HAES, Calories, and Me
Sunday, January 06, 2013
I discovered SparkPeople several years ago, when I was in a dieting phase. I spent several months exercising and calorie-counting ferociously, and lost some weight. I'm not one of the very few (less than 5%) for whom dieting is a permanent solution, so I ended up gaining back the weight, and a bit more besides.
That's how dieting works (or doesn't). Each time you lapse, you gain more than you lost. There's a reason the diet industry is worth damn near 50 billion dollars annually. If dieting worked, there wouldn't be any fat people, and there wouldn't be a diet industry.
Shortly after that last dieting episode, I discovered the fat acceptance movement, I discovered HAES, and I realized there was a way out of the diet-and-binge cycle. The way out isn't a different diet, and it's not "lifestyle changes", which are really just dieting in disguise.
The way out is to accept your fat and trust your body. And no, I don't mean "accept YOU'RE fat". You already know you're fat. I mean accept YOUR fat. Accept that your fat is there, it's yours, and it doesn't make you a bad person. Being fat doesn't make you ugly, lazy, smelly, stupid, or any other bad thing. I love my fat body. I've treated it pretty badly over the years, but it's still here doing its best for me.
The trust part is important too. After many years of dieting, binging, starving, and compulsive overeating, I had no freaking clue what my body wanted. So I just started taking trips to the supermarket, buying random items that looked tasty or interesting, and trying them out. I worked on figuring out what foods I actually enjoyed eating, as opposed to forcing them down my gullet because there was only 93 calories in a cup or whatever. I ate a bunch of different foods and my body told me what it liked and didn't like. I found out that I love red peppers and purple onions, and that I seriously hate broccoli and will never (ever) eat it again.
Once I started to work on body acceptance and trust, things changed a bit. And I don't mean I lost weight, because I didn't. But I did get healthier, because I wasn't trying to change my body for reasons that hinged on self-hate. In fact, I wasn't trying to change my body at all. I forgot about trying to lose weight and just worked on improving my health.
Then some stuff happened (see previous post), and I lost most of the ground I'd gained. I ended up in a two-year depressive episode during which I didn't care about anything at all, least of all myself.
Now I'm doing my best to start the long climb out of that hole, and a big part of that is improving my physical health as well as my mental health.
Which brings me to the point. I don't believe in dieting. I don't believe it's helpful in the long term, and I know for sure that for me, dieting is very harmful. For me, dieting triggers binge eating and depression. So how, as someone who does not and can not diet, do I reconcile myself to using a tool that focuses so heavily on counting calories?
The main point of SparkPeople for me is that it provides me with a way of tracking nutrition and fitness, but I'm not focusing on calories, and I don't have a weight loss goal.
I am using the food tracker to provide myself with nutritional goals -- like getting enough protein, calcium, and iron, which are things I've had trouble with in the past. So I'm entering all the food I eat, and the calories are being tracked by the site as well as all the nutrients that I'm interested in, but it's not the calories I'm focusing on.
I'm eating food that has the nutrients I want to give my body, but within that I'm eating the foods that I want to eat. So if, for example, I want to eat a whole bag of Doritos, I'm going to eat them, enjoy them, add it to the tracker, and congratulate myself on all the protein. But at the same time, since my body isn't going to be happy eating Doritos all the time, I won't be doing that a whole lot.