Anxiety issues with calorie counting

Athijade
Athijade Posts: 2,888 Member
Morning all.

So I was wanting to reach out and see if anyone else has or is dealing with the problems I am currently having. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I am medicated and seeing a therapist and have seen significant progress in dealing with these problems. However, where I am still having a lot of trouble is when it comes to calorie counting.

I need to lose weight... bad. I am currently about 245 at 5'7" (female). I have lost weight using MFP in the past (over 50lbs) but put it back on due to depression after my mother passed away.

So what seems to be happening is that my anxiety is getting in the way of counting calories. I will do okay for about a week, but the next week I am a mess because I am too close to my calorie limit to have a piece of chocolate or some veggies and dip or some fruit (or whatever). I am so scared of going over my limit that I end up eating way under "just in case". I feel panic if I am close to my limit because what if I measured incorrectly.

Then I just give up because I can't handle the constant mental beat down.

Has anyone else dealt with this? Did something help you get through it?

Replies

  • grace42c
    grace42c Posts: 71 Member
    If counting calories is exacerbating your anxiety, maybe don’t use this function. Stress hormones don’t help you loose weight.
  • NHDaisy2
    NHDaisy2 Posts: 151 Member
    Just curious what you have your weight loss set to. 1lb/week? 2lb/week? My first thought was depending on what you have it set to you could maybe change it from say 1lb/week to 1/2lb/week which would give you a bit more calories each day and maybe you wouldn't feel limited in what you are able to eat until you can get to a place when you no longer feel this way. I'm glad to see you are seeking medical help for your depression. And very sorry for the loss of your mom.
  • BattyKnitter
    BattyKnitter Posts: 503 Member
    I too have anxiety, I'm dealing ok with calorie counting because I get much more anxious about the unknown, not knowing how many calories I've eaten and how many I have left can set off my anxiety. However on the other side of this, not knowing how many calories are in a food if there is no nutritional value/someone else made it/it's a restaurant meal with no info it CAN sometimes get me extremely anxious. It really depends on the day how I will react.

    Overall I just like knowing so most of the time calorie counting actually calms my anxiety. I find that anxiety will sometimes make calorie counting difficult, but calorie counting doesn't tend to make my anxiety worse if you get what I mean.

    Not everyone will deal the same though and if calorie counting is causing your anxiety to get worse you might want to think about talking a break and definitely talk to your therapist about it.
  • cbihatt
    cbihatt Posts: 319 Member
    If you have any experience with counting calories, then you probably have a general idea of how much you can eat in a day and still lose weight. My suggestion is to go old school. Use a paper and pencil to record what you eat during the day, but don’t keep a running tally of your total calories consumed. Wait until the next day to tally it, or even the end of the week. Once you see that what you are doing is working, maybe your mind will relax and you can slowly go back to using the MFP app.
  • rossbaker2_sc
    rossbaker2_sc Posts: 42 Member
    I had the exact same experience. I would count my calories meticulously and measure it against my Fitbit and when I didn't end up having results that were close (because of the million reasons why your weight fluctuates I wasn't accounting for) I would freak out and quit and binge eat. What finally clicked for me was switching to a program like Weight Watchers where you're still tracking but the points don't really correspond to calories so I didn't get the same anxiety. Maybe try that or something like keto where you're tracking macros but not necessarily the total calories as meticulously.
  • 1BlueAurora
    1BlueAurora Posts: 407 Member
    I had some anxiety over reaching my calorie limit, too. For me, I'd feel shame if I went over the calories I could eat that day. Then I'd think, "what's the use? I'm a failure!" I pushed through that by acknowledging that I'm not perfect, I was doing my best, and finally I started seeing results. That motivated me. I budget in a piece of chocolate or some ice cream or a glass of wine mid-way through the day so that I'm able to keep myself from feeling deprived in the evening. Remind yourself that you've been very successful using MFP, and you can do so again. Finally, I added a 20 to 30 minute walk to my day, and found it not only allowed me to add some more calories I can eat. I think part of that is that i stopped ruminating about all the things that are going wrong, and feeling that I'd accomplished one more thing that is healthy. That lifts me out of anxiety and depression, too, sometimes just a little but it's worth the effort to me.
  • maybe1pe
    maybe1pe Posts: 529 Member
    cbihatt wrote: »
    If you have any experience with counting calories, then you probably have a general idea of how much you can eat in a day and still lose weight. My suggestion is to go old school. Use a paper and pencil to record what you eat during the day, but don’t keep a running tally of your total calories consumed. Wait until the next day to tally it, or even the end of the week. Once you see that what you are doing is working, maybe your mind will relax and you can slowly go back to using the MFP app.

    ^^^ This. I lost 114 lbs using MFP, took a year off for maintenance and decided to try to lose 10 more. For some reason this time around it's causing me intense anxiety. Like I KNOW my deficit is built in and long term I KNOW weekly trends are what matter (that's what I used before) but my mind cannot handle it this time.

