As a kid, I was an incredibly picky eater. My mom often jokes that I wouldn’t have survived childhood without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In my young adulthood, my tastes changed and I was more open to trying new foods. I became a woman who almost always cleaned her plate. In my 20s, that wasn’t so bad. Approaching my 40s, with hypothyroidism added to the mix, this means I have to be a bit more careful. Though I’ve never been significantly overweight or obese, I’ve certainly weighed more than I probably should. I’m sure that’s something a lot of people can relate to. I’ve been paying more attention to my overall health lately, and to that end I decided to take action. So, as part of my overall year-long effort to give up different vices, I gave up overeating for an entire month.
**Note: if you have or think you may have an eating disorder, please reach out to your doctor or mental health professional rather than take my advice.
Don’t You Like Yourself, Amy?
I kind of stumbled into this challenge. First, I intended to give up chips and other processed food, but that completely failed on the first day. I absentmindedly snacked on the tortilla chips that I’d gotten with my Mexican food. Then I considered making my challenge to go outside every day, but some really cold rainy weather at the start of March quickly cancelled that idea. Then I realized the answer was staring me in the face…or rather, from an app I was already using on my phone. I’ve been taking a course to become a certified personal trainer. Part of our homework was to use a calorie tracking app for at least three days. The first weekend I used it, which was still in February, I quickly saw how easy it was to overeat and not even realize you were doing so. However, I also saw how easy it was to still enjoy foods I loved and NOT eat too much.
Apps not Appetizers
I ended up using an app called “Lose It!”, which is available in both the Apple app store and on Google play. You can enter in a goal weight, or simply use it to maintain better eating habits. There’s a premium, paid version that allows you to input water intake and get more detailed nutrition information. I found that the free version was enough for me. You input everything you eat and any exercise you do. You can even link it with other apps, like the Health app for my Apple cultists, or health tracking devices, like your FitBit if you have one.
I will make one caveat – I think the app may slightly underestimate how many calories a person should eat. That’s not healthy, either. I recommend that you visit the American Council on Exercise’s site where you can find a free calorie calculator. Input your sex, age, height, current weight, and activity level and it will tell you the calories you need to consume to stay at THAT weight. If you want to lose weight, subtract 500 calories from that number, which is a safe guideline for most people. For example, let’s say you’re a 45-year-old woman who weighs 150 pounds, at 5 feet 7 inches tall and you engage in moderate exercise several days a week. You would need to consume 2109 calories each day to stay at that weight. If you wanted to lose a pound a week, you would eat 1609 calories each day.
How Did the Challenge Go?
Tracking calories in the app made me more honest about my food choices. I didn’t deprive myself – I still ate cookies, pizza, and French fries. But knowing I would have to input how much of each food I consumed encouraged me to make better choices and follow portion size recommendations. I know we all laugh and make jokes about recommended serving sizes being too small, but they are actually very helpful. It’s an easy way to manage “portion control” and still feel like you can, within reason, eat what you want. I also easily saw what a difference a little exercise makes. The old adage is true – calories in, calories out. You have to put in the work, but, for most people, improving what you eat and moving more will help you lose weight.
How much did I lose? I’d rather not say specifically, as that can be triggering for people with eating disorders. What I will tell you is that even after just a couple of weeks, I lost enough to notice my clothing fitting better. What’s more important is I feel confident that I’ve found a method that will be easy to maintain. Even if I neglect it for awhile, it will be very easy to start again and have success. It’s even a method you can use during a global pandemic, when your food choices might be a bit more limited!
Compassion for Self, Compassion for Others
I realize that me completing a not-overeating challenge in the midst of a global crisis, where many people don’t have access to enough food, seems pretty tone-deaf. This was not my intention at all. If you are one of the fortunate ones like me who can still get good quality food, this could be an opportunity. You can use this time and the challenge to appreciate your good fortune. Maybe you can even donate some extra food to a food bank in your area. That wasn’t the lesson I was looking for when I gave up overeating for a month, but I will welcome the wisdom, nonetheless.