2

votes

Does counting make you crazy?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 10, 2012 at 10:07 PM

When I start paying quantitative attention to what I eat, including keeping a food diary, calorie/carb/any-kind-of-macro tracking, weighing etc, I start to tense up. This isn't even when I try to restrict what I eat, it's just the process of measuring. It feels like I'm literally going crazy. It impacts on my sleep, I lose any enjoyment and spontaneity in my everyday life, and I get irritable. Over a period of a couple of weeks I gradually develop guilt and anxiety feelings about eating, my eating gets more and more restricted, and eventually I kind of collapse into mindless eating - not binging or overeating, particularly, just having what I feel like. After that point I can look back and identify how stressed I've become, and refocus on just being holistically mindful of eating well.

I've been paleo for about 20 months, and have successfully used it to sort out my IBS issues. BUT I'm still about 25kg overweight! I don't lose weight easily at all, so it seems that I'm going to have to do some kind of tracking process if I'm ever going to get out of these size 18 pants! I don't have any particular hormonal or mental health issues (other than this one ;-)), and have never had an eating disorder.

For the paleohackers who've never experienced this, it's really hard to describe the hopelessness I feel. I've tried everything to just get over it. Has anyone else had this?? Have you overcome it?? Or just decided to live with it?

19ff515e8ec02d95e8f2cf68c3ec1373

(1207)

on October 12, 2012
at 04:28 AM

We are all different and it is okay. It just gives me a sense of peace; I'm not at food's mercy.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:06 AM

The other way to cut back without trying to hard is to cut fat. All the "gurus" agree that this is not only a valid strategy but may be a necessary strategy for some of us. Just simple substitutions of leaner cuts, a little less butter on your veggies, using light coconut milk instead of full, can all work without much effort. Many of us do this and still keep a high fat diet. I'm usually in the 40-50% range and that's still considered high fat. Reducing fat in your diet is NOT the same as eating "low fat" (something that I think is lost of this crowd sometimes.)

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:03 AM

And you will work through it Jac. Just hold on to the progress you've made then keep tweeking to see if you can get that scale to move. I see my "journey" as more of a puzzle and tracking and recording just allows me to see which pieces I've tried to put where and whether they fit or not. It's just information. If you haven't already looked to fruit and nuts then look there, lol. I swear those two foods are the undoing of far too many.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:10 PM

Haha, not woo at all! I've been down that road, travelling with Oprah and Dr Phil! I know that rabbit hole well. This issue, though, is something different. I'll think on it some more. Thanks for putting it out there.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:07 PM

Awesome! I feel level and accountable with paleo and anti-IBS eating, which is why this issue around counting has surprised and confused me.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:06 PM

Awesome! I feel that way about planning and noticing my paleo/anti-IBS eating.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:04 PM

You sound just like my daughter! I think I'm just a really slow learner ;-) because every time I started to count I expected to feel like you do - I'm only now realising the depth of the difference in responses

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 07:59 PM

Thanks Shari - lovely answer! This batshit-crazy stuff is something I've only just realised and am trying to work through. I feel amazingly steady on paleo, and then try to tweak it for weight loss and it all goes straight to custard.

44349dd8bf3bc226731d2f6bd42e8124

(318)

on October 11, 2012
at 04:53 PM

Excellent response Shari, and some great advice. I agree 100% that each of us has the ability to decide what we like or do not like and what is beneficial to us. I used to hate tracking previously, but I decided if I'm going to be serious about losing weight I needed to know what I was consuming. Nowadays, it's not that hard to track with all of the great apps out there. To me, a 2 minute per day sacrifice tracking my foods is worth it to see a loss on the scale consistently.

F92e4ca55291c3f3096a3d4d3d854986

(11698)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:22 PM

True, Matt, but not if you first establish what is a proper amount for you to eat each day (i.e. with a nutritionist or whatever) then stick to that.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on October 11, 2012
at 09:46 AM

Nice thoughtful answer, Shari

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on October 11, 2012
at 05:06 AM

Perspective is everything. It may sound crazy but I am grateful for the process.

