"Mental Health" Monday

The Dangers of Calorie Counting


It can start with the simple idea of reconstructing your diet. You look in the mirror one day and you’re startled by what you see. You think, “when did these pants get so tight?” or “Have I let myself go that much?” It’s frightening when you realize you’ve gotten so caught up in everything else going on in your life, that you’ve become too busy for the more important things, like your health. You realize that the “quick slice of pizza” you grab for dinner every now and then and the lack of time spent in the gym as opposed to the library does eventually catch up with you. When your jeans start to feel a little tight, you realize that maybe it’s time to change. 

So you decide it’s time to try something different. No more pizza for dinner. No more late night snacking. No more post-Frat party trips to Kimmel. I know, I know. It’s hard, but you realize that the easiness of fast food isn’t worth it anymore. You start out by deciding to make healthier choices. So you swap out the pizza for an apple and peanut butter instead ,and a salad here and there, but still, those pants aren’t getting any looser. What’s the problem? Yes, you’re eating healthier, but the work isn’t equalling the results you want, and you get frustrated. It’s disheartening to be putting in the work and seeing no change on the scale. So you decide to try something else. You’ve heard of calorie counting and how it’s worked for others, so why not try it. That way, you are aware of every little thing that goes in your body, and out.

You download the best rated app you can find on the App Store. You enter your height, current weight, age, and the amount of weight you wish to lose in a certain amount of time. “This is great!”,  you think to yourself. I can eat whatever I want as long as it’s under the 1,200 calorie limit. Little do you know that this is only enough to just get by. In reality, a normal diet, with proper exercise, for someone trying to maintain their weight is 2,000 calories.

Regardless, you start to notice those results you’ve been after starting to show. But what’s the cost? You’re constantly tired, you lack energy, you are moody and irritable, and eating has become a chore you dread every day, yet you’re waiting for every meal because the uncomfortableness in your stomach reminds you all day that there’s barely enough in there to keep you going.All you can think about is how many calories you are putting in and out of your body. It’s become an obsession. You are starving. 

When It Becomes A Problem

All those symptoms are signs from your body telling you that it’s hungry, and ignoring them not only halts weight loss, but also is detrimental to your health. Calorie counting, while not always a negative thing, can often times lead to eating disorders and unhealthy obsessions. So in the end is it really worth it? Do the results outweigh the stress you’ve been putting your body under in order to see those precious results? The answer is always no.

If your method of dieting takes away the pleasure of enjoying a meal with family or friends because of the guilt that follows, something is most definitely wrong. Sometimes referred to as orthorexia nervosa, meaning “fixation on righteous eating,” the obsessive behavior of calorie counting has not been classified by the DSM-IV as a clinical disorder, but the notion of hitting the “perfect number” of daily calorie intake has become an increasingly common issue among many avid dieters.

This idea that restriction is synonymous with results has become skewed enough for people to believe that their dietary success is dependent on an intake of the bare minimum of a balanced diet. However, results are dependent on the exact opposite of what these extreme dieters strive to attain. The fixation on numbers can leave extreme dieters bodies extremely malnourished and over-worked.

Look, we aren’t discrediting the idea that calorie intake is irrelevant.  Calories do count, and it’s important to watch what you eat, focusing on putting healthy foods, fruits, and veggies in your body one processed sugars and carbs. But they don’t make up the entire equation of weight loss. Sometimes, you put on a few pounds, and guess what? It is not the end of the world! You are still your beautiful, amazing self, and you will lose the extra weight in time. If you’re unsure as to where to start when it comes to reconstructing a healthy diet for yourself, recognize that the healthiest way to lose those few extra pounds is a way in which your mental health and happiness come first. Take care of your body and the results will soon follow! Because eating shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should simply be a tasty part of life. 

By: Nadine Ghantous