Might be unpopular, but: fear of addiction to weightloss

Okay y'all. So here's the thing. I was 140 in college at 5'0" tall, thanks to a diet of General Tsos, pizza, mac n cheese, and various fried things. Then I lost 10 lbs with minimal effort and another 10 with greater effort. I have since gained and lost 17 of that 20 lbs over the course of several years. The problem is... I have no trouble losing weight, but I seem to get incredibly addicted to counting calories and overestimating food intake and seeing the scale budge and I can get incredibly cranky and still fret about not losing enough weight... so then I realize this is unhealthy and that I'm unhappy and I wind up gaining all the weight back. I worry about the addicting aspect of losing weight, and as I am now back to counting calories and losing weight (my MFP goals are quite reasonable btw) I worry about getting into an addictive/unsustainable mode.

Here are some possible solutions I'm thinking of: I will have a day a week of eating at maintenance or slightly above; I will have a day of not tracking about once a month (special occasions would count toward this); I will track NSVs and victories not related at all to diet and weight (how messed up is our society by the way that this has to be a conscious effort...); and I will work on recognizing the warning signs of extra crankiness and anxiety and connecting them to my eating habits.

Has anyone else operated under this boom-and-bust mentality? Can anyone speak to their experience or provide wisdom? Am I doomed to one of two extreme fates?


  • DebLaBounty
    DebLaBounty Posts: 1,172 Member
    Well, I think at the beginning I was obsessive about logging everything I ate. I still log everything, but don't feel like a maniac for doing so. It often feels more like a game to me than an addiction. Although disappointed when the scale doesn't show a bunch of progress, I don't get all upset about it. I think since you've identified your tendency to embrace an either/or, good/bad, happy/cranky way of looking at things that you are not doomed. I think everything you listed in paragraph #2 will help you reach your goals. Then it looks like you'll just have to stay committed to maintaining a healthy weight after you get there.
  • Blitzia
    Blitzia Posts: 205 Member
    I'm not an expert in the psychology of weight loss or healthy eating, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but here it is:

    I think your diet strategies/weight loss routines are too extreme. You seem to be adopting an all or nothing mentality. When you're trying to lose weight, how many calories are you eating? Frankly, I think if someone wants to maintain a certain weight, then calorie counting (or at least being calorie conscious) has to be a way of life rather than a means to an end. What I mean by that is that diets don't work - if your strategy is "I will eat 1200 calories a day until I lose 20 pounds, then I will eat whatever I want" then you're going to be gaining and losing those 20 pounds on a never-ending cycle. I think instead, you need to need to have an attitude of "I will eat a calorie deficit until I reach a weight I'm happy with, then I will eat at my maintenance calorie level forever."

    So that's problem one (in my opinion) - whatever you do to lose the weight needs to be something you can modify and maintain once you reach your goal weight. Problem two seems like counting calories can be a little triggering for you. The problem is that the ONLY way to lose weight is eat fewer calories than you burn, and it's difficult to achieve that without counting calories. Since restricting your calories seems to trigger your anxiety and isn't sustainable for you - have you considered trying to eat at your maintenance level? If you eat at your maintenance level but add in a little exercise (and don't eat extra calories to compensate for the exercise), you can lose weight at a slow and sustainable pace without being too restrictive with what you eat. Then when you reach your goal weight, you either cut back on exercise or start eating a little more. You'd still have to count calories, but it's an easier transition when you reach your goal weight and it seems less triggering because you're not being as restrictive in your diet.

    (And a caveat is that it IS possible to over-do it with exercise. If you struggle with disordered thoughts with calorie restriction, then be aware that some people can be prone to disordered attitudes about exercise. Don't trade an unhealthy attitude about calorie restriction for an unhealthy attitude about exercise.)
  • tumsashrinks
    tumsashrinks Posts: 21 Member
    I lost around 30lbs five or six years ago by counting calories, exercising etc. (I was using SP site), and I had the same issues. In the end, after months and months of gaining and losing and gaining and losing, I finally managed to keep those 30lbs off by making it more realistic and stopping to see everything as either very good or very bad.

    As Blitzia pointed out, I too was extreme, I went from average unhealthy student diet and no exercise to 2h exercise every day, extremely healthy eating with none of my favorite sweets allowed and counted every calorie by a gram. I refused an apple from a friend because I didn't want to guess if it's "medium" or "large" sized and couldn't weight it. An apple! And if the scale didn't budge, I upped my exercise the next day to make it move. And I let the scale dictate my mood for the day, not caring about things like water weight after saltier meals or how my hormones etc. affect it.

    This time around (took me only five years of maintenance to feel ready for more weight loss, so maybe my advice is not the best :D) even when doing weight loss I am incorporating foods I love in my meals, I try to make them healthier and make better choices, but if I really crave a burger, I will get one, my favorite one comes from a pretty healthy place, no cheese, no meat (replaced by marinated portabello mushroom), but it's still a big burger with a bun that probably has 500kcal by itself. So, if I crave it, that will be my dinner, and instead of ordering it in, I walk to the place and back (roughly 7 miles). Same thing with my favorite chocolate, I have a small piece here and there. And over the weekend we celebrated with family and I baked a cake and had a piece of it, because it was a party. I did calculate calories in it and ate all 600 of them with satisfaction. :D I try to not put things into "this is good" and "this is a daemon I should avoid" categories, instead I try to have overall healthier diet and stick to my daily limit. I eat around 1700 calories (I could not survive on 1200, I would have to cry myself to sleep) and walk my 10k steps more or less every day and so far, so good?

