My first new car was a MINI Cooper. Once I drove it off of the showroom floor,1 I began seeing Coopers everywhere I went. It’s wasn’t like the number of Coopers on the road suddenly increased once I purchased my own, but my awareness of them certainly did. Something similar happened when I began my intuitive eating journey. The diet culture teems with numbers, but it wasn’t until I began to remove myself from that world did I become aware of just how prevalent and influential those numbers were in my life.
Let’s make a list of all of the dieting related numbers we can think of: weight, BMI, body fat percentage, recommended servings of food, macronutrients, glasses of water consumed, food scale numbers, calories taken in, calories burned, number of minutes doing X type of exercise, clothing size, Fitbits, and heart rate monitors.2 Though I could comment on each and every one of those, I want to share insights and things I’ve learned regarding a few of these numbers.
- Your BMI is one indicator of health and can be misleading. I had a personal trainer for a bit and he was a HUGE guy, as in ripped. His BMI was in the obese range because it’s a height-to-weight ratio, but he was super fit. In this situation, his BMI was far from an accurate description of his physical fitness.
- Having to buy clothes a size bigger than what you normally would can be triggering. I’m sure most of you have discovered that sizes are quite different between brands…and sometimes even within a brand!3 I felt better about buying clothes when I stopped paying attention to the size because, like the scale, the number I saw impacted my mood and letting an object dictate how I feel was unacceptable. Now I ask myself how it feels. Can I squat and sit comfortably? Does it pinch anywhere? I’d rather be comfortable than miserable in my clothes.
- Many times the numbers in our lives are averages over time. Take the daily recommended food servings. If you don’t get in 3-5 veggies in one day, that’s okay. It’s a general guideline meant to measure your health over time.
- My weight is an external guide to what my body needs. The number on the scale would allow me to eat more if I saw a lower number and less if I saw a higher number. I ignored what my body told me and followed what the scale told me. A big ah-ha moment came when I gave up the scale and realized that I needed to actually be more intuitive because the scale wasn’t there to guide me.4
- Calories are another external guide. Our bodies tell us that how many calories we need for that day by giving us hunger and fullness cues. When we count calories, we ignore those signals and instead follow our self-imposed calorie limit for the day.5
I found it really hard to get past these numbers because they are so pervasive in our society. I was constantly inundated with these numbers and over time they gained power. They became external cues and directed my decisions about food and my body. My natural internal cues were gradually blunted, so reversing the process took some time.
At first it was a struggle to hear my internal cues, but they eventually became louder and louder and the numbers faded from the forefront of my mind. The hardest numbers to part with were the scale and calorie counting, but I got rid both and am proud of my accomplishment. Because I am human, remnants of those numbers pop up from time to time, but I now refuse to let them be so prominent in my life.
Where do you see dieting-related numbers in your life? How do you deal with them? Please share in the comment section below.
1How often does that happen?!
2Did I miss any?
3Coming Soon: My thoughts on vanity sizing!