Friday, September 9, 2011

The Calorie Tally

Sometimes I think that if I could get over my obsession with numbers, my eating disorder would be cured. This is what occupies 90% of my mind at all times: numbers. All numbers, really, but calories in particular. I've had phases of counting fat and protein grams too, but calories is the one that has always stuck.

I started counting calories when I was about twelve. I have no idea what possessed me to start, other than despising my body. I have no recollection of how many calories I was eating at the time - but I'd be willing to bet that it wasn't enough if I were already sufficiently aware of my weight to be counting calories.

I've gone through periods of counting less obsessively - just estimating, really. But when my anorexia has been at its worst, I count and recount every bite that goes into my mouth. And then some, since I have a problem with overestimating my intake. I adjust my meals based on the calories, and not necessarily to lower them.  It's more that I like "neat" numbers, so I combine certain foods because their caloric contents add up nicely. I would be more likely to choose a certain type of cereal with more calories than another type with fewer calories if Cereal #1 + yogurt together contained a "neater" (round, even) total number of calories. Get it?

Currently, I'm stuck in an extremely rigid calorie-counting rut. This most recent trend has been in place for the past two years at least, and definitely got worse about eight months ago when I started regaining weight. Part of it was probably just that I suddenly had bigger numbers to work with on a daily basis, and wanted to be extra vigilant about not losing track or mixing anything up. Part of it was probably also an intensified fear of gaining weight since I was, you know, gaining weight.

Now, my body is a million times healthier than it was eight months ago, but my mind is still stuck in this awful counting cycle. My daily intake is much bigger than it used to be so changes of XXX calories one way or  the other aren't really very significant anymore, but they still seem HUGE in my mind. I still perform these crazy mathematical gymnastics in my head to get the "right" number of calories for each meal and each day. Then I perform them again just to make sure. Then again to keep myself calm.

There has definitely been progress in that I'm now okay with a much larger number of calories each day than I used to be, but I have no flexibility. I measure everything so I can be sure exactly how much I'm getting. I still save up calories instinctually and eat the majority of my daily intake in the last third of the day. Sometimes my biggest impediment to eating is not that I want to restrict and lose weight, but just not knowing how many calories are in something. Most of the time I could probably guess pretty accurately, but the unknown factor freaks me out. Almost every day, I eat the same default set of meals and snacks simply because I know exactly how many calories are in them and it's easier than trying to concoct something new that would fit neatly into my elaborate guidelines.

The most frustrating part is that I recognize all of this and I know that it's messed up and disordered, but I literally have no clue how to stop counting calories. There's a continuous tally running through my head all the fucking time and I can't turn it off. Correction: I know that I could throw off my tally by not measuring my food, by mixing new foods, and by eating different combinations of foods - but I also know this would only lead me to grossly overestimate and cut back the rest of the day to make up for it. So I'm being stubborn and staying stuck.

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