2436f4e6d010656b346629a77e9599dd

(270)

on October 11, 2012
at 03:39 AM

Yay for being so healthy! I think weight loss is a complicated issue--no doubt, people are nicer to you when you're thin and assume better things about your character. I don't think the onus should be on fat people (or people of color, or queer people) to change in order to be treated well. At the same time, as an individual decision, I can see the benefits, if one is a person for whom long-term weight loss is possible and healthy.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 11, 2012
at 03:17 AM

You may be keeping portions constant but that doesn't mean they aren't undersized.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:14 AM

The cup method works pretty well - a lot better than 3 oz meat = a stack of playing cards. Do they mean a casino deck, or a home pinochle deck? With the jokers? With cards you take chances.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:10 AM

As with borofergie, bowling could be what you're looking for. Mindless counting and exercise all ROLLED into one.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:07 AM

If you take up bowling you should get some relief. At least watch the Big Lebowski, have a white russian and unwind. This worked for me anyway.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:09 AM

Actually, I have to reconsider this response. There is a knee-jerk I'm-just-dumb-thing going on that I'm trying to address with my question . . . I AM motivated, I'm smart, I mostly have my life and shit together. But this is something that I haven't been able to work through at all. It seems to be out of my control. When I dealt with the IBS I didn't do any weighing or measuring, and although it was a lengthy and complex process I didn't lose the plot. So I have to thank you again for your comment, and sincerely hope that T2 diabetes doesn't catch me. I'd probably be screwed.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:03 AM

Thanks Eva. Yes, being healthy at this size is something I've aimed for. At almost 50, I'm now healthier than I've ever been in my life! I may have to abandon the quest for weight loss as well.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:00 AM

Uh-ha, I know I need to do it, too, if I am ever going to lose weight. I'm just checking to see if anyone else knows about this pattern of stress - it goes way beyond anything I have control over. Thanks for the comment, though.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 10, 2012
at 10:27 PM

Good point. Doing the elimination process to manage the IBS didn't do this to me. Maybe it's all in the motivation. Love your posts, by the way.

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13 Answers

6
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 10, 2012
at 10:24 PM

You should try catching the T2 diabetes.

With the threat of having my feet amputated and my eyeballs bleeding, carb counting is the one thing that keeps me sane.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 10, 2012
at 10:27 PM

Good point. Doing the elimination process to manage the IBS didn't do this to me. Maybe it's all in the motivation. Love your posts, by the way.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:09 AM

Actually, I have to reconsider this response. There is a knee-jerk I'm-just-dumb-thing going on that I'm trying to address with my question . . . I AM motivated, I'm smart, I mostly have my life and shit together. But this is something that I haven't been able to work through at all. It seems to be out of my control. When I dealt with the IBS I didn't do any weighing or measuring, and although it was a lengthy and complex process I didn't lose the plot. So I have to thank you again for your comment, and sincerely hope that T2 diabetes doesn't catch me. I'd probably be screwed.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on October 11, 2012
at 05:06 AM

Perspective is everything. It may sound crazy but I am grateful for the process.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:07 AM

If you take up bowling you should get some relief. At least watch the Big Lebowski, have a white russian and unwind. This worked for me anyway.

4
98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

on October 11, 2012
at 04:07 AM

Lots of great answers here and a mixed bag as expected. Some do very well with it and others not so much. I do count and have for years. Counting isn't big in paleo circles as the party line seems to be that there is no need for such a thing. Well, yeah. We all know how that goes.

Jac first off don't get discouraged. I plateaued for almost a full year and then the scale started to move again for no discernible reason. Sometimes I think our body just needs to settle into itself. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn on my journey was that my body had no interest in my expectations for pretty much anything. It was going to do as it pleased. And so it was.

