Guest Blog: How I Stopped Counting Calories

Marci Anderson - Thursday, October 23, 2014

By Emma Balek



How Calorie Counters Deceive Us

Calorie counting may seem like the solution to all your problems.  You want to lose those five pounds or be able to fit into that dress, so you download a calorie counting app on your phone, and expect the pounds to come off just like that. But here’s what no one tells us about calorie counters:

They don’t know how many calories you need. In order to estimate your calorie needs, your body’s metabolic rate must be known; there is currently no calorie counter that can measure this, so the calorie allowance that they give you is most likely incorrect.

The calorie information that they give you about foods may also be incorrect: A lot of this information comes from other users of the app, who may have just estimated how many calories are in a specific food. Additionally, even calorie information on nutrition labels can have errors.

There is no way to guarantee that the calorie information in these apps is correct, and therefore no way for these apps to truly tell you how many calories you have eaten.

Unfortunately, many of us are not aware of the ways that calorie counters can deceive us, and for many people, calorie counting can become a way of life.

Calorie Counting Gone Too Far

Many years ago, I too jumped onto the calorie counting bandwagon, and what I thought was just going to be a temporary phase turned out to be completely life-changing.  At first, I loved it; I felt totally in control, never again would I have to worry about gaining weight. But before I knew it, the calorie counter had taken over my life. I would find myself in a panic if I had gone over my limit, and every time I ate, I would immediately whip out my phone to make sure I was still within my calorie budget.  I became so preoccupied with the thought of calories that sometimes I had trouble holding conversations; I felt disconnected from everyone.  I knew this wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t enjoy it at all; in fact, I hated it. I wanted nothing more than to return to living my happy and care-free life, but I always told myself that I couldn’t; calorie counting had become an addiction.  But wait: what was I thinking? I absolutely could.

Kicking this Habit

One day I was tired of the frustration, guilt, and anxiety that the calorie counter was causing me, and I made the decision that I wanted to stop. I asked myself if this was the life that I wanted for myself and if this was the life that I wanted to continue living, and the answer was no.

I didn’t put away my calorie counter just like that; it was a gradual process.  I began with not entering my calories until the end of the day. During the day, I focused on fueling my body with nutritious foods and balanced meals. I figured that there was no need for guilt if I was eating foods that were good for my body. Soon afterwards, I realized that there was no need to feel guilty about eating at all, regardless of whether or not you consider your foods to be healthy.

Having a healthy diet doesn’t mean eating all healthy foods all the time, it means having a good balance of foods rich in nutrients and foods that maybe aren’t so rich in nutrients but you indulge in because you love them. It didn’t take long for me to accept that there was no need for me to count calories.  I chose foods that made me feel good, which included comfort foods in moderation.  My life was so much better without the thought of calories lingering in the back of my mind; it was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulder.  

If you see calorie counting becoming a compulsion for you, know that you absolutely do have the power and control to stop. Ask yourself what kind of life you want to live, and if calorie counting is helping you live that life. When you start thinking about calories, remind yourself of a few important things:

  • Calories are nothing but units of energy; and our bodies need energy for everything: for our heart to beat and for our brain to think.
  • It’s not calories that matter, it’s the overall quality of your diet
  • Most importantly: the number of calories that you supposedly eat in a day does not determine your worth.  You are always worth more than a number.

Meet Emma:

Emma Balek is a dietetics student at Boston University and a certified fitness instructor.  Her personal struggles with anorexia nervosa, and the media’s false information about health is what inspired her to study nutrition.  She intends to pursue a career in eating disorder recovery. If there is one thing she wants people to know, it is that you should never lose hope that a full recovery is possible. 


 


 

Body Imagine, Self-Talk, & Neuroscience

Marci Anderson - Monday, October 20, 2014

I found this 7 1/2 minute story from NPR fascinating! If you have body image issues and/or an eating disorder, take 10 minutes to read this post and list to this podcast. 