    I mean, think about your longterm goal - I don't want to weight every meal for the rest of my life and never have pizza with friends (or worse, have it and feel extremely guilty about it) or chocolate after a hard day at work, I don't want to always calculate how much calories I burned when hiking with my friends instead of enjoying doing it, but I also don't want to gain back the weight I lost, so I am trying to learn to do both - enjoy things and make healthier overall choices.
  • timtam163
    timtam163 Posts: 500 Member
    Thank you guys for your responses. Blitzia, anxiety definitely has something to do with the all-or-nothing mentality I have toward weight loss and i think I have to work on mental health in order to work on overall health.

    Tumsashrinks, that's true that I don't want to live my life by calorie counting; but at some point I think my food sources are not clean enough to allow intuitive eating to tell me when I'm full. I hope I can find a balance so that I can enjoy foods I love.

    Yeah I guess this is always gonna be a struggle; for an overachiever, calorie counting might be the perfect activity on which to practice working on gentle approaches.
  • Momepro
    Momepro Posts: 1,509 Member
    edited July 2017
    ANYTHING can become an unhealthy obsession. Usually this is caused by a combination of weird brain chemicals and imbalances, and personal history. Honestly, this is not an issue for a weight loss group, this is an issue for your Dr. We are a bunch of random strangers, some of who have very weird ideas about what is healthy or normal. Your Dr. can actually help you find medications that will help curb anxiety and obsessive behavior, and decide if you also should see a therapist to help you find the best tools for dealing with them.
  • pamfgil
    pamfgil Posts: 449 Member
    If you want to reduce the need for calorie counting, the traffic light system could be helpful, with its every day, sometimes and occasional food types. However some type of therapy to help with anxiety may also be useful
  • skymningen
    skymningen Posts: 532 Member
    The point about dieting is, if you do it with help from apps like MFP, you are tracking your progress. You are constantly (even if it is unconscious) setting and eventually reaching goals.
    You are reaching the goal of tracking all your food in one day.
    You are keeping in your calorie max on another.
    You are managing to get down your fat intake over that one month.
    And so on.
    And then you lose weight and inches/centimeters.
    Bam, another victory.

    Reaching all of this goals triggers the "reward response" in your brain, which means a lot of happy hormones. And this reward response is basically the same that happens for addicts when they get their fix.

    So yes, you can get addicted. Humans can get addicted to everything that offers a "rewarding" feeling. So the trick is to gamify something else in your life, give yourself other, healthy goals than losing another pound/kg.
    Goals like working out, making someone smile each day,... whatever works for you.
  • __TMac__
    __TMac__ Posts: 1,665 Member
    Suggestion for taking the middle road: Set MFP to calculate your target calories for maintaining at your goal weight. You'll lose the pounds pretty slowly, and there will literally be no difference between temporary "diet" and permanent "maintenance." Then pay attention to eating and activity patterns that work for you for hitting your daily and weekly goals.

    Good luck!
  • RosieRose7673
    RosieRose7673 Posts: 438 Member
    edited July 2017
    I've gotten like this in the past. I totally understand what you're going through. Nowadays, I don't stress out too much about being super accurate with calories but it hasn't hindered me much.

    I will say this, back about 10 years ago, I had an eating disorder and became extremely underweight. I was calorie counting back then as well. However, when I was in treatment, my RD gave me a different approach to eating. It was based on a certain number of protein servings, carb servings and fat servings. I can't for the life of me remember the specifics but it was pretty simple. It seemed to help me get to a healthy weight and not be extremely stressed out about it. I maintained my healthy weight like that for quite some time. I guess my point is that maybe you should seek help from a doctor and see if advice from a psychologist or RD could help with a plan to deal with that anxiety. It's always a thought!

    Edit: I'm definitely not saying that you are on the road to an eating disorder. I just think that the advice of a doctor may help with the anxiety of calorie counting that you seem to get.
  • moogie_fit
    moogie_fit Posts: 279 Member
    Please talk to a doctor about this. I would get a referral to a psychiatrist
  • JaydedMiss
    JaydedMiss Posts: 4,286 Member
    Id start by practicing counting calories at maintenance, In the meantime talk to your doctor about your anxiety. You can practice calorie counting in a less restrictive way and hopefully get your anxiety under control. Eventually you can lower calories just be aware of your anxiety and tendencies to overdo things. Inform your doctor of this and youll have someone to turn to if it begins getting excessive again. Practice makes perfect, Honestly. It isnt easy, But you being aware of your challenges means you can set yourself up to overcome them.
  • AliNouveau
    AliNouveau Posts: 36,287 Member
    I know this feeling it's like it's easier to be losing and working toward a goal. It's easy to obsess about every calorie passing your lips.

    For this reason I no longer log because I just get too obsessive. I have decided that I'll work on the shape of my body and while I'd like the scale to show a smaller number I've decided to just accept it.