The other thing I found is that you can feel differently about anything if you want to. You can learn to not hate counting/tracking - or anything else for that matter - if you want to. It's not the process but your reaction to it and your reaction to anything is completely under your control. If you think tracking/recording your food might be a valuable tool for you for you then start working on that. Learn to let go of any judgement or negativity that you associate with the activity of tracking and you'll find it's just a process of collecting and recording data. It doesn't have to be upsetting at all if you don't want it to be. Having said that, depending on how strong your aversion it may not be worth your time and energy to rewire your thinking about this process. That's your decision to make.

If you feel like restricting food is where you are in your journey what about just making decisions based on visual cues? You know what you normally eat so cut that by 1/4 or decrease the calorically dense foods and increase your veggies just by feel? If you want to cut carbs then just try eating half the sweet potato and filling in with some more greens or whatever? You certainly can play around with your macros just using visual techniques that perhaps would feel more natural or at least less stressful to you?

The other thing you may want to consider is working in some treat meals/days so that you can avoid that feeling of wanting to eat whatever you want because you've restricted or constricted yourself. Plan some meals where you can eat what you like. Maybe alternate day fasting or something like JUDDD would work for you? I'm not talking going crazy but just building in a release valve might help you a lot.

So there are lots of things to try. Look, this is the good stuff! This is all part of the journey. The art of self-mastery. Just keep on going. You've gone 20 months and sorted out your IBS which is great! So now the next 20 you can focus on the weight issue and see what you can come up with. You are wise enough and self-aware enough to have taken notice of a cycle that is destructive and that recognition is half the battle right there. Don't let it get you down. Just decide to figure it out. Take your time and figure it out.

Good luck!

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 07:59 PM

Thanks Shari - lovely answer! This batshit-crazy stuff is something I've only just realised and am trying to work through. I feel amazingly steady on paleo, and then try to tweak it for weight loss and it all goes straight to custard.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on October 11, 2012
at 09:46 AM

Nice thoughtful answer, Shari

44349dd8bf3bc226731d2f6bd42e8124

(318)

on October 11, 2012
at 04:53 PM

Excellent response Shari, and some great advice. I agree 100% that each of us has the ability to decide what we like or do not like and what is beneficial to us. I used to hate tracking previously, but I decided if I'm going to be serious about losing weight I needed to know what I was consuming. Nowadays, it's not that hard to track with all of the great apps out there. To me, a 2 minute per day sacrifice tracking my foods is worth it to see a loss on the scale consistently.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:03 AM

And you will work through it Jac. Just hold on to the progress you've made then keep tweeking to see if you can get that scale to move. I see my "journey" as more of a puzzle and tracking and recording just allows me to see which pieces I've tried to put where and whether they fit or not. It's just information. If you haven't already looked to fruit and nuts then look there, lol. I swear those two foods are the undoing of far too many.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on October 12, 2012
at 01:06 AM

The other way to cut back without trying to hard is to cut fat. All the "gurus" agree that this is not only a valid strategy but may be a necessary strategy for some of us. Just simple substitutions of leaner cuts, a little less butter on your veggies, using light coconut milk instead of full, can all work without much effort. Many of us do this and still keep a high fat diet. I'm usually in the 40-50% range and that's still considered high fat. Reducing fat in your diet is NOT the same as eating "low fat" (something that I think is lost of this crowd sometimes.)

4
366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:09 AM

No, quite the opposite -- counting calories has allowed me to maintain my target weight, which gives me enormous satisfaction and has improved my health. I assume I will be able to stop counting some day, but if someone told me I could either A) keep counting forever or B) put back on a few pounds, I'd choose A.

