I'm in a really weird place right now with all my healthy choices but I still really like you! Seriously, it's not you - it's me. We canstill be friends right?
Calorie counting was like a really controlling, abusive boyfriend who told me every day that I wasn't worth anything unless I stayed under my calorie limit. Since then, I've found something way better - moderation combined with clean eating. Here's how it all went down:
A couple years ago in high school, I joined the Tumblr fitness community. It seemed everyone I followed was recommending MyFitnessPal and posting their food intakes every day. I started an account myself out of curiosity. According to its calculator, to reach my goal weight in a couple months I'd have to eat about 1640 calories a day. I was eighteen. To put that in perspective, the recommended daily caloric intake for a nine year old girl is 1600 calories.
I was tediously measuring out my food every meal. I would buy anything that had "low calories" advertised on the front including cookies and cakes. If I went out with friends or family, I'd have to research what I should eat at the restaurant and how it would impact my total for the day. Would I have room for an 600 calorie slice of cheesecake? No? Better skip breakfast and my morning snack. I was devastated if I went over my total calorie count by even 100. In my mind I was adding another week onto my goal.
It wasn't long before I realized that this whole calorie counting thing had to stop. I was never not hungry for one thing. I was also choosing processed, refined and sugary foods over fruits and vegetables. I never learned better eating habits, I was just adapting them so they fit into a number, if that makes sense. Because of this, I felt sluggish, irritable, and I just wasn't the funnest person to be around.
I've come a long way since then. While my first year of university also wreaked havoc on my eating habits (ugh, greasy cafeteria food), I've come out of it having a new sense of what healthy eating is all about:
Healthy eating is...
- enjoying a slice of cake on special occasions and not hating yourself for it
- eating plenty of fruits and veggies, but not dreading every single meal
- choosing a moderately healthy dish of food over the all-you-can-eat buffet
- savoring a handful of chips, cookies, etc. once in a while instead of devouring the whole bag/box at once
- trying new things in the produce department (ever tried dragon fruit?)
- packing meals the night before rather than resorting to fast food at the last minute at work or school
- exploring clean, raw and organic choices at the supermarket to find what suits you
- getting rid of the "trigger foods" in your pantry (for me, I can't have baked goods or licorice without giving in to temptation)
You see, it's not just about what you put in your body. It's about mental health as well. Who said you're not allowed to enjoy processed foods every once in a while? It's just better to limit yourself a teensy bit. Trust me. After three weeks of clean eating, I enjoyed the onion rings I bought at an outdoor music festival more than you'll ever know. That being said, I'm not going to eat onion rings every day. Every couple weeks? Sure, why not!
I've learned to ignore calories for the most part. Instead, I ask myself questions about what's in my food, why I'm eating it, that sort of thing. Can I pronounce all the ingredients on the label, and is there under 10 of them? How is this food benefiting me? While a calorie may be defined as a unit of energy, a 600 calorie piece of cheesecake doesn't necessarily make me want to go run the track for 3 hours, ya dig?
Don't get me wrong - calories are perfect as guidelines... but I'll never let them control my life again.
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