The thing I find so fascinating about this story is that introduces neuroscience research that explains why the way we speak to ourselves really matters. Coaching yourself in a positive way "Marci, you're having a hard day and feeling triggered, what you see in the mirror isn't a reflection of reality" isn't just a nice idea. It actually internally remodels your brain and THAT'S why it's an essential part of developing a healthier body image.

I also loved the very concrete tip of speaking to yourself in the 2nd person. Turns out when we speak to ourselves with our name it actually changes the way we feel so we become more rational, objective, and kinder. 

So give yourself a body image commitment for a week. When you start to notice that you're tearing yourself apart in the front of the mirror, find your inner coach, speak to yourself in the 2nd person, and let's find out what happens.


 

Guest Blog Post: What is Health?

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, October 07, 2014

By Emma Balek

I cannot remember the last time I went an entire day without hearing a conversation about weight loss or calories. At restaurants and cafes, when I’m hanging out with friends, and even when I’m passing people on the street or studying at the library, I hear people talking about their calorie budget for the day, which food has more calories, or what kind of weight loss diet they are on.  My first reaction is to feel annoyed and frustrated with these people: why are they talking about this? Don’t they know it could be making others feel uncomfortable? But then I give it some more thought and I realize that I can’t really blame them. This is the new environment that society has created--an environment in which being healthy now means being on a weight loss plan, and being beautiful means being skinny.

Health Defined by the Media

When was the last time you picked up and health or beauty magazine? If you didn’t see an ad for a low calorie diet or a plan that would help you lose a significant amount of bodyweight in what seems like an unrealistic amount of time, chances are there was an article about it somewhere in the magazine.  Since when are health and beauty defined by weight and low calorie diets? We are so wrapped up in this new definition of health and beauty that society and media have made so prominent, that we rarely get to think about the fact that it doesn’t really make much sense.

But is the Media’s Definition Truthful?

For instance, think of that 55 year old mother of four.  Her BMI classifies her as overweight, and some have told her that she could afford to lose a few pounds. However, she has absolutely no health problems due to her weight, she lives her life every day with no regrets, possesses a lot of positive energy and self-esteem, and has no trouble balancing work, time with her family, and time to herself.  Does she meet society’s standards of the ideal weight for a woman? Probably not.  But is she healthy? Absolutely; because her whole life is in balance and she has a positive outlook on life. 

Next, think about that 17 year old girl who is envied by all her friends because she meets society’s standards of skinny.  However, she loses sleep at night thinking about the amount of calories she is going to eat the next day and how far she will have to run to burn it off.  When her friends go out to dinner, she sits alone at home feeling miserable and depressed, and when they convince her to go, she sits there the entire time staring at the calorie counter app on her phone, and the guilt of having a couple bites of dessert overwhelms her for days.  Even though her outward appearance meets society’s standards, is this really a healthy way to go through life?

True Health and Beauty

So what are health and beauty really? Health has very little to do with how much you weight and what size you are, and everything to do with your outlook on life and the way you feel.  Health is about your life being in balance--making the time for yourself and things that make you happy, not being too hard on yourself, and striving for a positive attitude even at low points in your life.  Likewise, beauty has almost nothing to do with your outward appearance.  Beauty begins with confidence and embracing your imperfections because we all have them.  True beauty is when you let your confidence and positive energy show.

So before you pick up that magazine full of weight loss articles that they call health tips, take a moment to think about it.  Are you content with the way you are living with your life? Do you make time for yourself every day to partake in activities that make you feel good? Do you surround yourself with people who give off a positive energy? Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, and no BODY is perfect.  Having flaws is part of being human, and the world needs all kinds of people.  If you feel the need to make changes in your life, then you have complete and total control over that whether or not you know it.  You don’t need a health magazine or weight loss advertisement to help you achieve what you want.  You know what is best for you--the media doesn’t.

Did you pass up that opportunity to buy that magazine because you are already happy with yourself and your life, and you know that you are in control? Good, you don’t need it anyway; you’re already living a healthy life. 

--

Meet Emma:

 

Emma Balek is a dietetics student at Boston University and a certified fitness instructor.  Her personal struggles with anorexia nervosa, and the media’s false information about health is what inspired her to study nutrition.  She intends to pursue a career in eating disorder recovery. If there is one thing she wants people to know, it is that you should never lose hope that a full recovery is possible. 


