Calorie Counting, Fat Fears & Trusting Yourself

Striving to live a healthy life is an ever changing and evolving journey. Today, I want to share some changes in my journey.

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In the pursuit to become the healthiest and happiest version of me, I have been learning a lot. Learning about lifting, different approaches to nutrition and ideas on how to best nourish our bodies. A lot has resonated with me. I’ve done some thinking, which I have now written down.

I have thought a lot about my weight loss journey. Counting calories worked for me in the sense that I lost weight but looking back now there’s a reason why they call them 100 calorie packs and not 100 nourishment packs [Source]

For almost two years, I tracked every bite of this and tablespoon of that in my Livestrong app. I thought I needed to do this in order to “be healthy.” Wrong. I associated “healthy” with “calories” (thank you mass media) so I counted them. Was I actually fueling my body off of a sugar-filled granola bar? No. But it was low-cal and that’s good right? Wrong again.

But it’s what, as women especially, are told. It is the message the mass media sends us. Eat less, low calorie foods. Do lots of cardio. Fit into the skinniest of jeans. And I bought into it. I lost more weight than I anticipated. I lost too much weight and I am changing that. 

I have slowly but surely ditched this “diet mentality” but it took me longer than I thought it would. In the spring of last year, I started to read things other than women’s health magazines. I instead read books by doctors, articles by scientists and blogs by nutritionists to better educate myself about food, nutrition and the body. I started to learn that it is better to focus on the food rather than the calories – this is a new thing in our society. My definition of healthy changed (and continues to evolve) and I wanted to share my experience with healthy living, thus I began writing the Little Honey Bee.

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I thought I had things mostly figured out. I was eating “healthy”, exercising and felt good. I started running a lot and limited my meat intake. Both “healthy” things in my mind. But then I hurt my knee and my skin began to breakout. Hm. My body was telling me things. What am I doing wrong? Running is “healthy” and going meat-less is “healthy” right?

I realized I needed to make some changes and better listen to what my body was telling me. Don’t get me wrong: I still love to run and as soon as the weather warms up I’ll be hitting the pavement and the thought of a “big, juicy steak” still makes me want to hurl. But over the past few months, and especially in 2014, I have been really focusing on listening to my body and fueling it properly: not pushing a run when I don’t feel 100% and recognizing that organic, free-range chicken is a good option for me.

I have stopped counting calories. I have changed how I was eating. I have been focusing on making every meal nutritious and eating more food because that’s what my body needs. This wasn’t so easy (and it still isn’t). My morning snack used to just be baby carrots. Now it actually has substance and nutrients.

Avocado egg carrots

My initial thought: more food = more calories. Oh no. I’m going to get “fat” again.

Wrong. Again.

Yesterday I had three Larabars in-between breakfast and lunch. Three. I was hungry and my body said “feed me”. Realistically, I’m not going to get fat. I know this. I know I am not about to go back to guzzling 8 beers, 6 shots of tequila, 1/2 a pizza and a bag of Sun Chips – in one night. Now that that is out of the way, I still care about how I look. Yes, I’m going here. We care about how we look. Plain and simple. I think this is an awkward topic in the healthy living blog community but oh well. As much as we pretend not to care, we do. We all have insecurities and is saying “I don’t care” another way of hiding these insecurities? It isn’t about being a size zero or how much kale I eat. It is about my health, happiness and the reality is that my appearance affects my confidence.

I still want to look a certain way. I want to be healthy and look fit. I finally feel (mostly) confident in my own skin so what happens now? What if my body changes and I don’t feel happy and confident? I’ve been calling this feeling fat fears. I haven’t stepped on a scale in months. I don’t care about the number. But sorry I’m not sorry: I want to feel good about who I see in the mirror because I know the feeling when you don’t.

I love me

I know I am going to gain weight. I can write this today and tell you that I’m good with that. I want to gain weight. I want to get stronger and be able to do un-assisted pull-ups. I want to do a handstand. I want to run a marathon. I’m not stupid: I know a handful of l-b’s will be good for me and my body.

