5 Things I Learned While Counting Calories For A Week

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions...

You may be starving, but if you eat that piece of cheese now, what will your dinner look like?

I’ve always struggled with my weight. I remember being 10 years old, and an aunt told my mom that she was shocked that I had cellulite and that my thighs rubbed together. I’ve never been what society calls 'fat,' but I’ve also never been their standard of skinny.

However, I have never struggled with my weight as much as I have since being put on the drug Seroquel, an antipsychotic used to treat my bipolar disorder. The biggest complaint by people who take Seroquel is a problem with weight gain. I have gained about 30 pounds since being put on the drug, and developed a thyroid issue that now requires medication.

By most people’s standards, I am not fat. However, this is the heaviest I have been in my life, and I am embarrassed to look at full-body photos of myself. I have always had a mostly hate-hate relationship with my body. By default, since I am tall, I have always been bigger than most girls. This has made me want to shrink myself as small as possible. Except now it just seems like I’m growing.

In a moment of complete self-loathing, I decided that I would start counting my calories in an attempt to try and get a handle on my weight. I’m turning 30 this year, and would like to start chipping away at those 30 pounds I have gained.

So here are the five things I learned after counting calories for a week:

1. I Became Obsessed With Food. OK, this isn’t a completely fair assessment. I’ve always sort of been obsessed with food. You know those people who are like, “Oh, I just forget to eat.” Yeah, I’m not one of those people. I’m always thinking about what and when I’m going to eat. But when I started counting calories, I was anticipating my meals even more. I was ravenous, like a starved dog — despite not being starving at all.

2. I Became Afraid Of Putting Food In My Mouth. A strange thing starts happening when you start tracking calories. You suddenly become acutely aware how quickly things start to add up, and because of this, food becomes scary. You may be starving, but if you eat that piece of cheese now, what will your dinner look like?

3. Meals Became Stressful. Rather than preparing what I felt like eating, I had to consider how many calories would be in that meal and whether it would exceed my allotted calories. No meal could be more than 500 calories if I wanted to hit my 1,500-calorie goal, but then what about snacks? I can’t live in a world without snacks! Again, this fed my obsession with when and what I would eat, while still being afraid to eat those calories. All of this created stress that negatively affected my mood. When you have a mental illness, creating mood disruptions is not a good thing.

4. Exercise Became About Burning Calories. I’ve never loved working out, but I do like walking — particularly in the fall sunshine. This favorite activity of mine that used to be a stress reliever became a chore. I was more concerned with how many calories I was burning and whether or not it would allow me to eat a snack when I got home.

5. It Made Me Hate My Body (More). As I said, I’ve never had a healthy body image. Although I’m a major proponent of the body positivity movement, I’m not exactly great at practicing what I preach. Counting calories made me think about my body (and my fat) even more. I would look at my belly in the mirror and wonder if all this counting was making a difference. Would people like me more if I was skinnier? I also started becoming keenly aware of other people’s bodies on TV and none of them look like mine.

So, one week has passed. Will I keep counting calories? I’m not so sure. Maybe I should spend all of this energy trying to work on being more body-positive rather than losing weight.

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