It has also encouraged me to really think through what and when I eat. Some people find that counting takes the enjoyment out of eating, but for me it has done the opposite -- I really think about how I can put together a meal that is delicious and nutrient dense and satiating but that doesn't go over my calorie & carb limits. Another way to put it maybe is that I don't "waste" caloric intake any more, instead I emphasize the foods I really love and enjoy. I don't really see my eating as "restricted" so much as "controlled" (granted, that difference may be mostly in my head, but it matters!) -- if I am careful about what & when I eat, I never go to bed hungry and I always get to eat the foods I love.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:10 AM

As with borofergie, bowling could be what you're looking for. Mindless counting and exercise all ROLLED into one.

4
Da2c728c093488e4f2ea87b81619682f

on October 10, 2012
at 11:50 PM

Tracking calories is something I've found is something I need to do, if I want to lose weight, get healthy, and lose weight. I was a tiny bit stressed counting calories, although I did get used to how much looked like how many calories, so after awhile I could guesstimate. But overall, I still do count and I find it productive.

Even though counting calories has been stressful at times, I still find that counting calories has been more helpful than anything else. It's only while counting that I've lost a significant amount of weight, become much more healthy, and erased a lot of the health problems that I've had. So I figure counting calories (and yes, paying attention to the healthiness of the food too~ but losing weight calorie counting has helped more) has helped me a lot. I really really hope that made sense!!!!

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:00 AM

Uh-ha, I know I need to do it, too, if I am ever going to lose weight. I'm just checking to see if anyone else knows about this pattern of stress - it goes way beyond anything I have control over. Thanks for the comment, though.

4
2436f4e6d010656b346629a77e9599dd

on October 10, 2012
at 10:50 PM

Yes, I can totally get stressed out about eating/dieting like that. I don't have a magic solution to offer, just piping up with some solidarity. :)

You might consider looking into Health At Every Size (HAES). It may be that you can dramatically improve your health without losing weight. I know that for me, if I focus on taking care of my body and not on what it looks like or on what other people think of it, that helps my anxiety a lot and helps me actually stick to the healthful eating choices I make.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:03 AM

Thanks Eva. Yes, being healthy at this size is something I've aimed for. At almost 50, I'm now healthier than I've ever been in my life! I may have to abandon the quest for weight loss as well.

2436f4e6d010656b346629a77e9599dd

(270)

on October 11, 2012
at 03:39 AM

Yay for being so healthy! I think weight loss is a complicated issue--no doubt, people are nicer to you when you're thin and assume better things about your character. I don't think the onus should be on fat people (or people of color, or queer people) to change in order to be treated well. At the same time, as an individual decision, I can see the benefits, if one is a person for whom long-term weight loss is possible and healthy.

3
19ff515e8ec02d95e8f2cf68c3ec1373

(1207)

on October 11, 2012
at 03:21 AM

No, actually, quite the opposite. When I count I feel in control, aware and able to make good decisions. When I dou t count I end up emotional, paranoid and very unfun to be around. I plan to weigh my food forever.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:04 PM

You sound just like my daughter! I think I'm just a really slow learner ;-) because every time I started to count I expected to feel like you do - I'm only now realising the depth of the difference in responses

19ff515e8ec02d95e8f2cf68c3ec1373

(1207)

on October 12, 2012
at 04:28 AM

We are all different and it is okay. It just gives me a sense of peace; I'm not at food's mercy.

2
F92e4ca55291c3f3096a3d4d3d854986

(11698)

on October 11, 2012
at 01:58 AM

How about, instead of counting calories or measuring or calculating, you just get a sense of what portion size you should be eating, they you just have to eyeball your portions. I have a brain prone to eating disorders so for me the risk is restricting calories and shrinking portion sizes. So since I use the same bowls and mugs and things, I know "the kefir should fill that mug" or "the rice should fill half the bowl" type of thing (yes, people, I eat rice. Deal). It avoids the obsessive counting, but it still gives me reassurance that I'm staying consistent, and prevents me from second-guessing my portions. (This is, incidentally, something drilled into me at an in-patient eating disorders program).

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:14 AM

The cup method works pretty well - a lot better than 3 oz meat = a stack of playing cards. Do they mean a casino deck, or a home pinochle deck? With the jokers? With cards you take chances.