 

Meghan Trainor, All About That Bass, & My 2 Cents

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I was driving and listening to the radio. I had just changed the radio station when a catchy beat caused me to pause my surfing. And that’s when I heard it. The lyrics that literally made me laugh out loud.

Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two

But I can shake it, shake it

Like I'm supposed to do

'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

And all the right junk in all the right places

I kept listening…

I see the magazine workin' that Photoshop

We know that shit ain't real

C'mon now, make it stop

If you got beauty building, just raise 'em up

'Cause every inch of you is perfect

From the bottom to the top 

I was digging this message! This girl was sharing an important message- you don’t have to be perfect, don’t be fooled by photoshop, and your body is awesome just as it is.

But then I heard the song again from the beginning and realized that other elements of the song are pretty problematic from a feminist and body image perspective. Let me be clear- I like the message that promotes body positivity for curvier women. BUT I don’t like it when it comes at the cost of shaming other kinds of bodies.  And I don’t like the idea that there is a “right” way to look. Or that looking “right” is what draws the boys in (since, ya know, that’s all we girls care about anyway)! It's messages like these that leads to women shaming other women. I don't want to think mean thoughts about another girl because of what she looks like PERIOD- tall, short, skinny, curvy, black, white, you name it.


Check out these lyrics and think about what I'm saying...


I'm bringing booty back

Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that

No I'm just playing. I know you think you're fat

But I'm here to tell ya

Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top


Yeah my mama she told me don't worry about your size

She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."

You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll

So if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along 

I think it’s important to remember that physical beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. But even more importantly, our bodies do lots of things besides attracting a partner. I think I’m still waiting for THAT song to come along. 


 

Guest Post: A Comfy Inner Home

Marci Anderson - Thursday, August 07, 2014

Below is a guest post from a close and trusted friend and colleague, Alex Amorosi. He is a brilliant and thoughtful yoga teacher and trainer. I truly love his blog and found this post to resonate with the eating disorder work I do. While Alex writes from the perspective of a gay man, his words apply to any of you who do currently feel at home with yourself. Sit back and enjoy.


I love to be in my house and the home I've created. It feels like a sanctuary to me. When I come home, even from a stressful day, I can be at peace. There are many aspects of my home that I love, but maybe the most important is that my space feels good to me. When I am in it, it feels peaceful. Our outer homes, where we house our bodies, are the places where we let go from the outer world. Our inner homes, where we house our minds, bodies, and psyches, are where we all truly have to live 24/7. It is in this inner space where we often feel we are not at home, like we are strangers in our own lives. It's the space that when not tended can turn into a scary and unwelcoming place. One of the most important feelings we can work towards is a feeling of being at home in ourselves. It's an aspiration, and takes a long time to excavate the layers that clutter our internal space, but it is possible. When we do that work, we truly begin to relax and rediscover a sense of happiness.

Growing up as a closeted gay teen, and even after I came out into my twenties, I never felt like I was at home in who I was. There was too much conflict, especially in the years of bullying I endured where I would have given anything to not be myself. What made that time so hard were not only the ceaseless taunts, but also the feeling that there was nowhere to go and nowhere to rest. If I retreated inside, I saw the truth that I was gay, which I blamed for the painful life I lived each day and hated more than anything. If I went outside myself, there seemed to only be a world strewn with the landmines of "faggot" and "fairy" in my social life, which only reminded me of the inner world from which I had just tried to escape. The cycle set up a feedback loop of self-hatred and loathing. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be able to come out to my close friends and family when I was 17 and could not have received more support and love. I'm blessed beyond description to have the parents, relatives, and close friends that I have and give thanks for them every day. And it was ironic that after I came out, most all the bullying stopped. My outer world shifted dramatically in that sense.

