Friday, February 7, 2014

Letting Go of Calories Part 1! (a part of my recovery story)

Hello, hello my friends! We have almost made it to the weekend (and my birthday is in 5 days, no big deal).

Do you guys make weird faces when you type a blog post? I do. Like when I have some sort of strong emotion, or any emotion at all really, I make a face to suit it. And I'm not a robot, so let's face it, if you see me making facial expressions at the computer screen, I'm probably typing a post.

Today I'm talking about something that's somewhat of a hot topic in the HLB world. Lots of great things are taking storm in the health world: coconut oil, gluten-free, paleo, vegan, HIIT Workouts, Crossfit, Half-Marathons, intuitive why write about calories?

To be blunt, calories are my security blanket. This 100% has to do with my eating disordered past. When I'm stressed or unhappy with something, I do tend to fall back on this habit, whether I realize it's detrimental to me or not. Calories are just so..definite. They're measurable. I can count them, I can control them. I can decide how many I want, and how many I don't want. This is the way a lot of eating disordered/recovering/even recovered minds tend to think.

 I'm SICK OF CALORIES. Well, sick of the rap that they have. I don't think they deserve to be bashed on. They don't deserve that, they can't help if they give us energy. That's their job.

Calories are given too much power, and as I just said, I am totally guilty of that.

Let's start with the basics. Calories (along with weight, but that's a whole other story) are literally the most basic form of nutrition that you can monitor/count/whatever. Actually, they're not even nutrients, they're simply a unit of energy that your body uses. It's the nutrients within the calories that matter.

A confession: I used to be a slave to calories. Every single morsel that I put into my mouth was calculated. Through false information (mostly from the media), ignorance, and eventually self-destructive behavior, I came up with a set amount of calories every single day that I would allow into my body. If I exceeded that limit (normally on accident), I was disgusted, annoyed, angry, and highly stressed. Not to mention I was quite sickly, weak, grumpy, irritable, and overall miserable. It was a terrible, vicious obsession that had much more to do with my emotional problems than anything else.

These outright, obvious behaviors were pretty much disposed of after seeking treatment, where all of my calories and intake were calculated/served for me and I learned that hey, eating isn't so bad after all!!!! Eating makes me feel good! But I was thrust back into the real world after being shielded for three months - I still had no idea how many calories I was eating, as I strictly followed my meal plan.

This worked for a while, but I eventually relapsed into old behaviors. Calories, my go-to calculation, were severely restricted yet again. Choosing what to eat caused me more anxiety, I lost weight, and my depression returned. Luckily, I had a fan-freaking-tastic therapist and nutritionist who helped pull me out of it - I gained weight back and became less obsessed with calories. For the first time in 3 years, I was actually eating what I wanted to. 

*Now getting into recovery talk*

This was turning point number 1 in my recovery: I could eat without counting calories. I could be confident with more weight on my body. I felt so great, but still followed my meal plan to a T. I was not prepared for flexibility yet.

Turning point number 2 was when I began adding physical activity back into my daily routine. I began by taking walks. The more weight I gained, the better and stronger I felt. Also, I was exercising for the fun and joy of it, not to make up for what I had eaten!! I was not obsessing over calories, but I know for a fact that I was still not eating quite enough, as I hadn't entirely gotten the hang of intutive eating. I was still quite regimented with my eating habits, in other ways. Nutrition was not my priority, mainly what I considered "healthy" foods, but the flame of my passion for nutrition was sparked.

Turning point number 3: educating myself in nutrition. I began reading HLBs, and the rest is history on that subject. I have learned SO MUCH and I feel now more then ever that this is the field I want to enter. I am so incredibly inspired by many blogs, and I soak in as much nutritional info as possible. Nutritious food became important to me. Fat, proteins, carbs, nutrients, antioxidansts, and whole world of new foods I would have never discovered was opened up to me. I probably would never have eaten almond butter if it hadn't been for blogs. I'd prefer not to think about that possibility.

Cross country was the 4th turning point. I was healthier than I had ever been. I can't even begin to explain how alive I felt. How just....gah. I can't even talk about this without gushing. At this point, I had gone from a depressed, sickly girl, obsessed with food, shy, and withdrawn - to someone who was ready to spread her wings. Joining cross country was my symbol of freedom from all of the crap I had gone through. Running was the love of my life, I was involved in something, I was making friends, I was me. I don't think anyone on my team, my coaches, friends, or parents will ever understand how much of a blessing cross country was to me.

