Counting Calories has Failed Me

Losing weight sounds simple enough.  Total Daily Energy Expenditure – extra calories burned – calories not eaten = – 500 calories per day x 7 (days per week) = – 3500 calories or one pound lost.  Easy enough right?


Easy if you’re not a perfectionist.  Easy if you’re not a compulsive/emotional eater.  Easy if you can avoid becoming obsessive about numbers.  I am a perfectionist, a compulsive/emotional eater and I am obsessive!

I began meal planning for a simple reason: to have a plan.  I am still a firm believer in this for me.  When I know what I am going to eat, I don’t have to day dream about it all day long, thus eliminating some of my obsession.  For whatever reason, I recently became overly compulsive, focusing on beauty, looks and weight loss…again.

I began this blog to learn to love myself as I am.  I want to love my body, my personality, my life situation, etc.  This past week, I realized I lost focus.  My focus became on looks and not on living my best, healthiest life.  For me a healthy life encompasses my emotional, mental and spiritual well being as well as my physical well being.

On Saturday I finally got my library card and checked out a book called “Runaway Eating: The 8 Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions” by Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD and Nadine Taylor, MS, MD.  The basis of the book is that adults can still have eating disorder-type behavior, even though the behaviors are not as severe and fall outside of the scope of the text-book diagnosis in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health) aka the book the APA and clinicians use to diagnose patients.

For example, if you have a tendency to binge eat once in a while, but not 2 + times per week for 6 months, you still have an abnormal behavior that should be addressed.  Or maybe you’ve purged (which is what bulimics do) by vomiting, taking laxatives or through excessive exercising a few times in the past year.  You don’t meet the text book criteria for being diagnosed with one of these eating disorders, but there is still something wrong.

Why should we be concerned if we can control these behaviors most of the time?  Well, for one these tendencies can lead to a full on eating disorder, even well in to the later years of our lives.  Also, these behaviors could be the root of a deeper reason for why we lose weight, but then gain it all back in a few years.

When I say we, I mean me…

One of the things I’ve learned from this book is that the dieting mentality is detrimental to our emotional and physical health.  According to the book, there was a study done that followed several men (I believe 50 or more).  First the study followed these men’s normal eating habits.  Then the men were deprived of the essential calories they needed each day.  This lasted for a significant length of time.  When the men were again allowed to eat whatever they wanted, they compensated by eating WAY more than their normal amount.  Some men ate as much as 10,000 calories per day.  After a few months, most of the men resumed normal eating.  However, a few of them continued to “binge eat” and admitted that no matter how much they ate, they didn’t feel satisfied.

It is a natural human response to compensate after a period of deprivation.  This is what our ancestors did when there was a famine.  They barely ate for months and months and then ate as much as they could to compensate.

Does this ever happen to you?

It happens to me!  Here is my cycle:  Restrict calories for a week, try to but fail on the weekends, feel depressed and anxious, attempt it again, but fail again only to eat more than my calorie limit for a couple weeks.  Then it starts back over.

So not only does this behavior of restricting my calories make me feel stressed out, anxious, nervous and depressed it also makes my metabolism slower and inhibits my ability to focus on my natural hunger and satiation cues.  Thus keeping me over weight!!

One of the steps for being free from the bondage of our food obsessions is giving up dieting forever.  Their definition of dieting is any plan that restricts calories to an unhealthy level or restricting certain foods or certain food combinations in order to lose weight.

There is a whole chapter devoted to giving up dieting, and there are a few steps to take in order to give up dieting.  I can’t remember all of them (I accidentally left the book at work), but here are a few:

  • Allow yourself to eat
  • Listen to hunger cues
  • Stop eating when you feel full.

I’m only half way through this book.  I plan to give you all a few more tidbits of info as I continue reading.  But if you struggle with food issues, I definitely recommend reading this.  If anything, read it for the wealth of information about eating disorders and the effects of dieting.

When I finish this one, I am going to read the second book I checked out, “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food” by Susan Albers, PSY.D.  I read the introduction and it sounds as though the tools she provides are very holistic: mind, body and soul.  I feel as though this would be great supplemental reading.  Other reads on my list include: “In Defense of Food” and “Intuitive Eating.”

Any other reads I should consider?

What are your thoughts about NOT dieting?

–Shawnee, The Ex-Perfectionist

‘Cause life isn’t perfect, but with a little planning and preparation, you can almost come close!

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7 Responses to Counting Calories has Failed Me

  1. thehungryscholar says:

    This book sounds like something I should read. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Sounds like a good book!

    I have never really dieted (in the sense that I have never really counted calories or followed a specific diet). But, I have of course eaten less to lose weight. And I know approximately how many calories I eat each day. Last year, I lost about 30 pounds, and I did it by focusing on making healthy choices every meal (and I did a lot of meal planning but tried to stay flexible). I think going on and off diets can turn into a vicious cycle. Even though I wasn’t “dieting,” I sometimes felt I was “bad” and should be “better.” Not a very productive thought/behavior pattern…

    What helped was focusing on every single meal as a chance to make a new, good choice. I treated each meal as its own, without the thought of “making up” for what I had eaten before. It was (and still sometimes is) a learning process. But it’s getting easier…

  3. Katherine: What About Summer? says:

    for every deprivation is there is an equal and oppisite (or greater) binge waiting to happen. people always want to know what to do to restrict themselves after a heavy night of eating etc to get rid of the weight but I feel like the best thing you can do is just eat normally again

  4. I’ve been pretty open on my blog about my restricting/bingeing phases, and my continued struggles with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors even though I’m an “adult” and don’t match a lot of the official eating disorder criteria you mentioned. I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic, but this book is new to me! Thanks for sharing – can’t wait to check it out!

  5. I definitely believe that you can have disordered eating without being officially “diagnosed.” I know I did, and probably still do – I just control it better than I used to. That book sounds really interesting.

  6. Great post, I think tons of people can relate!

  7. actorsdiet says:

    after five years of trying every diet under the sun – including meal deliveries and hypnosis – i have learned that the only thing that “works” is self acceptance at any size, no restrictions/rules, and listening to your body.

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