By Sam Horne
I don't know about you, but Calories have pretty much consumed a mega majority of my life!
Even when in junior school, walking round to our after school dance lessons, I would always be the one concerned about the milkshake I am about to drink, however once I start, I simply can not stop! Time after time of calorie and macro counting, feeling all is ruined if I eat something unaccounted for or taking me over my limit for the day, to which I would respond with hitting more cardio to burn the shit off out of guilt. Cheat meals, when allowed were just non loggable, they would send me off the chart and I would massively overindulge thinking F**k it, skewing my MFP results for the week.
Something that is important to note, for a number of us, calorie counting can be doing more harm than good, always feeling you can never break free of this hold it has on you, always considering the numbers than the memories, especially when in a social setting.
If you feel you would love to start taking some steps to freedom, here we go!
1. Behavioural Awareness
Do you even realise when you are automatically clocking up what the food is in front of you or look at a menu regards the number instead of what you actually would like to consume? I would always do this!!
Awareness and acknowledgement of such behaviours and habits are crucial.These small behaviours sometimes become so automatic to us, we forget we’re even doing them. Having to jump on MFP to search for the numbers or log it as soon as you have eaten. If you do slip off plan or consume something that would potentially mean you either can't eat for the rest of the day or sends you over your calories...that internal or external self talk of 'right I will have to go to the gym now I have eaten this, I can't believe i've done that.'
Understanding your beliefs around such foods, calories is the best way to start to reverse this process, but also having a heightened awareness and internal dialogue with yourself when you catch yourself doing this and asking yourself WHY, can start to break down these cycles.
This may even mean having a halt on wearing your fitbit/garmin etc, stop tracking on apps, and placing food packaging in the bin immediately to prevent you clocking and panicking.
If your future life does not entertain calorie counting and being unhappy for the rest of your life, then you have to make the call to take action. This will be uncomfortable, after all you have done this for years I suspect and It won't happen overnight, but the effort to be more aware, committed to change even through the tough times will be the best decision you will make.
2. Listen to your body
Where does our focus come from with these silly packaging numbers?
Media/society/Diet marketing/Parents and social influence? Over years and years of various diet fads coming and going and all of the above being involved at some point of their influence upon us...calories are in there somewhere as the focal point for weight loss. Don't get me wrong, being in a surplus will often = weight gain, and finding a deficit is the aim for a weight drop, however we are so much more than purely calories in versus calories out, especially when a rigid calorie amount is prescribed as the goal. As always the old chestnut of; if you're not assessing, you're guessing. Any many do not think about the internal turmoil these low calorie diets can be having on their bodies, hence only we can know but we have to start to LISTEN!
Your body, given time to relax, rest and reset, will know what it wants. Start by maybe looking at one of your daily usual meals per day and be free...what does your body tell you that it wants? Take the time to step back and listen, we are always in such a rush that what we are being told to eat overrides what we need to eat. Take a big deep breath for the count of 6, hold for 2, release for 4....repeat maybe upto 6 times to reset yourself from whatever task you were last involved in and switch yourself into your self.
It is important to note, that starvation will also not be the key. We all know what happens when we try to cut meals through the day...evening comes, we may have a set meal, then an overriding compulsion to hit the cupboards, fridge, freezer....oh hey Ben & Jez.
3. Practice Mindfulness
This step is a part of step 2. In order to be mindful, you need to begin the process of listening to and acknowledging your body. Setting yourself up in the correct way when you actually eat is also important. The amount of times, especially when on prep, I would eat when driving and then rock up to my next hospital destination realising a) How did I get here? B) I'm hungry, but shit I ate my meal with zero consideration of it!!!
Any distraction such as your phone, driving, having the TV on, when eating, all serve to take away your level of concentration and consideration of what is entering your mouth, often numbing the full taste, texture, smell and even the amount of chewing you give the foods.
So think of it as more of a ritual, be peaceful, be present, take on board all the senses, enjoy each mouthful and register it, what do I have more of in this mouthful, is it softer/harder/tastier/spicier/sweeter than the last mouthful? Don't rush your food.
