Calorie counting helped me see... that this one pot pie is two servings. Yes. TWO.

I get so annoyed by people who say things like, “Oh, I don’t believe in calorie counting.” or “Calorie counting is silly.” I always ask them, “Well, why?” It’s almost always some dumb answer like, “Well, I don’t want to know how many calories my favorite foods are.” or “I’m not going to prevent myself from enjoying my favorite foods because of a few calories,” or even “I just think it’s stupid.”

Um, so that’s supposed to be enough to convince me – ME – to give up what I’m doing? Because you don’t like it?

Let me explain to you the reason why calorie counting is a practice that I believe in. I can sum it up in one word.

Awareness.

When I first started my journey, I believed that my eating habits were wholly unrelated to my exercise. I was told “Exercise, and the weight will come off.” I wasn’t told “Exercise and consciously limit your intake to reasonable levels appropriate for what your body needs, and the weight will come off.” I got incomplete advice, and that was to my detriment.

It wasn’t until months later that I realized that regardless of my exercise habits, if I wasn’t putting crap in my mouth on such a regular basis, my body couldn’t possibly keep putting on the weight that I was as quickly as I was. If I wasn’t eating as poorly as I was, I wouldn’t be overeating in search of that “belly full” feeling. If I wasn’t clinging to such poorly made foods, I couldn’t possibly overeat the way I was, and consume the amount of calries I was consuming.

That’s not the message you get every day.

And I’m not gonna lie – there are some people who don’t come from that kind of meager understanding of food. There might be people out there who understand that concept of “It’s ok to indulge, but you do it moderately.” There might be people who understand that the “true” definition of “moderately” means “a couple of bites, then push it away.” Someone like me, who had never understood the concept of “moderately” or never really embraced the concept of “limiting myself,” “clean eating” or even “conscious eating”… don’t take away the one thing I cling to – calorie counting – because you think it “sounds silly.”

Calorie counting empowered me. It taught me the true understanding of what each plate, each dish, each serving and each bite did to my body – this body, this temple that, although over the years has collected a few piercings and a tattoo or two, I have grown to love and appreciate and admire. It taught me that a handful of my favorite snack food was the calorie equivalent of a hearty lunch. It taught me that my favorite juice drink had the caloric equivalent of what I eat for breakfast. It taught me that it’s probably not a good idea to get a giant jug of said favorite juice drink and drink it throughout the day.

Calorie counting taught me to understand the relationship between how much I eat in a day, and how much my body burns in that day.

Calorie counting taught me the patterns for identifying “harmful” dishes (dishes harmful to my daily calorie count) when I have to dine out.

Calorie counting taught me, in a roundabout way, that the fastest way to fill myself without slaughtering my calorie count was to indulge on vegetables. Calorie counting taught me to come up with creative ways to cook those vegetables, lest I be bored to death by my 365th serving of broccoli.

Calorie counting gave me a basic foundation that I could use to develop my own understanding of food… a foundation that I could build from and one day not need to cling to calorie counting anymore.

There are people in this world who have healthy relationships with food. There are people who were born into families who helped teach them that. Considering the number of Americans who are currently overweight, and the number of us who have eating disorders on either extreme of the continuum… I’m not sure there are more people with healthier relationships than there are people without.

So, as this challenge draws to a close, I say this:

If you truly participated in the challenge, I hope you re-read this post, take the numbers you collected and really evaluate your eating habits and start trying to identify your patterns. If you started, became discouraged and stopped… I implore you to start again, because it may be you who needs to develop this kind of understanding more than anything. If you chose to not participate at all, and find the things I’ve written even remotely intriguing, perhaps giving it a shot for a few days may get you what you desire.

The awareness that I received from calorie counting is invaluable. It’s not about nitpicky numbers – it’s about the ability to know and identify. It’s about an awakening and understanding that I never had before. And someone who doesn’t understand that or just has that “naturally healthy” understanding of food will never get that. But I know my needs, and I know my weaknesses. Calorie counting helped me cure that, and I hope it could do the same for you.