The Dangerous Side of Counting Calories

Abigail Blank - The Upside Blog |

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 2 minutes

In the early winter of 2012, a series of interesting connections presented me with the opportunity to start blogging. The topics were decidedly different than they are now; nevertheless, I was faced with going from the anonymous romance author with a pen name to a modern advice columnist with a presence on multiple social media platforms. Immediately, I began to pressure myself to lose weight, to slim down and tone up, to somehow erase any evidence my body had aged or changed after my twenty-second birthday and meet the ever-increasing demands of female physicality.

When Calorie Counting Becomes Dangerous

I turned to one of those super popular apps to track my calorie intake, my activity level and my progress toward being good enough for public consumption. This nifty innovation lived on my mobile device and calculated the amount of weight I would lose from each day’s intake and output. One day I was terribly ill and didn’t eat much. The app told me I’d be my ideal weight (according to BMI charts) in a mere five weeks if I were I to restrict my calorie intake to the measly amount I’d ingested that day.

Tempting. So tempting. I momentarily pondered; for the next five weeks, could I function, in essence, without food? Ridiculous, I know. Yet, the seed had been planted. Each day thereafter, every time my calorie intake came in below a specific number, I silently rejoiced. My calorie counter app and I were the most dangerous kind of best friends: I ran head first downhill into an eating disorder, and she cheered me the entire way with hollow computations of technological companionship.

And I was succeeding. Albeit slower than the five weeks I’d been enticed by, I had dropped about five pounds in a month. Compliments flew at me from every direction. Everyone around me continually pointed out that the past year of working out was really starting to pay off.

Then, one afternoon, my kids and I joined another family for lunch. I ate at the salad bar until my stomach was content, but my head, alas, was not. My willpower broke and I ate what was a very fateful piece of pizza. A piece of pizza that I promptly forced myself to offer to the porcelain god once I was home.

As I sat on the bathroom floor, eyes watering and heart pounding, frantically trying to figure out exactly how many of those pizza calories I might have retained, I realized I had gone to a very, very dark place. A place where numbers and self-objectification overruled living fully and loving myself. My relationship was becoming altered, severely, wrongly, in ways that I might spend the rest of my life trying to right.

I decided right then and there to end my friendship, for this dysfunctional automaton was no pal of mine.