In my first year of university, I discovered the joys of calorie counting. For the first time I was free to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and whilst I expected that that freedom would allow me to eat as badly as I wanted, it was the opposite.
Since the age of 12, I have been paranoid about my weight. During my teenage years I panicked when I passed 8.5 stone, when i hit 9 stone, when I plateaued at 9.5. When I went to university, it all came to a head. It started innocently, when I was curious about how many calories I’d been consuming in my teenage years, under my family’s judgemental eyes. Apparently not all that many. So for a while, I counted calories, trying to eat less and less and less. I felt in control, more proud of myself the less I ate. When I told my mother about my 1200 calorie diet she encouraged it. I weighed less and less every time I stepped on the scale. This continued on and off into second year. I started feeling guilty on the days when I ate normally, banning myself from certain foods in a bid to decrease calories more and more. I started wanting to be underweight. I never succeeded, often foiled by the deep cravings for anything that contained sugar, cravings which got worse when I cut most sugar from my diet. As I got more desperate, I started craving any sugar at all, even things I don’t normally like – cheap chocolate, donuts, any form of cake that I would usually deem far too sweet.
In the second semester I started trying to eat even less. The plan was to eat 100 calories for one week, 200 the next and so on up to 1200. As it transpires, cutting that low flipped a trigger in me, and I started binge eating. Some evenings I would eat a large takeaway pizza, a packet of Pringles, a packet of biscuits and vast amounts of sweets. My weight shot up to 10 stone, the heaviest I’ve been in my life. I felt guiltier than ever, and visiting home to encounter my mother who kept commenting on my weight worsened it. I decided to try a new method.
I stopped calorie counting and instead started eating healthily and cutting out snacks. The cravings for anything sweet disappeared. My weight quickly returned to normal and I felt much less guilty when I did treat myself. My obsession with weighing myself disappeared, and my friends commented that they were glad that I had stopped complaining about my weight. I still sometimes encounter the desire to diet, often in the form of what feels almost like a voice in my head telling me not to eat biscuits or chocolate or cake. But for the most part, she is silent, lying dormant in the back of my mind.
And I am free.