Before the eating disorder I didn’t know what a calorie was – no clue and I could not have cared less either.
I ate what & when I wanted and had no rules or restrictions around foods & life was good!
As I became ill, I started to notice energy values -numbers on packets I’d previously been blind to started to demand my attention.
Gradually food became a game of eating by numbers.
For years now I’ve been a full blown calorie counter. Whether eating more or less, it was rarely without knowing the arbitrary number attached to the food.
Calorie counting has become a habit that’s hard wired and one of the hardest automatic thought processes I’m finding to break, although as I eat more the fear and meaning attributed to the numbers weakens.
But in thinking about the purpose to calorie counting now, I do see it as another way in which mental hunger manifests.
We know hunger can be both mental and physical and that mental hunger is defined as thinking about food, obsessing over food etc…. Surely obsessively totting up calories is just another way the brain is trying to guide us to eat?
Sadly though, with an eating disorder, calorie counting is usually a tool to restrict.
We count to ensure we aren’t eating ‘too much’ using a limit (usually) set by the ED.
We count to reassure ourselves that we’re still safe within ED’s rules.
We also count to seek permission to eat – ensuring we’ve enough calories left in the ‘bank’ to permit food.
And the calorie counting is so hard to stop.
In recovery, many use calories as a guide to ensuring they are eating ‘enough’ now & this can work if your brain can see a minimum number of calories to consume as just that – a MINIMUM!
But my brain has always turned a minimum number of calories into a maximum… but still obsessively counts indicating to me that my mental hunger remains strong.
Therefore, I’ve turned this around & said to my brain that if it insists on counting then the minimum I’ll eat will have to be much higher & I get competitive at pushing to that higher level, while aiming for the opposite to the restrictive choice.
In doing this, I do notice that slowly, calorie values are losing their power…