Ultimately, I am striving to eat and live intuitively. For me, I think this comes down to trust. Maybe for you too? Trusting yourself that you know how much food your body needs. Trusting yourself that you know your physical limits. Trusting yourself to eat when you’re hungry — not when the clock tells you to eat. Trusting yourself to exercise when you feel energized — not because you ate five cookies.

Because sometimes one tablespoon of peanut butter isn’t enough. Listen to your body and fuel it well. Don’t fear fat. Be happy. Eat egg yolks. Embrace change. Be confident. But most importantly, trust yourself. Because if you don’t, who will?

 

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for reading my blog and following my journey. 

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101 thoughts on “Calorie Counting, Fat Fears & Trusting Yourself

  1. I don’t think I could possibly love this post more. You totally nailed it. I’m so glad you’ve found such grace and center through this journey. So many girls get mixed up in the mess of dieting and lose sight of why being healthy is so important. It’s truly an inspiration that you’ve not only been able to make it through on top, but that you’ve done it with such openness and honesty. It makes it really easy for people to relate to and learn from, rather than be discouraged or intimidated by. It really does take trial and error and learning through experience. 100 calorie packs. calorie trackers. losing too much. learning what’s right and wrong. All those things taught you something, and I’m really happy you’re teaching that to all your readers!

    Keep it up! :)

    x

    1. Our society doesn’t make it easy for us not to get mixed up in the mess but I think it is really all about educating ourselves – which you know. Thank you for your support Lisa, I am so glad we connected.

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this post, not just for you, but for me. I needed to read this. I recently (this week) found myself going back to calorie counting because that’s what I did before my wedding when I was my thinnest.. a mere 9 months ago. I look at my progress pictures from then and wish that’s what I looked like now, even though I know I still wasn’t happy with the way I looked then.

    Trust is my word for the year, as opposed to a resolution. I need to learn to trust my body and I can’t help but find myself constantly questioning it lately. I can’t help but get caught in the comparison trap with other bloggers who are just naturally more slender (damn them). But I’ll get there just like you are. So thank you.

  3. Thank you for sharing this post! I’m glad to hear you have gained confidence in your journey. I’m trying to work on eating mostly healthy and exercising but in the society we live in were pretty much bread to care about our physical appearance. Loved the comment that you might gain weight but know that you won’t go back to the old way of eating. Sometimes I think people overcompensate not caring, which to those who know nothing about nutrition can send bad messages. Not eating enough and obsessive over eating and morbid obesity are each significant problems in many of today’s cultures.

  4. EVERY WORD YOU SAID IS SO TRUE! I see it completely like you and at the moment I am convincing myself to act accordingly. I stopped counting calories in December (after 3 years) and I can’t be prouder. But it’s only a start. I am still struggling but I will be okay. This post really encourages me to keep going!

    1. Your attitude is amazing… you WILL be okay. It took me a long time to get to this point but the fact is that you are doing it. That’s really half the battle.

  5. WORD girl! You are preaching to the choir and the “don’t count calories” club!!!!
    Like seriously I don’t get how people do it!!! Every single day of our lives are different, so how is it possible to have a set amount of calories per day? That just doesn’t make any sense!

    I think that being somewhat aware of how much you are eating and being mindful is the best approach!! I’m glad that you have grown into this mentality! It takes time, but it is a very healthy mindset to adopt :)
    I’m happy for you!!!
    And I’m glad that you are enjoying your new fitness routine as well!

    Good luck :)

  6. Love this! So important to listen to our bodies and something too many of us don’t do simply because of the numbers associated with them. I am glad you are learning to find what works in your life! And I’m glad you touched on the part that we do care what we look like. however, with the nutritious food, youwon’t be gaining fat. Instead, you will be gaining muscle! That’s even better, right ;)

  7. Great post! I think it’s awesome that you’ve reflected so much on your heath journey and found this confidence. I used to count calories and focus on the numbers. I still log my food, but it’s because I like to look at what I’ve eaten in a day and reflect on how those things made me feel. Trusting yourself is so important and even though I’m not at the skinniest I’ve ever been, I’m healthy and happy and that’s definitely what matters.