I am now in what I'm considering that last turning point in my recovery. Being 100% totally completely honest, I know I did not eat enough during cross country. While I did eat "sufficiently," (as in I maintained my weight and was able to keep up during workouts) I know I did not fuel myself properly (there are a variety of reasons). Obviously this had repercussions, and I'm almost positive that my end-of-season burnout was [partly] a result of this.

This, my friends, was a blessing in disguise. YES I felt like crap. YES I had to take a running hiatus that totally freaked me out. Almost automatically, I began subconsciously counting calories again as a way to handle my stress.  But it showed me the importance of keeping my body properly fueled and finding a balance with rest/exercise. Which I'm gonna continue with in the next couple of days, but for now, I think you guys have had enough of a brain purge.

I really hope you guys stick around for the second (don't worry, it's also the last) part of this post - I think that it pertains to a lot of girls going through recovery, or maybe even struggling through body image. Pretty please?

Adios amigos!


  1. I am so proud of you for writing this post! I have mine in the drafts but haven't completed it yet... I was just a bundle of smiles when I read that paragraph about cross country and how happy you were :) Even though ED's such, I truly think it was a good thing to happen because I met so many amazing people!

    1. Thanks girl. It's always a little hard writing/posting things like this, but hopefully they provide some insight and inspiration!
      Awww yeah, cross country was definitely a high point in my life. And I totally agree about the EDs - I think that God allows these things to happen for a reason, and everyone goes through different trials in their lives in order to gain wisdom (and ultimately bring him glory)!! Have a great day chica!!

  2. Jess! I feel like I could have written this myself. I was on the same boat as you unfortunately— tracking every morsel that went into my mouth. But with blogging/blog-reading, dance, exercise, some amazing family and friends, and God, I was able to recover. My nutritionist couldn't stress enough that calories are ENERGY. We need energy to live and grow.
    Thank you so much for opening up about your story, girl. I am so, so happy that you have been able to find ways to kick the ED. I'm also so happy to have found you as a "blend!" :)

    1. Thank you Alison - that means so much to me! I love how diverse (yet similar) the blog world is - I feel like we become "blends" because we can find someone to relate to. It's pretty awesome. You're an inspiration to me girl! Have a great day! :)

  3. Jess, thank you so much for this.

    Calories are so evil. The other day, I was thinking, how would my life be different if I had never downloaded myfitnesspal? Before I had rules about food? I used to eat peanut butter without measuring it. I used to eat nuts as a healthy snack- not as a high calorie snack. I wish I could go back to the days when food didn't cause me any anxiety.

    For me, it was different. My ED really started when Cross Country ended. Yes, I started restricting during the season, but it was after the season when it became obsessive.

    I don't know if what I'm doing right now is recovery because I'm doing it all on my own. I'm still really reliant on calories and I still have some rules. Now I count calories to make sure I eat enough- but I'm also terrified of eating too much. I'm so determined to be the healthiest I can be for track. I am hoping to get some more help soon.

    This post gives me hope. You are so strong and beautiful. I'm so glad you can say that you're in the fourth stage of your recovery. That is really something to celebrate (:

    1. Awww Emily! You are more than welcome!

      I totally relate about wondering what life would have been like without Ed. But you know what? You WILL get to a place where food doesn't cause anxiety. You WILL get there. You will have to work for it, but I promise you it will happen, and it's awesome.

      I can also relate to the feeling like I have to rely on calories, especially to make sure I'm even eating enough. But I've learned that there's a VERY fine line between counting calories being somewhat helpful, and just detrimental. It's all in the mindset. I do hope you find some more help soon, perhaps a more proactive nutritionist, and I'm happy that track is providing you motivation to keep healthy!

      I do know that some nutritionists are not helpful, but I can tell you that I didn't really start getting better until I stepped out of my comfort zone and started doing more "mental" work than "food" work. Your nutritionist can only do so much - their main concern is food, and they want you to eat more. You have to work on the mental, the nutritionist is there to help you eat more and change your relationship with food. Obviously, this was my personal experience, and I don't really know your nutritionist-situation, but hopefully that helped just a little bit??

      Wow, I just got really wordy. Thank you so much for this comment - it fills my heart with so much joy. And yes, it is something to celebrate! I hope you'll be able to reach some recovery goals and celebrate with me! :)

      Love ya girl. :)