Popular smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal, Lose it, and the like are slowly infiltrating our daily lives. These applications set calorie limits for us depending on our weight-loss goals. (i.e. gain weight, lose weight, or maintain). By forcing us to track our calories we consume and the calories we burn via exercise, these applications can produce and invoke eating disorders quite easily, as they remove the focus from health and well-being to calories-in-calories-out. I began using these applications, Lose it specifically, when I was just 13 years old. I had just gotten my first I-phone and I was tired of being called fat, so I just simply downloaded the app and began tracking my calories. My body retaliated to the 1,200 calorie a day goal by giving me a few broken bones, fainting spells, and what ultimately lead to a pattern of disordered eating which I still grapple with today.This is dangerous, and can ruin your basal metabolism . When you restrict your caloric intake, your metabolism slows because your body thinks it's starving to death (even if you are technically overweight), so whenever you decide you don't want to eat 1,200 calories a day and go back to 1,500-2,000 you will ultimately gain weight- which is exactly what happened to me.
After a long battle- six years- with calorie counting apps, I have decided to delete them from my smart phone. Here are five things I'd honestly much rather do than sit around tracking my caloric intake all day:
1. Eat When I'm Actually Hungry
And eat healthy. Calorie counting apps place a stress on the caloric composition of a food, not the health benefits associated with it. For someone who is restricting calories, they may think it's O.K. to eat 1,200 calories of muffins, french fries, and fried-chicken- as long as they eat less than 1,200 calories then they'll lose weight, right? Well the problem with this, is that there is much more to nutrition and food choice than calories alone. A 1,500 calorie diet filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and lean protein is much more beneficial for your overall health and longevity. When you're counting calories chances are you will have an issue balancing when to eat what amount of calories and will end up relying on a food schedule, eating when you are full and ignoring your hunger pains when you're starving because you already hit your calorie goal. This causes issues with appetite and messes up your natural hunger signals. Just eat healthy foods when you're hungry and stop when you're full.
2. Listen to Music
Throughout my life, music has always been my "rock". No matter what was happening in my life, during the ugly and the beautiful, I always plugged in my earphones and played Mumford and Sons or Dave Matthews Band as a way to cope. Hey, you know when music sounds the best? When you're not deprived of your basic caloric needs as a human, and you can actually pay attention to the lyrics, chords, and melodies instead of the sound your stomach is making.
3. Paint my nails
Or just take care of myself. I'm going to go ahead, paint my toe nails, dye my hair that color I've been wanting to forever, take a bubble bath, heck drink a glass of wine- my body is my temple and it deserves to be taken care of. My body has never done me wrong, all it does is keep me alive and able to do my favorite things... I ask you to do the same and STOP PUNISHING YOUR BODY FOR TAKING UP SPACE!
4. Do my favorite things.
Do you like running? Hiking? Fishing? Reading? Golfing? I'm going to run more because the sensation of my feet on the pavement makes me freaking happy and I miss it so much. Whatever your favorite pastime may be- go ahead and do it. You'd be surprised how much time you spend logging your calories on MyFitnessPal or Lose It. Probably at least three hours a day. Three hours a day is the equivalent of running almost an entire marathon, hiking about 13 miles, and reading at least one awesome John Green novel.
5. Spend time with my family and friends
At the peak of my eating disorder and obsession with calorie counting, I would actually decline invitations to parties, social gatherings, and dinners because I was nervous I wouldn't have enough calories to eat at the event, and if I didn't eat everyone would raise an eyebrow at me. This is terrible. Eating disorders thrive on isolation, and tracking calories promotes isolation because if you isolate yourself you will be more likely to stay within your calorie goal. Honestly, I'd rather go out with my friends and run an extra mile in the morning, than spend my night alone pretending I'm too busy to hangout.
These are just five things I'd rather do than count calories, but I'm sure as the time I spend away from these awful apps increases, so will this list.
Are you struggling with disordered eating/ distorted body image? Call these hotlines:
NEDA Helpline:(800) 931-2237
(This post was originally shared on the Odyssey Online)