  8. I know you already know everything I think and feel about this, so I just wanted to tell you how proud of you I am for sharing this. Seriously, you are such an inspiration. Your honesty touched me and I know will touch all of your readers. Every line was thoughtful and resonated deeply with me, and reminded me of all the thinking I still need to do. I wish I could jump through the screen and give you a HUGE congratulatory and supportive hug. I’m so thankful that blogging brought us together and that I could have contributed in any small way to your journey (thanks for the shout-out ;) I was so touched).

  9. Awww beautiful post Amy! This is so important, and something I think every girl can relate to in some way or the other.

    Even as an elite athlete, I have struggled with weight concerns over the years, and still have doubts as to the way I look. It is hard not to count calories when I see other runners around me who are so lean that you see every bone in their body, and every vein in their arm, every ab bulging out of their stomach. But you are right, it is about listening to your body and being truly healthy. Not listening to what calorie intake you “should” be having, but what your body is telling you.

    This also means not restricting on the things you love, or you are more likely to lose it, and overindulge. Thank you for this post, you are doing amazing, and I know you will keep up the good work :)

  10. Oh my gosh this is perfect! I have never been a calorie counter, and I know I would get upsessed with it if I let myself. Like you said, it’s about giving your body what it needs. I used to eat the low calorie bars and things, but I finally learned these were just empty calories, and I have totally changed the way I eat. I actually have a post planned about how my eating habits have changed and what dramatic event helped me realize I needed a change in my diet.

  11. Wonderful post my dear, I was waiting for that one!! You can be so proud of how far you have come. Believe me, you will love those additional lb’s, cause most of them will consist of MUSCLES and will make you look even stronger and fitter!! And you will rock those Crossfit WOD’s!
    I admire you for being able to truly listen to your body and trust it. I still plan a lot and especially in stressful times like this am very clingy to my mealplan. But hey, it’s all about baby steps, right?

    1. Was it that obvious? haha Thanks Lucie, I am loving Crossfit and hope we can do a WOD together one day. Baby steps are the way to go for sure, you have come such a long way and your journey is very inspiring. Here’s to sexy muscles ;)

  12. Thank you for articulating this Amy. These feelings are sometimes difficult to put into words (especially when sharing with so many people)! I have been feeling similarly and doing my best to just embrace life as it unfolds, ‘fat’ and all ;)

  13. what is healthy these days? i think the media has it all wrong!! but you my dear, do not. It’s about YOUR health and BODY and MIND relationship. Always evolving and learning. Love that cross fit has helped!

  14. Ahhh I love this. It really is all about trusting yourself isn’t it? I’ve been having to trust myself more with fitness recently than food. Because my back and hips hurt frequently, I constantly have to do what’s best for my body in order to not increase my pain. If that means yoga, great. If that means not strength training for a few months, that’s fine too. I think it’s a long process but, like you said, eating and workout out intuitively is what’s important to make you look and feel good.

  15. What a fantastic post! In college, I had a few years of calorie counting to undo the freshman 15 and it became an obsession… I didn’t like the control factor at all! It took me years to shake it off and get to the place where I was no longer tallying food up at the end of the day, but I’m so glad to be free from all of that. And like you, I now eat for health… love learning about nutrition and also helping other women learn how to listen to their bodies. Thanks for your beautiful honesty and vulnerability!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience – that means so much to me! Reading your blog has certainly helped me listen to my body and I can see the effects you have on other women. It’s clearly so easy to become obsessed with calories but with health coaching and holistic approaches like yours, we are slowly but surely moving away from that. Thank you for your support.

  16. I love this so much lady <3 This is what health is about! not who's the skinniest, not the exact number of calories you're eating, but this. Fueling your body properly, with mainly wholesome food, being active, and actually listening to your body's signals than relying on what some random 'app' dictates. I think that the image of 'health' that gets pushed in the mainstream media is more detrimental than helpful when it comes to women really being able to get themselves to a truly healthy place with food, exercise and their bodies.