4. Ditch the Calorie focus and think Health!
I don't know about you, but when I think calories and needing to count, my anxiety sets in, I immediately think RESTRICTION and links to UNHAPPINESS. The feelings of regret if anything naughty passes your lips, the starvation or exertion of needing to balance the calories out in some way for the rest of the day. Calories should not be the metric used for FOCUS, especially if these feelings are somewhat familiar to you.
Instead consider your overall health, well being and a holistic view of your inner and outer self. Picture yourself 5, 10, even 30 years in the future, carrying on the way you are now...what will life look like?
Then consider how it might look if you were to adopt and integrate more 'healthy' foods into meals, that induce feelings of satiation, that adopt a rainbow approach of colours and phytochemicals, a balance of macro and micronutrients. Many of use strive to find 'health' yet have been ingrained in a diet and upbringing where this behaviour isn't actually natural to us just yet. This doesn't have to be nor should it be an instant overhaul if your food choices are questionable for that goal - gradually build new food ideas into your weekly mindful food plan.
Sometimes a deeper sense of work needs to be addressed with personal beliefs around some types of food, which will date back to somewhere in childhood, if you perhaps have a few beliefs that prevent you adopting a healthy lifestyle, seek a coach to facilitate with this (Oh Hey! Drop in to our DM's). You need to work on who you want to become, understand why and what this means to you deep down and take action to make this YOU happen!
5. What does Balance mean to you?
Ditching calorie counting doesn't mean you become a bloody rabbit, you can incorporate various foods to ensure you have a variety of food that offers nourishment but also those foods that you feel give you joy and fun at times. Acknowledge the rainbow, be considerate of Protein sources as a first line then dress this up with your healthy fats and various carb sources. Eating your Protein first will ensure you get the body goodies in first, restricting over consumption on carbs or fats and ensures you get your body building blocks and repair systems in order.
When you have this mix of food types, that's where the freedom lies. I no longer feel those epic food cravings to devour a whole bloody donut shop, when I do have a 'treat', it is out of a place of mindful enjoyment and acknowledge pretty quickly now when I have had enough! It is ok to not finish food...I was brought up with the belief I could never leave anything on my plate, hence why I wasn't the slimest kid in school...
6. Do not beat yourself up!
Let's face it, most of us who have calorie counted for years will always have a rough idea of what numbers are entering our bodies, and don't get angry at yourself if you accidently still find yourself from doing this. It will take time! It is a process of undoing habits and behaviours ingrained for years!
This new belief system will take time to build, as will making old beliefs weaken when it comes to the Reticular Activation System in our brain.
7. Identify the Root cause!
If you find it difficult to implement the above, and follow either my Coaching page or Supreme Minority - you may know I am a mindshift coach. HOw we can work together is to start to identify Why you think this way about calories, where these behaviours came from, what was the trigger and why this has built to become the problem that it is today?
Often this comes down to a level of control - my eating disorders, all mainly control related in a life I felt I had little personal control over at that time in my life. Control gives us a safety blanket The control gives us a sense of safety.
Underneath all this for me also, was the fear of gaining weight, I liked the attention I got as a skinnier person, feel I had more self worth...to others...but in myself I hated what I saw daily, even at my smallest. But if I gained weight, that attention would go, people would judge and bitch about me about how I have fallen off the wagon...'what has she done to herself?', not thinking that they were actually saying that anyway in regards to my obsession and controlling ways regards to my food habits.
However, I can tell you most people, the ones you want in your life will not like you due to how you look, it is how you love! Your besties will seek the warmth and fun from you which has zero to do with your size, unless you make it about your size!
If you feel you have something holding you back inside that you can't quite put your finger on with your relationship to food and how you look and view your body, this is something we can certainly seek to address via my 1:1 coaching work.
I hope these tips have been helpful, and never fear reaching out if you are struggling with anything mentioned here!