F92e4ca55291c3f3096a3d4d3d854986

(11698)

on October 11, 2012
at 12:22 PM

True, Matt, but not if you first establish what is a proper amount for you to eat each day (i.e. with a nutritionist or whatever) then stick to that.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 11, 2012
at 03:17 AM

You may be keeping portions constant but that doesn't mean they aren't undersized.

2
3a9d5dde5212ccd34b860bb6ed07bbef

on October 10, 2012
at 10:17 PM

Carb counting? No.

Calorie counting? Yes.

1
4b5be253ac1981c690689cab7e4bf06d

(3043)

on October 11, 2012
at 09:02 PM

Whenever I try to "meet" counting targets (aka, I can only eat 1800 calories, or I need to hit x protein grams and be under y carb grams) it drives me nuts.

What I have found works for me is to track the food that I am eating, and make food choices independent of whatever my tracker says. I may spend a few days with higher carbs or lower fat, but it all evens out. I see it as more of a tool for looking back, not as a measurement for how well I am doing.

The science being "calories" is so flawed anyways (as in, how calories are measured vs how your body uses them), that it doesn't seem to matter if I hit a certain number or not. In addition, I find that eating foods that I know make me feel good leads me towards certain targets, and I don't have to worry.

1
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on October 11, 2012
at 05:07 PM

Do you need to count things? Assuming you don't have particularly strict carb targets, you can limit yourself to only eating vegetables and your carb quantity looks after itself. Even with a carbier kind of vegetable, like carrots, you'd need to eat 1kg to get 70g carbs, which seems fine and is quite difficult to exceed. If you still want to eat fruit just limit yourself to some number of pieces <5 per day. Similarly for protein, I just eat around 0.5kg meat per day, which gives me a little bit more than my daily protein requirements. I don't think you need to be any more fine-grained than this.

If you do need to eat a lower quantity of paleo foods to lose weight then, again, I don't think you need to count macronutrients or weigh anything; just consciously aim to eat less than you normally eat of your normal portions and see how it goes.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 11, 2012
at 02:25 AM

I didn't let it make me crazy when I used calorie counting to lose weight. I was motivated by T2 diabetes. I aimed for high deficits - 1000 calories a day - and lost 2 lb/week for 6 months. Halfway through I had to ramp up the exercise to keep the high deficits. I stopped when I reached healthy weight. I don't ever want to do it again.

0
44349dd8bf3bc226731d2f6bd42e8124

(318)

on October 11, 2012
at 04:49 PM

No, tracking does not drive me insane. It's the only thing that keeps me level and accountable with my food choices. I didn't get obese by stopping to eat when I was full. I got obese by abusing foods and feeding various food addictions. By tracking what I'm eating, every day my eyes are open to what is best to nourish my body, and it helps me feel in control of my decisions.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:06 PM

Awesome! I feel that way about planning and noticing my paleo/anti-IBS eating.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:07 PM

Awesome! I feel level and accountable with paleo and anti-IBS eating, which is why this issue around counting has surprised and confused me.

0
Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on October 11, 2012
at 09:45 AM

This may sound kind of "woo" but it seems to me like there may be some kind of unconscious block going on here. Maybe there is something deep inside you that needs to hang on to that weight? Maybe it makes you feel less vulnerable? Maybe your identity is tied up in it somehow? And your attempts to manhandle it consciously with counting and tracking bring out a fear response? I am totally shooting in the dark here but women often have these issues around food and weight. I'm one myself, so I can relate. I can't count and track because then I start getting dragged back down the ED/Ihatemybody rabbit hole I successfully left behind many years ago. That's my fear response...

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 11, 2012
at 08:10 PM

Haha, not woo at all! I've been down that road, travelling with Oprah and Dr Phil! I know that rabbit hole well. This issue, though, is something different. I'll think on it some more. Thanks for putting it out there.

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