But the internal conflict, the embers of self-hatred were still burning. My internal home was still a dusty and cluttered space strewn with the tattered papers of a severely battered inner self. It took a good 12 to 13 years, some relationships, some yoga, some dharma, some big mistakes, and a heaping dose of humility to slowly clear that clutter and restore my inner home to a place in which once again I truly desired to be.

I think when you love yourself and you never question it you are in a good solid groove but you can be shaken out of it because you don't know the alternative. I think when you have hated yourself and learn to love yourself again that sense of love is absolutely unshakable. You have fought through the brush with your machete and reclaimed every lost acre of your self-love. You know for sure now that you are beautiful, that you are sacred, and you are created exactly as you are supposed to be. You really know it because you have been to the other shore and survived, and returned to an unwavering and committed peace.

And that peace makes for a really lovely internal home in which to live life. It's not that we don't take a swing through self-hatredville ever again, or become agitated, angry, grief-stricken, or depressed, but we now have our cozy cabin by the ocean with a lighted candle in the window. No matter where we may wind up, we can always see that candle and it will always guide us home.

You clear the inner home by being aware of the inner home. Little by little, one old newspaper of suffering at a time, you clear it out. You let your body/mind system process, and release, and clear, and one day, you have a pretty cozy internal space. It feels good to be in your body, and you feel good about yourself and who you are. Take it from someone who, and I mean this, never thought he would feel that way. Buddhism and Yoga probably both saved my life in that respect. Both of these traditions really asked me to take stock of my internal home, get a dumpster, and start heaving the old clutter of conflict out the window.

Without the clearing of my internal home, I could not write the words "I am a proud openly gay man" and mean it. Without clearing my internal home, I could not love the people in my life in the way that I can love them now. Without clearing my internal home, I could not make real decisions about what is best for me and live a life that is truly authentic to my desires, morals, and values.

But most of all, without the internal clear-out, I couldn't say that I am happy. I couldn't say that for no particular reason, I feel happy. Not high, not manic, just calmly happy. And all of us are worth that. We are all worth a peaceful, happy internal space in which we can relax. We are all worth being able to revel in the fantastic differences in the manifestation of our current incarnations and love how wonderfully diverse we have all created ourselves. We are worth that. Tell yourself tonight, before you go to sleep, that you are worth that. Tell yourself that it's safe to be at home inside yourself, or set the intention that you want a good feeling internal home in which to live. The universe will furnish you with all the tools necessary to clear out. It is not a quick process, it's not easy, and it never really ends. You, I, we will all eternally be clearing our internal spaces as life continues to happen and bring us the situations that it brings. But one day, you will stretch out inside your internal landscape and take a deep exhale truly being glad to be, home.


 

Bad Body Image, Clothes, & Shopping

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alright everyone, let’s talk clothes and shopping. It seems to be one of the biggest topics for me at work right now. The seasons have changed and thankfully, warmer weather is here! This means more shorts, tanks tops, and even…swimsuits. I thought it might be helpful if I passed along some tricks of the trade I’ve learned along the way.

1. If your closet is filled with clothes that don’t currently fit, this needs to change immediately. Take the clothes you know don’t fit you and do not try them on. Simply fold them up and place them in a bag, bin, or box. Ideally you would take them to Buffalo Exchange or Goodwill. But if you can’t part with them just yet, place them out of sight. Newsflash, looking at clothes that are too small for you on a daily basis will not make you skinnier. It will only make you feel more self-loathing and depressed. And it will make it harder for you to get dressed in the morning since you can’t clearly see your options.


2. You deserve clothes that fit your here and now body. So make a budget, prioritize items that you need, and make a shopping plan (more on that below). Did you know that practicing self-compassion leads to healthier practices like balanced eating and exercise? And you may have already guessed this, but treating yourself like crap (ie not buying yourself clothes that you feel cute in now) leads to depression and worse health habits.

3. After you’ve made your shopping list make your shopping plan. Be thoughtful about when you’re going shopping, who you’re going with, where you’re going to go, what you hope to buy, and how long you can tolerate going for. If you find shopping to be extremely stressful you might choose to look for 2 tops, keep it to 2 stores, and shop for no longer than 30 min with the most supportive buddy you can find. You know yourself best so only you can decide what makes most sense for you.