    1. Exactly. That’s why I could relate so much to your post yesterday. And while I did not outright talk about the BL and the controversy here, Rachel’s story hits close to home. I just hope the messages begin to change. Thank you Sam.

  17. This is awesome. I think so many women can relate to this and this is just what I needed to hear at this point in my health journey. It’s totally ok to care about what you look like, but it also turns out that when you’re happy inside you tend to be happier outside too. I remember starving myself and I never felt like I looked good no matter what and on the flip side when you do take care of yourself it shows. Thanks for such and honest and inspiring post.

  18. I can completely relate. I had to gain weight over the past year in order to resolve my health and hormonal issues. Initially it was very hard and I found it hard to accept. But eventually I came to realize: a) if I don’t gain weight I’m going to continue to feel like crap and b) my weight shouldn’t define how I feel. Now my weight has balanced out and I feel much much better! I’m definitely not as skinny as I used to be but reminding myself about how much better I feel now is generally good motivation. Some things that helped me: moving away from reading a lot of healthy living blogs and related sources. It’s pretty easy to become obsessed with this kind of stuff. Focusing on other areas of my life has been really important for me. I also got rid of the clothes I used to wear (that were super small now) and it was something I should have done sooner – and would recommend!!

  19. I love the way you ended this. “Trust yourself because if you don’t who will?” That’s so true and wrapped up your thoughts so well. Eating for health and not calories was something I had to learn as well. The special K diet did help me lose weight – but it wasn’t a sustainable life. I thought for many years that it was! It is sad but thankfully I know that I don’t have to eat special k for breakfast to be at my fittest. I feel happier today than I ever did, and guess what? I’m a few pounds heavier than I was in high school. But that’s because I’m not eating with a one track mind and I know that how I look, while like you said a thing that we all do put importance on and are aware of, won’t completely define me. But when I am satisfied with how I look and reach that point in a healthful way, life is so much better. Have a great weekend Amy. xo

    1. I think it is a process and we need to go through fad diets to get to where we are and come out on top. I don’t know many people (heck, anyone for that matter) who start on a path to better themselves by doing all the “right things”

  20. Way to go, Amy! The “trust yourself, because if you don’t, who else will?” was the theme of my Monday post … love it! If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend the book “The Calorie Myth” by Jonathan Bailor. I wish I had thought to recommend it to you earlier, because there was an AMAZING online conference this week, with several speakers each day … I listened to a ton of them and loved them. But even though you’ll be missing the input of all the speakers, the book may help you out!

  21. This post was exactly what I needed this morning. I feel like we are the same person! So many of us struggle with counting calories, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t obsess over the fact I might have just eaten 3 tablespoons of peanut butter instead of the recommended serving. This post is so honest and accurate, I hope one day I can get to the same point you are at with your health. Thank you!

    1. There is always someone going through the same/similar things. I know the feeling about peanut butter. Hide the tablespoon. Use the spoon and slowly but surely you won’t think about any numbers associated with the food, just that it’s delicious and nourishing your beautiful body.

  22. I’m just starting a similar journey to you and still have some of the fears in ingrained in my head that you’ve seemed to get past for the most part. Although I know deep down they’re untrue and hinder more than help, it’s still a mental mindgame that I play. It’s inspiring to hear your progress and thoughts!

  23. I love this post! I used to be so particular about counting calories. I still log my food but I do it more to see what I have eaten during the day. You seem to have such a healthier outlook towards food now and that’s really what I want to work towards. You go Little Honey Bee we love reading! :)

  24. Great post Amy! I think it’s so awesome that you are recognizing what your body needs and listening too it. I too made all those mistakes for many years. Counting calories, limiting fats, endless hours of cardio and you know where it left me? Unable to get pregnant…. At almost 33 (in one week! Eek!) I now know that is not healthy and unfortunately it took me way too long to realize this. The effects of my eat less, move more mentality that was drilled into me as a young girl ruined my metabolism. I’m so proud of you for making the changes towards better health and so happy to see more young women realizing what true health is, not what society says it should be :-)

    1. Thank you for the kind words Giselle. I wasn’t kidding when I would always comment how much your paleo ways inspired me :) I am so glad I have found a happy place with Crossfit and I am actually excited about eating coconut oil from the jar. I know you are working towards healing and I am thinking about you – you are such a strong and incredible person.

