Obsession – what’s the definition, it can be quite broad. Essentially it is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. Normally we can relate this to tangible things, cleaning, shopping etc.
But there is clearly a difference between obsession and OCD. Let’s not get that mixed up. OCD is a common mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours to extreme levels, which is where the diagnosis comes in.
Personally, I haven’t been diagnosed with OCD. However, after being diagnosed with an eating disorder many years ago, I wanted to touch upon the subject of calorie counting, calorie burning, and the obsession I had of the two.
So, where do I start? Calorie counting – it’s harmless right?
It can be a great way to track your progress in fat loss and keep you more mindful of the quantity and quality of food you’re consuming throughout the day – and yes this does work! Afterall, fat loss is achieved through a calorie deficit, so, how do you know if you’re in a deficit if you don’t count?
But the issue comes when you begin to answer yes to the following questions… Are you counting calories day in and day out? Do you find counting calories actually consumes a large part of your life? This is exactly where my obsession started.
It typically starts with calculating your maintenance calories using a basic app or platform. You input your ‘normal’ daily food, and then realise some huge changes need to be made to keep in your calorie goal.
At first, I loved the challenge, the organisation and structure of my days, it was a sense of achievement each day knowing I had hit my target goal. But then, the days of which I didn’t hit my target or went over on my calories, led me to feel like I had let myself down and that I wasn’t moving forward.
Being the self-critical personaI I am, it then eventually meant that I would restrict myself more to get back on track. This could be sacrificing crucial nutrients or avoiding social events and meals out. As well as, finding myself exercising more and more to justify eating particular high calorie foods.
Being obsessed with counting calories can be a great way to preoccupy and punish yourself for trying to be healthy. When you count calories every single time you eat something, you take what could be a happy, joyous and nurturing experience and turn it into a source of deprivation, stress and negative self-talk. When you consistently force yourself to do hours of exercise strictly to burn off a certain amount of calories, you take all the fun out of the journey.
I always believed, if I stopped counting calories, I’d gain weight, when actually looking back now, it was the loss of control that I feared, and the unknown. Now. I’m not saying calorie counting is bad. As I mentioned at the beginning, it is a great way to find your maintenance calories to know if you’re on the right track, or if you need to reduce or up your calories depending on your goal.
However, it’s just a GUIDE kids! It’s not a concrete legislation to follow day in and day out.
The act of counting calories can also potentially cause weight gain too. When we consciously count and limit our calories, our cortisol levels go up. As a result, our appetite increases, we crave processed fatty and sugary foods, and our bodies store body fat. So, the very thing we do to lose weight might have the opposite effect!
Counting calories damaged me on many levels, the obsession, self-criticism, insecurities and controllingness – it became a prison and trap that I couldn’t get out of, inevitably leading to larger mental and physical health issues. I would cut calories, lose some weight and be happy, but then become unhappy again, and decide to cut more calories, and lose more weight, it was a downward spiral.
If I counted calories, I was disciplined, if I was disciplined, it showed strength. If I was strong, I was achieving what I set out to do? But in the end, it wasn’t just about having a “perfect & strong” physique — it became a way of measuring my worth. At the end of the day, I would add up my final number and it gave me a sense of whether I had a good day or bad day. My self-worth was determined by whether I kept my calories below a certain number or not. I would have achieved that short burst of happiness when it was lower than what I needed, but then I would also punish myself with insults and exercise if it was too high. I felt like a failure if my calories were ever over a certain amount and a deep sense of pride and satisfaction when they weren’t.
This is my journey and I strongly believe that this has moulded me as a trainer as well as helped me with my coaching style towards my clients. A structure that I now swear by and teach all my clients, is a more laid-back approach to nutrition. Avoiding in any way I can counting calories. Quality of food is key and using a technique which educates my clients on the importance of macronutrients, timing and performance-based nutrition is my vision into nutrition.
Now my journey has been tough, but it has led me to be the coach I am today with the strong community of women I have around me. Obsessions affect so many people and it can be difficult to see a way out when you are stuck in it. This is why I wanted to tell my story, to show you that you can come out the other side a lot stronger and healthier than ever before.
We’ve got this kids ❤️