Life Lesson: HOW I STOPPED COUNTING CALORIES AND STARTED TO EAT WITHOUT FEAR
Best Health|June/July 2021
When the world shut down last year, so many of us had no idea what lay ahead. Alongside the fear and uncertainty, there was, I admit, a tinge of excitement—the same kind of feeling I had when school got out for summer vacation. An abrupt stop to any routines meant a chance to reinvent myself and emerge from the end of this a more confident, more beautiful (read: thinner) woman. I know I wasn’t the only one with this idea.
MEAGHAN WRAY

In fact, barely a month into that first lockdown, which forced gyms to close their doors, weight-gain memes referring to the Quarantine 15—a play on the infamous Freshman 15—started floating around. Fitness gurus and nutritionists started sharing tips about how to lose those pesky quarantine pounds. My own friends lamented their new bellies and thicker thighs, and talked about getting their pre-pandemic bodies back. It says a lot about how we as a society feel about fatness that even during a pandemic, which has claimed more than three million lives around the world, gaining weight is right up there with the worst thing that could happen.

As a fat-positive advocate—and someone who routinely shares body-positive photos on Instagram—it pains me to admit I still fight against the instinct to conform to societal standards of beauty. But to deny it wouldn’t be truthful; it would be turning a blind eye to the very real, unattainable expectations we have of ourselves that erode our self-esteem.

In my earliest years, I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. I enjoyed the pleasures of delicious foods, without feeling guilty about overdoing it. Through this way of eating freely, I naturally maintained a weight my individual body was meant to sit at. But somewhere during my childhood, I began internalizing messages that I should control my eating, restrict my food and become smaller.

Over time, these practices—which manifest as eating disorders for many—disconnected me from myself. I forgot what hunger and satiety felt like. At my worst points, physical hunger felt good, like a reward for denying my body of what it needed. I binge-ate when restriction became too much and starved myself to compensate. Eventually, the cycle became too much, and I slowly distanced myself from it.

When I noticed my disordered tendencies—calorie counting, and building eating plans and workout regimens—kicking in again at the start of the pandemic, I pivoted. Now, I thought, was the perfect time to give intuitive eating a real shot.

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