Counting calories is a super simple way to feel more in control – at least on paper!
It’s easy to sum up the “calories in – calories out” equation. Counting calories makes logical sense.
But what if it isn’t really that easy?
What happens when you eat well most of the time, but there are times when emotional eating takes hold and your humanness gets in the way of the simple equation?
Emotional eating is more like pretzel logic.
Emotional eating makes sense, it’s just not logical. Human emotions are connected to both conscious and unconscious memories, thoughts and perceptions. Emotional eating calms your brain in the short them.
For a lot of people when they try this approach emotional eating often turns into a binge and feeling more out of control with even more guilt and shame on top of that.
You might spiral from fries and a soda for lunch to cupcakes for an afternoon snack or a fancy coffee or an energy drink mid-afternoon when the blood sugar crash hits hard and you’re getting sleepy.
Since you’re already “off the wagon,” the day gets even worse when you stop by your favorite fast food place on the way home from work. You’ve hit the point of no return and it’s just you and food tonight.
Maybe tomorrow will be better.
The calorie hit is big.
When you add it all up the guilt, shame and disgust can be overwhelming. The solution is – once again, start a diet. Again and again and again.
When guilt, shame and disappointment lead to counting calories to feel good about yourself it’s just never going to happen!
Dieting doesn’t work that way.
But, does it help you to stop emotional eating and bingeing?
My guess is that your answer is no, it just makes it worse trying the same old solution without a different outcome.
You probably find that your feelings for yourself aren’t generous or kind either. Sadness and frustration make it difficult to see other options.
For the people I work with, the ‘after emotional eating episode’ feelings can be more hurtful than eating the food.
Counting calories is like putting a band-aid on your car after an accident.
Even though there’s an accident and care is needed the band-aid will not fix the problem.
Counting calories is a way to set boundaries for yourself, no matter how much this solution makes things worse, it’s important to acknowledge the goal.
You want to feel more in control than the food that’s controlling you.
How much of your day is spent tracking and making decisions about what you can or can’t eat based on the data collected on your phone app?
The thing is that you can transform your relationship with food from external control (calorie counting/apps) to internal control (developing a trusting relationship with yourself and your body). Keep reading and I’ll teach you how!
The battle needs shift from fighting with food for control to working with your needs and taking good care of yourself.
Battles are externally driven. The focus is on what you’re doing wrong and how you can wrestle control from the food.
Taking care of your needs is a fundamental shift in the metaphor. It’s the thing that got you into this situation in the first place. Focusing on food to meet your emotional needs is what lead to emotional eating.
When you first stop calorie counting it can seem like you’ll stop paying attention to your health or you’ll thoughtlessly eat whatever, whenever, however.
But, that’s not the way a healthy partnership, a relationship with yourself that is internally driven works. A respectful relationship isn’t one that allows hurtful, destructive situations to continue in the name of love. That’s the opposite of health.
Loving limits develop from your awareness of what you need and supports you, in mind, body and heart.
Transforming your relationship with yourself and food is a permanent fix. In fact, it’s one of those situations where you get to a point that it’s impossible to not listen with self-compassion and clarity about your needs anymore.
Here are 5 things to do instead of counting calories and become a Conscious Eater too!
1. Track your feelings
If you’re not ready to let go of tracking, instead of tracking calories, write down what you’ve eaten and what you’re feeling. This will give you much more useful information.
It’s the beginning point of developing a supportive relationship. Getting to know what you really think about what you’ve eaten and how you feel physically and emotionally after your meal or snack will give you information you can use the next time you’re feeling a similar way.
2. Stop making judgments.
A judgmental attitude leads to black and white thinking.
There’s a mini court of law in your head with a conviction and you’re the guilty party. Sentencing is quickly handed out. There is no appeals process.
The judgment is, you are bad or the food you enjoyed is bad and dieting is good. It’s really that fundamental. But life is filled with nuance and transforming judgment into curiosity leads to all sorts of possibilities.
Curiosity gives you some space to think about a situation from all sides, identify how you feel and determine what you need to do for yourself. It takes time and care and you’re more than worth the effort.
3. Plan your meals instead of leaving it up to whatever!
When you have an idea of what you’re going to eat for each meal you take the guesswork out of leaving your meals up to chance.
When you know what you’re having for lunch or dinner you will feel more in control because you are making choices for yourself – the ultimate control.
Be sure to eat meals you enjoy and provide the nutrition your body needs to run well.
I can’t stress this enough, planning meals without some measure of pleasure will lead you to avoiding them. Make sure you look forward to your meal by providing yourself with a pause in the day to enjoy yourself (even better if you eat with someone interesting).
4. Make sure you get enough sleep.
When you drag through the day because you’re tired, your body will look for quick energy.
Your ability to make clear choices for yourself will be greatly diminished. You’ll find yourself making impulsive decisions that you aren’t comfortable in the long run.
The urge to count calories and feel back in control may be even stronger and then the cycle starts all over again.
Rest is essential to feeling good and to have the mental energy, as well as physical energy, to make choices to fuel your life.
5. Decide what type of relationship you want to have with your body.
It’s like learning to swim. Eventually, you let go of the wall and trust that you have learned how to tread water in the deep end of the pool.
You’re a little unsure, so you stay within arm’s reach. As your confidence grows you move a little further away from the wall, it gets easier, but it’s also tiring.
You only have so much strength for one day. As you practice you get stronger and more confident and before you know it, you’re swimming like a fish!
This is the same thing that happens when breaking free from calorie counting. It’s difficult to trust yourself and as you do, the trust in yourself will grow and you will find yourself redefining your relationship with food, your body and yourself.
Transforming your relationship with yourself is one of the most positive things you can do. You can learn to treat yourself with kindness and self-compassion while setting limits that are a natural extension of a conscious relationship with yourself.
Becoming a Conscious Eater transforms your relationship with food and your life!