  25. I loved this. Thank you for being so open and sharing your struggles and revelations.
    May God bless you in your health and fitness journey. I know I have struggled with this, but by the grace of God, He is helping me overcome it. I think that honestly, it’s just about trusting God to be with you and bless you. And remember that we aren’t perfect- we will fail and make mistakes- but our Father is perfect, and He will never fail. His grace is more than enough, and it covers all of our short-comings. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. :)

  26. this is great girl! your honesty is amazing and I love how much I can relate. I used to think “red meat” wasn’t healthy and NOT eating it was the way to go. But, truth me told.. once I started adding a little bit into my diet, I realized I did feel more energized and needed it. Food is fuel <3

  27. LOVE this post!!! It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Diabetes that I realized that food is fuel. My body needs it, but it needs HEALTHY foods. I stopped calorie counting, stopped obsessing about things I can’t control and I feel SO much better.

  28. You are such a rock star Amy!! I am always so impressed with you and how you live each and every day. I still struggle with gaining/losing weight and finding my perfect balance, but it is a work in progress. It sounds like you and crossfit are a great match – keep it up. I’d love to join you at metric sometime!

    1. I’d love for you to join me! You know I was scared/intimidated at first too but please shoot me a text (I sent you a Twitter message) and we can coordinate a time :)

    1. Thank you for posting the link, I loved reading your perspective and yes you were very right :) I can certainly relate to Rachel’s weight loss journey. Thanks for finding me, your approach to health is fabulous!

  29. Amy – this is awesome and brave. Thank you for sharing. The mass media does a great job at propaganda and brain washing. When I started eating (healthy) fat again it took a while to get over all those years of programming. I started tracking my macros instead of calories and now I track nothing. I don’t get on a scale either. I listen to my body and do the best I can. It’s easier said than done.

  30. I’m working my way towards eating and living intuitively. It’s been difficult, because for so long I have been stuck with numbers, and in my head I just naturally configure out calorie counts. I know it’s part of the process. Food is nourishment and I need to find that balance. I don’t want to stress about numbers. I love eating nutritious foods along with eating food that is good for my soul. I have suffered from and eating and body image disorder. I’m working at it every day. There is trial and error, but that is always a new lesson learned. It’s a huge learning experience.

  31. This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read. I just stumbled across your blog via Twitter and am SO pleased to have discovered it. I am now following and can’t wait to continue being inspired by your brilliant insights and positive outlook! Thanks for sharing!

  32. This post made me indescribably happy- I love how comfortable and secure you are with this decision (not an easy one!) and how wise you are for recognizing what you need. You are so inspiring and I cannot wait to see your transformation. You are headed towards great things :)

  33. This made me so happy to read, because it’s so true! So many people, myself included, worry too much about counting calories and macros to try to maintain a certain look when health should be our #1 priority. It’s still hard for me to get away from the calorie counting mindset after struggling with eating disorders, even though I’m eating healthier than ever and finally feeling happier in my own skin. But it’s posts like yours that remind me that food = fuel and there’s no need to fear the healthy stuff!

    1. Ashley, you have obviously come a long way and I am so happy for you! It is so important to be healthy but also feel happy and that is certainly attainable :)

  34. You totally and completely nailed it. You took the words right out of my mouth. I used to be absolutely terrified about gaining weight, so I was always counting calories in my head and replacing whole foods with fat free and sugar free garbage. I felt like absolute crap but didn’t care because I was skinny. It was a slowwww process but now I eat what I want, when I want (and a lot of the time I want vegetables! surprise surprise). I work out, lift weights, and get so excited when I realize that I’m getting stronger. Feeling strong is AMAZING. I’m so so so happy you found peace with these thoughts and with your issues. You’re an inspiration for anyone struggling.

