How I Stopped Allowing Numbers To Rule My Life

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” ― C. JoyBell C.

Are you a fitness-/calorie-/step-/mile-counter? Do you have all the gadgets and/or have a log for all these things? I’m seriously interested in how these work for you and how you use them to your advantage…

I’m going to talk to you about my struggles with numbers – with exercise and food – and steps I’ve taken to lose the calculations that drove me crazy for so long. Here’goes!

I’ve tried to use them but became a slave to my device and the numbers it would show. I had a Garmin GPS and it did so many things well for me. I was running a ton and it kept me focused while I trained for half-marathons and was sort of a distraction I could look at as the miles left me somewhat bored.

At the same time, this is the trap maybe you can teach me how to avoid… I would run my route, let’s say it was 5 miles. I’d run 5 miles, but I still had a few blocks to go before I got home… would I run it and end up with some funky distance, or would I end at 5-even? And, even if I ended at 5.0000000 miles, what if it took me 39:17 seconds? If I got to 40:00-even, I’d be over 5 miles and (you see where this is going?) the headache and drama of running 5 miles would never end.

In conjunction with being an obsessed runner, I spent a lot of time at the gym. I’d strive tirelessly for a certain time/distance on cardio machines; certain laps/time in the pool; certain repetitions and sets with weights for time… but it had to be a rounded number. On and on, the obsessions with numbers and tracking it all left me tired aside from the workout.

With all my information, I would then calculate how many calories I had burned based on my height, weight, pace, and duration. I’d use that data to adjust my food intake… and not in a healthy way. I didn’t use it to ensure that I had refueled adequately and gotten enough protein. No, instead I’d deliberate with agony if I could have a container of flavored yogurt, peanut butter on my toast, or dressing on my salad… things I hardly think about now.

With my issues with the numbers that exercise devices provide, I have chosen to step away from using them. I don’t need to know if I have walked 10,000 steps or how many calories are burned in a bike ride with my husband to get coffee… I know if I’ve been moving my body enough or too much, and these things now get in the way of me enjoying my life and I don’t want to partake in that… For now. Maybe this will change for me on my journey.

Along with the numbers that come with exercise, I can’t avoid talking about the running caloric tab that comes with food. I am fairly well read on how many calories are in most foods (about). When I started calorie counting, I’d look up everything in a fitness tracker: fruit, spinach, crackers, chicken, packaged foods, restaurant foods… all of it I was faced in my daily life was measured before and after consuming it.

The numbers would roll around in my head all day and I’d scribble numbers on the margins on my school notebooks. The meaning of the sum of these numbers would dictate the rest of my day and the days to come. How would I make up for eating “so much” today? Well, by eating even less tomorrow… and/or using my expert exercise calculations to figure that out, too.

One step I took to stop these calculations is put myself in situations where I couldn’t track numbers. I bought whole foods, not in packaging… I even chose the more expensive single apples than the bagged apples because there’s nutritional information on the bag. I chose bulk grains versus packaged Uncle Ben’s and real food versus “diet” food (fat-free/sugar-free/carb-free, etc.).

Even though control is a part of the disorder, I chose to cook and dine out and allow others to serve me blindly without looking up the foods online. And, despite the fact that much of this information had already been engrained in my mind, I chose to not know exactly how many calories I was consuming.

I chose to leave my Garmin at home and start running with a stopwatch. I chose to go to the gym with my sister to get out of my own head. I biked with a friend to catch up instead of burn calories. I tried new exercises like yoga and a workout class. You know how they say to “shock your body” to improve your fitness? I did the same with my mindset with fitness. And, I listened to my body – when it was tired, I’d opt to walk or rest.

In the end, I quit the gym because I know it’s not the best choice for me. I stopped logging workouts and meals. I said, “You choose where we eat,” in order to challenge myself.

Changing habits isn’t easy. Isn’t that an understatement? But with anything – goals, recovery, or whatever – I think about it as pushing through, even when it’s hard. No matter what. Whatever seems impossible is probably not. I sat with discomfort.

My way wasn’t working so I let go. And finally, it’s worth it.