just meant that my hormones, electrolytes, and digestion were out of whack from restriction.
Hi Sherlihy! I really relate to your experience with calorie counting being the hardest thing to shed. Especially when the behaviours surrounding it become so habituated. I can't say that I have conquered it yet... but I make progress all the time. I was at that place too - where I honestly didn't know how to feed myself without numbers and weighing and measuring my food. I had a pattern of X calories for breakfast, X amount for lunch and X for dinner and then if there was any left that was a snack or extras. I couldn't just get butter out of the container - it had to be measured on the scale and it had to be 5g... I couldn't go out to dinner or eat something that I hadn't tracked myself without there being screamingly loud mental noise about the calories of the meal and trying to tally it all up while I was eating and barely even being present with the people I was with etc etc etc. But I just started practicing. I can go a meal, a day, weeks without engaging in those behaviours.... When I am stressed or anxious, they come back with a vengeance but I just keep letting it go. The noise gets quieter and the urges lessen and now I just can't be bothered a lot of the time. It gets easier. But it feels so scary at first. You can do it!
Sometimes when we’ve been chronically underfed, our brain is flooded with fear and anxiety. It may not be logical or well-defined at all, but it feels like the situation is dire and everything is an emergency. I suspect it‘s our stress hormones doing their thing, the adrenaline, cortisol, fight or flight situation. It’s amazing how huge every problem seems when we’re in that state and how a sense of peaceful wellbeing can settle in once we’re eating enough. I had horrible insomnia and anxiety when I was undereating, especially when I was not getting enough carbs and fat. It felt like I was always one step away from some kind of meltdown.
I'll also add that it wasn't food or weight that was the real issue, but my unquestioned fears. "If I eat the wrong way, if I gain weight, if I don't follow my rules, then __________ (insert end of the world scenario)." Addressing that irrational fear makes change possible. If you leave the fear in place, it will always drive your behavior in unproductive ways.
Well, first, I did day one like 157 different times because I'm a slow learner. LOL Nobody starts one day and then everything is fine. It's more like an ongoing process to let go of diet rules and learn to eat normally. The idea is to eat whatever you normally eat but leave the math out of it and start to pay attention to how what you normally eat feels. Are you still hungry? Too full? Not satisfied with your choices? It's a matter of repeated, ongoing practice and gradually increasing awareness about how your choices feel. It's definitely not a plan that you're going to do right or wrong.
You can always have a snack without adding it up.
Your amazing as always. Another question? What does day 1 look like? I just had lunch and havent logged - i dont want to but am feeling like i cant have a snack without adding it up. How did you do day 1?
First, it helped to realize that I had been sold an absolute lie about what was an adequate food intake. 1,300 calories is not enough food for a small child. It’s not enough for someone in a coma. It’s sure not enough for a sedentary adult, and it’s laughable for an active adult. Add a thousand calories and you’re still too low for the vast majority of people. Double or triple it and you’re still too low for someone recovering from an eating disorder and experiencing primal hunger. So that helped, realizing that my calorie “goal” was a dangerously disordered bunch of crap and not what real people actually eat.
As far as the mechanics of actually stopping the math, I was saying in my own head “No!” or “Stop!” a million times a day. Every time I started to calculate or think about numbers, I would stop myself and focus on something else, anything else. Over and over again. I stopped looking at nutrition labels altogether, not when I was shopping, not when I was about to eat, not at all. Of course, I’d memorized the nutrition breakdown of absolutely everything I was eating, so I incorporated more foods I was unfamiliar with or unable to calculate, like complex recipes, restaurant food, and meals others had prepared. The more I shut down the mental tallying, the more my brain got the message it wasn’t important. Eventually, it faded from disuse like high school French. Thoughts you use and repeat every day stay strong. What you neglect weakens and goes away.
I love Tabitha Farraar’s advice to do the opposite of what your eating disorder voice is telling you. The more you do that, the faster you recover. If it says to choose the lower calorie option, choose the more delicious and energy dense one every time.
As far as the fear of weight gain, not weighing myself helped tremendously. Instead, I focus on how I want to feel and how I want to treat myself. My body image is the worst when I’ve been treating myself horribly, regardless of what I weigh. I had to reframe my fearful, disordered thoughts on food and weight. I want to be strong, active, healthy, and happy. I want a fast metabolism. I want peace around food and confidence in my own choices. Strict dieting and semi-starvation undermines everything I want.