Counting, calculating, and ending the addiction.

I’ve been contemplating writing this post for about two weeks. As you’ll soon read, this post also meant deleting another hold anorexia has on me from my life, and that was hard. I honestly wasn’t ready but just now I did it. I am sick and tired of this disorder! 

If ever there was such a thing as Calorie Counters Anonymous, or perhaps Food Trackers Anonymous, this is how I imagine my introduction would go: “My name is Emily and I am addicted negatively attracted to keeping records of meals, calories, and exercise.”

The first time I ever fell into this trap I was 14 and years before I would ever believe I could have an eating disorder. I had just gone through a surgery to reverse my pectus excavatum (still have to write about this one day) and I was gaining weight pretty rapidly. The condition had kept me underweight my entire life and the weight gain ultimately gave much better health, but it was hard on me. I wasn’t allowed to exercise at all  for 6 weeks. Adding to the stress of not being able to “get rid of” any excess calories, my lovely health teacher decided it would be awesome if we could all track our calorie intake for a week. I was absolutely overwhelmed after the first day. I had a huge breakdown and it was bad. So bad, in fact, that I’m honestly surprised I never ended up developing more ED behaviors right then. Anyways, for that week and a little while after I was absorbed by Livestrong’s website. I spent hours comparing different foods and which were healthier. Thankfully my mom shut that one down really quick. She had no idea that I was full of disordered thoughts/patterns that would have turned into an eating disorder right then, and neither did I. Although it didn’t cause my disorder I do believe that project lit up some disordered part of my mind that went into overdrive a few years later.

I got my first smartphone in May 2013. Not even a week into owning it, I turned to two apps that I felt could help me lose weight and keep track of calories, Lose it! and My Fitness Pal (MFP). So many things were going on at that time and leading into summer. I broke up with my long term boyfriend, went to NTS, told the first person ever about self harm, and eventually got to a point where I was forced to give up said self harm. I started using both apps more and more as each of these events happened and by fall it was a religious amount with a huge attempt to lose weight. Seeing my first therapist did help some but until the next spring I couldn’t even think about eating without going into the apps. I restricted more heavily each passing day. I felt immense shame with going even a tiny amount beyond my maximums and joy if I could stay way under. It was pretty innocent starting out with these apps but soon they became one of the many things that lead into my eating disorder.

That April my new therapist immediately had me delete the apps… and start a food journal (my little black book). This worked well for not even a week. I competed with myself each day. I spent a majority of my time wondering how I could possibly fit in more exercise and cut calories. I got a sick satisfaction each time she read it in session and gave me a worried look after. My disorder fed off the concern by trying even harder the next week. To this day, I don’t understand how she never thought to stop the journal or saw how badly it was hurting me. The only difference between this and the apps was that I had to spend extra time calculating calories. My eating disorder LOVED that. Any more time it could have to control me was perfect. I used that journal up until the second week of Forest View when I finally had enough. We all destroyed the thing and it became this:


I didn’t use any method of tracking food/calories/exercise until late fall. Paul tried to have me do a simple “put a check if you finished the meal plan” calendar for a month. It became yet another way to see how little food I could eat so we put that to an end at our next appointment.

You’d think that with my history I’d stay away from anything remotely close to what I’ve abused in the past. Well, that didn’t happen. I was so excited to hear that the Rise Up + Recover app was coming to Android. I wanted to use it so badly. I was sure an app specifically designed for recovery wouldn’t hurt me. The day it came out I downloaded it. (Quick disclaimer: I have nothing but praise for this app. I love the inspiring quotes and coping mechanisms. I also appreciated the fact that you can track behaviors, meds, etc. I truly feel it can aid many people in their recovery. Unfortunately I’m not one of them.) I wasn’t even counting calories but I still use it to try and eat less than the day or week before. I allowed it to help push me into relapse. As much as I’d love to keep the app for it’s good aspects, I know deleting it means letting go of this disorder even more.

Although I can’t be certain of what my future holds and how much healthier I will become, I am sure that I have to stay away from any form of tracking meals, calories, or exercise. It isn’t okay for me like it is for others. Even though I just deleted the Rise Up app, I haven’t used it since the day I committed to recovery again. It was hard, at first, to not write down every single thing I put into my body. 9 days later, however, I feel relieved. I am not held back from recovery like I would be if I was still meticulously tracking intake/output. This is right for me.


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