I want to start by saying that this is not a slating of ‘My Fitness Pal’. I wanted to write this post around an obsession a lot of people have in today’s society around calorie counting – it just so happened that My Fitness Pal was my weapon of choice.
So, back in 2015 after a fab trip to New York it hit me that I needed to lose weight. I had crippling back pain from simply walking and when we got back home I really started to change my habits. I started hitting the gym (mostly cardio at this point), tried to battle with my fizzy pop addiction and seriously cut down on the wine. I began to switch high carb food for more protein dense options and gave the sweets and chocolate a miss (I know, it sounds like so much fun!). But it worked, I dropped around 2 and half stone and I was feeling great. If I’m going to be honest everyone was noticing and I loved it. I still wanted to lose a little more but my weight had plateaued so I decided to start calorie counting. I had downloaded My Fitness Pal a while before and dabbled a little but this time I was serious.
The app is pretty simple, you input your gender, height & weight. You let it know whether you are looking to maintain weight, gain or lose. If you opt to lose weight you can select the option of 0.5lb, 1lb, 1.5 or 2lb a week – and the app then gives you your daily calorie goal and you begin weighing all your food and tracking everything you eat. For reference: I was being advised to eat around 1300 calories a day when I was weighing around 11stone.
I would just like to point out I have absolutely no nutritional qualifications (other than Mrs Smith’s year 9 lesson on how to make a sandwich). But now I realise that 1300 calories is nowhere near enough to feed an actual human being. I’m 5”3 (at a push) and although I have a desk job I do consider myself to be a pretty active person. I walk to work and back every day and work out 4/5 times a week. But I do also have a pretty addictive personality – and if the app told me to eat 1300 calories a day, I was going to do one better and eat 1100.
This was because in my mind I wanted to allow for error. A 200 calorie error? I don’t really know where my logic came from with this one, because I never for one moment wondered about all the times I had miscalculated by too little. Each meal time became dominated by numbers and the dreaded weighing scales. I weighed EVERYTHING to the gram, I would double and triple check. I didn’t want anyone else to cook for me and the thought of eating out nearly tipped me over the edge. There’s so many cute cafes around our flat, but I didn’t want to go out because they didn’t offer their nutritional information online. Going to my mums for Sunday lunch was a trauma – in fact eating in general became a trauma. At no point was I ever ‘underweight’. In fact my weight was sat at what is considered to be a ‘healthy’ weight. But my relationship with my body and eating was so far from healthy.
Now let’s just brush on Macros. I wanted to hit around 100g of protein a day – which let me tell you was pretty fucking ridiculous when you’re barely eating over 1000 calories a day. I love fruit. But fruit is carbs and that scared me (pretty much everything was scaring me at this point). Fruit is good for you, it’s delicious, full of macro nutrients, its fresh and it’s cheap. But I started cutting it out because it took me over on my daily allowance of sugar. I found myself cutting out fruits and vegetables for more ‘calorie light’ food as I was constantly feeling hungry and wanted to eat bigger portions. I also found that if I would give myself a day ‘off tracking’ I would binge. I wouldn’t eat one chocolate bar, I’d eat a 2 family sized bars. Or I’d drink 2 bottles of wine rather than a couple of glasses because I’d restricted myself so badly.
I began to cause friction at home because I didn’t want anyone to touch my food. I didn’t want to go out for a meal at the weekend; and I didn’t want to meet friends for coffee and cake. I guess one day it just hit me that this wasn’t how I wanted to live. For me the only way I could break the cycle was to ditch the scales (for myself and the food) – pretty much completely.
I now normally weigh myself once every 2/3 weeks purely out of curiosity. I’ve gained around 18lbs since my ‘low weight’ (which was 7lbs below my ‘target weight’) and guess what? I feel amazing. I am stronger and have way more energy. I actually enjoy going to the gym again because I have energy to push through a good workout. The calories in food are always in the back of my mind (as I assume they are with a lot of people) but I will never again let them rule my life.