4. When trying on clothing, follow these simple rules. Bring a couple of sizes into the dressing room. Turn away from the mirror and try the first item on. With your eyes closed identify how the article of clothing fits. Does it feel comfortable, can you move easily in it,? If your answer is no, take the item of clothing off. Don’t look at it! Either select another size to try on or move on to something else all together. Once you find something that feels good, then face the mirror and look at THE WHOLE PICTURE OF YOU. Do not hone in on the body part you hate the worst. Step back and look at the big picture, scan from head to toe. If you hate it, take it off immediately. If you like it, then yay!!!

5. When you’re getting ready in the morning, place a limit on how long you’ll spend trying on clothes. If you are struggling with intense body image issues and find yourself spending more than 10 minutes choosing an outfit, this is a problem. Make a commitment to contain the issue. If you are trying on 15 outfits, then make a goal of no more than 10 this week. Perhaps talk with a friend and let him or her hold you accountable. Consider keeping a running list of outfits that you know you like. If it’s a tough body image morning use your go-to list. Even if those outfits don’t feel super cute you can remind yourself that your head isn’t in a great space and that the outfit is probably just fine. Put it on and move forward with your day.

Remember, you deserve to have clothes that fit well and allow you to feel comfortable and confident. No more shoving yourself into jeans that are too tight or refusing to buy yourself something new because you don’t believe you deserve it. Summer is here- let’s enjoy it!

 

The Body Image Movement

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Women are tired of feeling crappy about their bodies. I know you are. If you are like most women, you feel bad about your body and then guilty that you feel so bad about it. Taryn Brumfitt was in that exact place until she decided to make a change. Please please take 5 minutes to watch her video and share her story. And if you are inspired (like I was) donate to the Kickstarter program and join The Body Image Movement- or what I might call a revolution.


 

Guest Blog Post: Thine Own Self

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The following post is written by my dear friend and colleague Alex Amorosi. He is a registered yoga teacher and all around amazing human being. He maintains a phenomenal blog here. Enjoy this post he wrote about the art of listening to and responding to the core of your authentic self. And if you love this post as much as I do, definitely check out more of his writing. My most recent favorite is The Fitness Trap.


Each of us has a core of authenticity that we must honor. The authenticity guides us each day, it watches out for us, and makes sure that we never get too far off track.

In the movie "The Matrix" the character Trinity tells the character Neo, "The Matrix cannot tell you who you are", a way of saying, "The world cannot define you." I remember back into days when I really had no clue who I was on the inside and I looked to the world to define me. I wanted my job, or my things, or my relationships to give me a sense of self. It's like having chameleon skin on the inside, never being able to access what is right for myself, always looking to have that defined by the outside. When the outside defines us, we are never secure because the outside is constantly in a state of flux. Our sense of self is never secure because we are not guiding ourselves by a steady and reliable compass.

Underneath this sort of inner chameleon stuff is usually a powerful sense of guilt and fear. I was always afraid that if I were true to myself, I would hurt people. In fact, in being true to myself, I have hurt people. There is nothing that causes me a greater sense of guilt than feeling that someone is in pain because of something I have done. However, when we are truthful in the name of authenticity to who we are, we are actually acting in the most compassionate way possible. Why would we allow ourselves to continue on a road that we clearly know will not serve us? And why would we drag someone else down that road with us? Authenticity demands that we step up to the plate and do what is right. And, as we all know from the cliché, what's right is almost never easy.

We have become so used to listening to outside sources in our culture that we have lost touch with who we are. We are more accustomed to listening to advertising than listening to ourselves. We want someone else or the world to tell us what's right and what we should want. In the yoga world this translates to what I call the "guru trap". We look to our teachers to define the parameters of what is right and wrong, good and bad. We want the teacher to have all the responsibility. And, there are many teachers all too eager to step right into that role. It's a very seductive place for yoga teachers because it makes the teachers feel needed and valuable. But newsflash teachers, it's not about you so get over it, get your validation from yourself not from your classes. The most effective teacher is one who guides you to your own guidance, not one who proclaims they have an answer that you need.