  35. Thank you for this post, and solidifying so much for us women in one post. CrossFit has had the biggest impact on my life as well, and I’m so thankful for the community I have at my gym. In all honesty, everything you wrote about is pretty close to my journey as well, and I am reaching that place of living my healthy. And it feels SO good to not stress about “x” amount of calories that I am able to have, or the number on the scale. I went to the doctor last week, and when they weighed me, it was a number I hadn’t seen for a long time, and it was up about 10 pounds…but I look and feel stronger than ever before, and to me, it is worth it. I have so many goals I want to reach in CrossFit, and if it means adding that much muscle on, I’m TOTALLY okay with it. Now I just have to eat more because of my insane metabolism right now…so that is my goal right now, to up the calories and do it in the right way. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

    1. I am so happy for you Kelsey. I love that we have similar feelings about Crossfit. I never thought it would have this effect but you are right: it is an incredible community. It is certainly a journey and I am so grateful for learning so much from it. Are you still writing a blog? Your link doesn’t work for some reason..

      1. I am….but it has been awhile since I have posted anything. Life has been a bit hectic for me – but I’m trying! Love CrossFit so much, just have to shamelessly say that.

  36. Love this post … and it gets at the very important point of discovery what is OUR healthy. There seems to constantly be so much seeking of the ‘right answer’ and people who are quick to tell us that we are doing it wrong – shaming.
    – Not vegan? Shame on you
    – Not paleo? Shame on you
    – Not a marathoner? shame on you
    – Don’t bike/swim/cross-fit/whatever? shame on you.

    The reality is that what is ‘right’ is what is what works for us. Certainly it is worth the pursuit of whole, real sustainable foods, but should we be hating on someone who wants to eat beef? Some would immediately say yes … and chances are those would be the same types of people who would have been shaming people eating butter rather than margarine when I was a kid in the 70s! So quick to judge and shame others.

    And what is most important is the positive – learning nutrition, learning what works for us, learning how our body works. And yes, we care what we look like … and I don’t think that is a bad thing. So long as our pursuit is of what makes us feel good rather than trying to fit into someone else’s idea.

    1. LOVE what you said Michael. You are so right. Health, nutrition and fitness seems to be the new religion and politics but it is so important to stay grounded and ultimately figure out what works for us. ps. I saw you are a Boston guy — my favorite city :)

  37. I love your bravery and honesty in writing this post and I think it’s so wonderful that you’re listening to your body and giving it what it wants/needs as opposed to letting fears dictate what you should do/eat/etc. I think we’re all on that journey. I know that I’ve had to take a step back and focus on what my body is telling me to do in terms of food and fitness instead of trying to keep up with the rest of the world. I think it’s easy to get caught up in comparisons, especially in the blog world, and sometimes I find that centering myself and anchoring myself in my own energy is the best thing I can do.

  38. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Thank you for being so downright honest. I have found myself stuck in a calorie counting rut time and time again because of the lovely “fat fears”. I just try to remind myself that it is a journey and the process takes lots of time and trial and error. Congratulations on progressing in your journey! I am so proud of you!

  39. I just stumbled across your blog and LOVE this post!!! If you have any other great resources, books, etc. about this topic I would love to hear about them! Thank you for keeping it real! :)

  40. Damn, this post is awesome. I am so with you, trusting myself and my body is so difficult. I’m still stuck in that rut where I question myself if I have a snack bigger than, let’s say, your baby carrots. Sustenance? Doesn’t that mean I will gain weight? Get too big? I need to trust my body to tell me what’s healthy for it. And like you said, am I going to go back to the days of a full pizza and shooting shots? No, I’d rather sip on one or two cocktails slowly and eat a ton of Brussels sprouts ON a few slices of pizza ;) I need to keep on proving to myself over and over that I won’t “let myself go” and maybe one day I will truly believe that.

  41. Thank you so much for posting this. Your approach to food made me reevaluate my eating habits and challenged me to start reincorporating healthy fats back into my diet! I’m afraid of how my body will react but like you said, I need to trust my body. Fats should be friends, not fears!!!

  42. You’re inspiring me to make some changes. I’m trying to get strong which in my case does mean decreasing the size of my fat cells (see how I didn’t say losing “weight”?) :) I’m going to work on trusting my body more.

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