    So I weigh everything and write it on a piece of paper. I started using a "fasting" timer to give myself a HARD STOP at night with my eating. (for some reason this works for me. once i start the timer I can easily tell myself no to more snacks) and only once the timer is started will I log my food. I've actually been just having my girlfriend log it and tell me if I'm under or over for the week. That way I don't see it. If I'm over for the week the next week I'll cut out a snack.

    Removing the numbers from my view has helped me be a lot less anxious about it. But at the end of the week I still know how I'm doing.
  • MikePTY
    MikePTY Posts: 3,819 Member
    Have you brought up your calorie counting anxiety with your therapist? Maybe they have some suggestions to help.

    I like the idea of lowering your rate of loss so your goal is raised so that you can always try to stay under your calories. If you are at 2 or 1.5 pounds, slow it to 1 pound. If you are at 1 pound, slow it to half a pound. This way you can be under your goal consistently without having as big a risk of undereating.
  • Nerys52
    Nerys52 Posts: 86 Member
    I changed setting to 6 meals instead of breakfast lunch dinner and snacks. I have counted calories for decades so know most things from memory. But with log in MFP I can go accurate by the gram and the 1/2 oz 30 ml and I count everything. I usually reserve like 120 for small snack calories. Is 10% of the 1200. I keep a 10% extension? if I go over is not a fail but reminder for next day to go back to 1200.
    Whenever I forget an item sometimes I feel a little anxious.
  • Fflpnari
    Fflpnari Posts: 974 Member
    I set my calorie goal to lose a pound a week and it helped with my anxiety. 2 pounds a week was just too much. I don't meal prep I eat what I want as long as it fits in my calories. I put my scale under my bed for the first 6 weeks so I wouldn't weigh myself. My scale can trigger anxiety and depression for me. It gave me time to focus on eating and proper nutrition.
  • Annie_01
    Annie_01 Posts: 3,097 Member
    I track my food but I do not weigh and measure and have managed to lose. I will tell you that it is work to do it right. Sometimes I think it is more work than if I weighed my food. So far I have been successful and if I am ever not then I will have to adjust. I just knew that this time around I had to do it differently. A couple of years ago I lost about 80lbs by weighing all my food. I was successful until I wasn't and went over the cliff and gained most of that 80lbs back.

    I control my diet now by portion control and knowing approximately how many calories are in that portion. That means about 90% of what I eat is cooked at home. I also changed my WOE to about 90% of my food is fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meat along with pasta and rice. I still on occasion eat pizza (smaller amounts), will pick up a sub sandwich (no chips) and have dessert on occasion. I am losing weight to be healthy and able to enjoy life...not feel guilty and afraid to eat at a restaurant.

    I eat in a estimated range...during the week 1200-1400 and on weekends 1200-1600. These numbers aren't just random they were carefully thought out by comparing my current NEAT(1900+) to my goal weight NEAT(1600). I also use the 1% method to calculate my rate of loss. As I get closer to goal weight I am aware that my rate of loss will slow down...I am okay with that. There will come a day that I quit losing and that will probably be where I stop. I don't think that I am willing to eat any less than what I do now for the sake of a few more pounds. If I want to lose more then I will try to increase my NEAT figures.

    You still(at least I have to) keep track of what you are eating...check to make sure those portion sizes are not growing...and rethink some of your food items. For me...I just knew that I couldn't keep weighing every little morsel. However, the method I have chosen is still work and requires a lot of thought and effort. It is not a free ride.

    One last thing...One thing that works for me is a "slack" IF 16:8. I do better eating brunch and dinner with a mid-afternoon snack of fruit/roasted vegetables and maybe a small dessert/fruit after dinner. What I mean by "slack"...I usually eat brunch around 11am but if I get hungry around 10-10:30am I go ahead and eat. I try to be finished eating by 7pm but if it is later I don't get upset I just eat and call it a day.

    I also meal prep so that there is always something on my plan ready to go. I keep some frozen dinners in the freezer for those times that I just don't have anything or if I am a little more hungry than usual.

    You just need to find a method that you think will work for you...research and plan it out...stick to it for a while...adjust if needed. Don't pick a WOE just because it worked for someone else and/or they promise you that you can lose 30lbs in the first month and/or you can eat all you want. Eating all I wanted is what caused me to gain that 80lbs back.

    Good luck.
  • Running_and_Coffee
    Running_and_Coffee Posts: 811 Member
    Is your anxiety that you will be hungry? What exactly is driving these feelings?
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,972 Member
    Athijade wrote: »
    Morning all.

    So I was wanting to reach out and see if anyone else has or is dealing with the problems I am currently having. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I am medicated and seeing a therapist and have seen significant progress in dealing with these problems. However, where I am still having a lot of trouble is when it comes to calorie counting.

    I need to lose weight... bad. I am currently about 245 at 5'7" (female). I have lost weight using MFP in the past (over 50lbs) but put it back on due to depression after my mother passed away.