Who we are is who we are. We must be who we are. We must accept who we are, and when we do, then we can let everyone else be who they are. We don't need to, as Marianne Williamson puts it, "police the universe" anymore. We can relax and know that when we are true to who we are, and others are true to who they are, we are all much happier. It doesn't mean we all have to join hands and sing Kumbaya, but it does mean that we can let ourselves and everyone else be. It means that we might finally know that we are ok exactly as we are, and that nothing is more important than to simply be who we are. Trust your own core of authenticity and you will never get far off course, it is always your true and steady compass.


 

New Years Tips

Marci Anderson - Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's is often a time of self-reflection and goal setting. So I thought I'd share a couple of tips for you to consider in anticipation of the new year that is upon us.


Tip #1

Consider accepting yourself as you are right now. I can hear all of your objections as you read that first sentence. I can't accept myself as I am- I'm too fat, I'm too ugly, I'm too lazy, I'm too... People often mistake acceptance with stagnation. If I accept myself I'll never change. But that's the crazy thing- acceptance is what actually creates the most effective change. Acceptance allows us to take stock of reality as it is in the here and now and make the best possible decisions based on that reality. If you're interested, you can read more about self-acceptance here

From my perspective one of the most difficult areas people have trouble accepting is their body or physical appearance. I have pre-ordered a book "Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate" by Emily Sandoz and Troy DuFrene. It utilizes ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. As the name indicates, acceptance of what is, is at the core of living a more fulfilled life. I hope you'll check it out too.

If you need some more inspiration for body acceptance, check out this incredibly powerful interview with Ellen DeGeneres and model Robyn Lawley. As Ellen points out- as women we aren't supposed to say, I'm comfortable with my body. And THAT is hugely problematic. They take acceptance one step further and talk about body love, which I realize is a hard message to swallow for many of you. At the end of the clip, Robyn also mentions the fact that we shouldn't comment so freely on other people's bodies. I agree whole-heartedly, which takes me to...

Tip #2

Stop gossiping and commenting on other people's appearance, especially those near and dear to you. A client sent me this Q&A from The Boston Globe. A reader wanted to get advice on how to handle her family's gossip and criticism about her weight. Your body is your business and nobody's else's. Unnecessary body talk creates discomfort and hurt feelings that creates walls of defense and avoidance to be erected. Instead, why not discuss the things we are doing and thinking about instead.

I hope 2014 holds the promise of health and healing for each of you. What tips would you share with me and the other readers of this blog?



 

Weight Stigma Awareness Week

Marci Anderson - Sunday, September 22, 2013


Weight Stigma is judgment or stereotyping based on one’s weight, shape and/or size.

If you don't think that weight stigma has anything to do with you, please keep reading. It's the number one form of bullying and discrimination in the United States today.

A scientific study of 170,000 people showed that feeling fat is worse for your health than being fat
Research has shown that people are less likely to help fat people after a road accident and more likely to find them guilty when on trial
Physicians are less willing to prescribe tests and lab work for fat people
The majority of fat people avoid seeing a doctor for fear of being ridiculed, judged or otherwise mistreated
The likelihood of being bullied is 63% higher for obese children
The #1 source of weight stigma and bullying is from family and friends

Our communal stigmatization of overweight and obese people is exacerbating physical and mental illness. This week is Weight Stigma Awareness Week. Please, take the challenge to look within yourself. Only as individuals can we obliterate weight stigma. 

1. Examine your own biases
2. Challenge your own beliefs
3. Get educated
4. Speak up
5. Refrain from weight talk
6. Take great care of yourself 
7. Diversity, including body diversity, is a beautiful thing

The Binge Eating Disorder Association has created a week PACKED with online events to increase awareness about weight stigma. You can also check out the WSAW toolkits. Yours truly contributed by writing articles specific to weight stigma and nutrition counseling. 

Everyone deserves to feel safe enough to walk outside their house and to be treated with dignity and respect. Commit this week to confront your own prejudice and commit to compassion rather than hate.