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How to Stop Calorie Counting

how to stop calorie countingDo you ever feel like counting and numbers are taking over your life and your mind? Are you constantly counting pounds on the scale? Weighing and measuring your food? Do you know the number of calories in every food and the grams of carbs in everything that you put in your mouth? Is this obsession driving you crazy?

Many of my clients come in feeling as though they’d love to stop counting calories, but they don’t know how, they feel as though if they did, they’d totally lose control. Counting calories helps give them a sense of control and satisfaction.

Usually, when I begin people on the road to intuitive eating and mindful eating, I help them wean off of calorie counting by using numbers to help them assess their appetites. It’s actually a lot more challenging than calorie counting, but ultimately more useful. It increases mindfulness and helps you to actually get in touch with the needs of your body.

How to do it: 

1. Learn the hunger and satiety scale.

 

0 Starvation mode. Void of feelings. No energy, tired, empty.
1 Ravenous. Feeling uncomfortably hungry. Dizzy, grumpy.
2 Very Hungry, unable to focus on work or conversation.
3 Hungry. Stomach is beginning to growl, you are beginning to lose focus.
4 Getting Hungry. First thoughts of food begin.
5 Neutral. Not hungry, not full. Not obsessing about food. Nurtured, productive, able to focus. If you are eating, you can still eat more.
6 Satisfied. You’ve eaten enough to be content. You are not uncomfortable, yet you do not need more.
7 Slightly Full. A bit more than satisfied. You might feel like you had a bit too much.
8 Very Full. You begin to feel bloated as though you’ve had too much.
9 Uncomfortably full. You just want to go to sleep. You might feel depressed or regretful.
10 Completely Stuffed. You feel like you might throw up. You are in pain, you can’t focus, and you don’t know how you got here.

2. Decide to  learn to not let yourself drop below a 3 and not go above a 7.

3. Check in with yourself throughout the day. When you find yourself at a 4, it’s time to think about getting a meal.

4. Before each meal, note or write down where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.

5. Eat your food slowly and mindfully and stop right in the middle. When you stop, note or write down where you are. If you are at a 5, you know that you can eat a bit more. Stop again and if you are at a 6 or a 7, stop eating.

It’s that simple. But it’s not simple really because you are using the wisdom of your body to tell you how much or how little you should be eating rather than an arbitrary number that doesn’t necessarily relate to what your body needs. Keeping track of the numbers on the hunger and satiety scale will help you to feel as though you are in control in a way that calorie counting did only it’s also a way to increase mindfulness. After a while, you will be able to stop using the numbers because you will intuitively know when to eat and when to stop eating.

Start by trying it for one meal a day. You can also check in with yourself every 1-2 hours and ask yourself where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.

You might try some hypnosis to help you stop dieting and to eat more mindfully for your body and less by someone else’s calorie chart.

Interested in doing a  seven day experiment? Try it and link to this blog post, I’d love to see how it goes for people!

Friday Q&A- I can’t stop calorie counting

Question:
I was wondering if you could give me any advice with my problem. I lost 6 stone 4 years ago calorie counting by writing it down every day.When i got to my target I tried to stop the counting,  but found instead of writing it down it stayed in my head. Every day I worry about my weight and what I’m eating, I log calories of meals in my head but don’t know how many I actually have each day.I think I’m trying to keep track but in a haphazard way and it’s stressing me out.I try so hard not to count but cant seem to manage it. If I eat anything extra or different I try somehow to make it add into another meal I might have that day, so i don’t feel i have overeaten.
I have NOT BINGED OR PURGED or been ANOREXIC.Only had an issue counting
 calories.
I have seen a therapist but they put me on 3 meals and 4 snacks a day regime which hasn’t helped. ( Is this more suited for binge eaters rather than obsessive calorie counting)
I have tried to stop weighing, is that a good idea? I have gone a month without weighing, is the goal to never weigh?
Any advice would be so helpful as I’m rock bottom with this problem.My life has come to a stop and I have a struggle to get out and do normal things. Its as if i become paralyzed when thoughts about counting come into my head, I muddled with what amounts  I should be having. I don’t want to go back to writing them down again as it was not working doing that at the end.
Debra
Answer:
Hi Debra,
Thanks so much for your question. This is a very good example of an eating issue that’s not a straight up  eating disorder, but nonetheless as you stated, it’s incredibly distressing and beginning to take over your life.
Your instincts are right. I agree with you that choosing to quit weighing is a great idea. In fact, trying to stop counting your calories and refrain from weighing and measuring your food is probably best. As you said, you’ve become obsessed with weighing, measuring and counting and if you don’t “do it right” you feel stressed out and distressed.  A way that you can continue to keep some level of control without counting calories or pounds is to begin quantifying your hunger and satiety using a scale.
Before you begin to eat, rate your hunger on a scale from from 0-10.  0 is so hungry you’re practically passing out, 10 is so full you’re vomiting. Eat S L O W L Y— and stop half-way through and check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What do you need? Instead of having a goal for a certainly calorie count, see if you can change your goal to giving your body what it needs. Your body does not want to be uncomfortably full, nor does it want to be empty, it wants to be satisfied. So, rather than looking outside your body to numbers, you might want to look inside your body for cues for what you need. When you eat to your hunger and stop when you’re satisfied (not still hungry but not very full), your body will come a place that is comfortable to you.
If you use a notebook before each meal to record your hunger before the meal, in the middle of the meal and at the end of the meal, you might find that you still feel that sense of control that you had when you were counting calories. Then, as you find that you’re able to stop actually recording the numbers, you will naturally be eating when you are hungry and stopping when you’re satisfied. The numbers won’t be stuck in your head because you’ll be focused on yourself rather than on something outside yourself.
I hope that this is helpful.
Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.