There was a point in my life where food was just part of an equation. Calories in – Exercises = Worth (lower the better). It was no longer food, it was a formula. The flavours started to disappear and it became a bit of a ‘will power’ game. I’m pretty competitive so when I discovered this equation it was only going to go one way. I convinced myself I could live a life without chocolate and got so annoyed that every social interaction had to revolve around food or high calorie drinks.
To be stolen of the pleasure of food was to be stolen of such a crucial part of my being. I loved food but suddenly it was tainted by calories. I used to be ignorant to these numbers but when you learn the number of calories in a kit-kat and how long you have to run to ‘burn it off’ you never really forget.
This game, this equation, became my worth. It was something I was good at. ‘Oh you are so good not eating sugar’, ‘I wish I could be more like you’. I began to take pride in it. I became really good at suppressing my bodies natural signals and rhythms. My body was doing this to portray me and I needed to fight it to stay ‘on track’. The fear I had of food and gaining weight was disguised by compliments of my body shape and eating habits.
I am in a different place now. I haven’t counted calories for years and falling back into these habits seems to be becoming more and more unlikely. However, when someone mentions calories or burning calories it gets my mind racing until now I suppress the urge to engage with the thoughts coming back.
Now when I think about going out for food I imagine the flavours and textures of food, not the fat cells growing on my body. I have so much compassion for anyone going through an eating disorder. I remember the overwhelming thought of three meals a day for the rest of my life and how uncomfortable that made me, thinking I would feel that way for life. It doesn’t have to be.
It’s so hard to write about this without coming across as judgemental or dismissive of other peoples experience. I am not judging anyone for counting calories. I just know for me it was not healthy.