    So what seems to be happening is that my anxiety is getting in the way of counting calories. I will do okay for about a week, but the next week I am a mess because I am too close to my calorie limit to have a piece of chocolate or some veggies and dip or some fruit (or whatever). I am so scared of going over my limit that I end up eating way under "just in case". I feel panic if I am close to my limit because what if I measured incorrectly.

    Then I just give up because I can't handle the constant mental beat down.

    Has anyone else dealt with this? Did something help you get through it?

    Now that I am using a digital food scale I am very confident in my logging. (I also look up entries in the USDA database and plug that into MFP.)

    That much anxiety sounds like something to be discussed with your therapist.
  • Athijade
    Athijade Posts: 2,888 Member
    Thank you all for your suggestions and kind words.

    My therapist is aware of my anxiety when it comes to this. She is actually trained to handle issues when it comes to food, such as eating disorders. We have discussed some ideas, but I wanted to reach out to see if anyone was actually dealing with the same problems and maybe had other suggestions we may not have thought of.

    Right now we are looking at me just writing down what I am eating. No weighing of food, but I will be keeping track of "serving sizes" (so a cup or a tsp). I will also be working on changing some of WHAT I eat, but I won't be cutting things out. So I will still have rice with curry, but I will bulk the meal up with extra veggies so I eat less of the rice as an example. If I can handle this okay, then we will move onto something more, but we are not going to push it.

    I lost my mom a few years ago (when I regained all the weight I had lost) but then my dad died unexpectedly from a heart attack this past August. That is what has triggered this newest bout of depression and anxiety and it has been the worst I have dealt with yet. I am on Trazodone and Lexapro daily and I see my therapist twice a month (wish it could be more but copay and PTO availability limits it).
  • gallicinvasion
    gallicinvasion Posts: 1,012 Member
    I have experienced this. What helped me was the realization that every single thing we measure is a best estimate. Not one number we come up with is exact (not our weight, not our daily calorie target, not our food weight, and not our exercise calorie burns). I had to give up on perfection and remember that if I honestly make a good-faith measurement and estimate with each thing I log, overall all the mistakes and inaccuracies will even out. Sometimes I’ll be over, sometimes I’ll be under, but as long as I am as consistent as possible with my own habits and keep good records, the results will show. And if the results aren’t as expected, I can simply adjust based on my data and the results will move in the right direction.

    I was letting perfection be the enemy of the good, and that caused me anxiety because perfection is an impossible goal. Just focus on making a good-faith estimate every time, and tell yourself “it’s not exact, but it’s honest and close.”
  • Athijade
    Athijade Posts: 2,888 Member

    I was letting perfection be the enemy of the good, and that caused me anxiety because perfection is an impossible goal. Just focus on making a good-faith estimate every time, and tell yourself “it’s not exact, but it’s honest and close.”

    That... really sounds like me. It's as if I think if I can't be perfect, then why try at all.

  • gallicinvasion
    gallicinvasion Posts: 1,012 Member
    Athijade wrote: »

    I was letting perfection be the enemy of the good, and that caused me anxiety because perfection is an impossible goal. Just focus on making a good-faith estimate every time, and tell yourself “it’s not exact, but it’s honest and close.”

    That... really sounds like me. It's as if I think if I can't be perfect, then why try at all.

    I’m actually going to therapy so I can work on this very thing! It was a big reason it took me so long to start healthy weight loss. I highly highly recommending behavioral therapy to help you with some of your anxiety around perfection and your relationship with food; for me, they were super closely linked! And it bled into other areas of my life too.

  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,718 Member
    I have occasional problems with depression, and then I eat lots of lovely things. It first starts to slip a bit, like having a pack of crisps instead of dinner, then at a certain time a pack of crisps and dinner, etc. I know I do this. What helps for me is to move. Doing sport, anything really makes me happy and prevents depressions from taking over. Doesn't help of course if I'm not working out due to being sick or injured a bit longer. Is there something that makes you happy and works contrary to depression? Try to incorporate it into your day. If you've not tried it yet why not go on a brisk walk every day. No excuses like: weather isn't good. Try to see at least one nice thing every day, any small thing like a blooming tree, interesting cloud formations, the geometry of a steel bridge, other houses reflecting in the windows of a house...

    Also, people have asked you how big your deficit is. Why not try to run a very small deficit? Sure it will take more time to lose weight, but is what you're doing now doesn't work then hey, this is worth a try: you have more calories for things you love and need, like that piece of chocolate or even two. Eat it and enjoy it. If you can't moderate chocolate see if there's a posh chocolate shop and get posh chocolate. Maybe you only have one and enjoy it slowly when every piece costs some more money. Maybe not. It's all worth trying.
  • mom23mangos
    mom23mangos Posts: 3,072 Member
    Have you tried pre-logging? Plan your day ahead of time, including that piece of chocolate. Then all you have to do is eat what you said you were going to eat (and hopefully prepared). You don’t have to stress or think about it. If a huge craving comes up, figure out the calories and swap it out for something.