Sometimes, we try to be healthy – only to obsess over health, ironically hurting ourselves. I learned this the hard way when I downloaded a food tracker.
I’ve had strange eating patterns for a while. For a long time, I’d have a lot of anxiety around eating. Because I work from home, I have an unusual routine (read: very little routine). This means I often forget to eat, or I eat too little or too much.
A while ago, I decided to download a food tracker app, thinking it could keep me healthy. Initially, it was really helpful because it tracked how much macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) I was eating. It helped me realize I don’t eat nearly enough protein.
But it didn’t only track the nutrients I was consuming.
Every day, it would tally up the calories I ate, telling me I’d either gain or lose weight based on how much I ate. It asked me to weigh myself to calculate my BMI, despite the fact that BMI is a really unscientific and useless formula.
After a few weeks, I felt myself getting a little obsessive about the app.
Because of this, I decided it’s best for me to delete the app. I feel like this was a really smart and mature decision on my part, but if it happened a few years ago, I’d definitely have gotten too engrossed in tracking my food.
Here are three red flags that told me I was getting way too obsessive. These issues told me that I needed to reevaluate my attitudes around food.
If you have a food tracker, be aware of what your body and brain are telling you.
1. I’d plan my eating around what the food tracker would say.
Initially, I found the app helpful because it was a reminder to eat. If I ate too little – which I often did – I would see that the calorie count was too low, and I’d grab a nutritious snack.
But after a few weeks, I found myself ridiculously concerned with whatever the app would say.
If a food wasn’t listed on the app, I’d panic and avoid eating it. I’d enter foods preemptively into my tracker, and if it said there was too much of anything in the food, I’d ditch it.
2. I started obsessively counting calories.
Let me repeat this: I didn’t download the app because I wanted to lose weight.
Not consciously, anyway. I didn’t really care about calories, I just wanted to make sure I was eating enough nutrients.
But after a few weeks, I started caring about calories. When I went to the grocery store, I found myself looking at the calorie count of the foods I was buying. I found myself putting foods I didn’t even like or eat into my shopping trolley because they were low-calorie.
I put away food that I loved – food that is super nourishing and delicious – because I was worried about what my food tracker would say.
That, my friends, sounded some alarm bells.
3. I started caring way too much about my weight.
Can I let you in on a piece of potentially life-changing information?
Fat is not bad. Fat is not unhealthy. Fat is not ugly.
These are things I know to be true. For years, I’ve believed in the Health At Every Size philosophy. HAES points to the stack of research that suggests that fat people aren’t necessarily unhealthy or unfit. Think about it: we all know a skinny person who eats junk and stays thin.
Similarly, there are many fat people out there who eat well, exercise, and are healthy.
The major red flag for me is that I started suspending this belief.
I looked in the mirror and thought about how I could cut down on food to change how my body. I saw the fat on my body as problems I needed to get rid of, instead of a part of my body.
Fat acceptance is a core belief of mine, so why was an app changing that?
Now, I’m not going to lie to you: I’m sometimes unhappy with how I look, but I’m working on it.
This time around, though, I felt a little obsessive. I let my hate of fat – a hate we all have ingrained in us, to be honest – dictate my thoughts and actions. I couldn’t stop thinking about how thin I could be.
That’s not me. And when I realized this, I deleted that app fast.
Is it possible to have an obsession-proof food tracker? I don’t think so.
Even if they didn’t focus on weight, calories, or BMI – which is a bullshit concept, as I mentioned before – many people could still obsess over healthy eating.
Orthorexia, an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with healthy food, is a real issue that often goes ignored because we all see health as something to aspire to. Food trackers could be potentially dangerous for those who have the capacity to get engrossed in food.
Food trackers aren’t going anywhere.
However, we can try our best to recognize our obsessive behaviors and problematic attitudes and nip them in the bud.
Remember to be critical of industries that sell you the idea that you need to change your body to be happy.
Remember to prioritize your mental health while in pursuit of physical health.