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How Calorie Counting Apps Distorted My Perception of Food

When I entered university, I was bombarded by a new lifestyle. Suddenly, I had to cook for myself and buy my own food. Pair that with a McDonald’s across the street, a newfound ability to drink and a complete lack of exercise.


Mcdonaldsfries
Alex Frank / Spoon

I guess you can see where this is going: I gained weight. It was the dreaded Freshie 15, and I decided to enter a calorie deficit to combat it. I downloaded a “fitness app” that did it all: calculated exactly how many calories you needed to lose a few pounds, counted these calories for you and calculated how much exercise you should do in a day. I went from eating around 2000 calories a day to exactly 1,360.


close up on woman holding smart phone in hands
Kaboompics .com via Pexels

At first, I was shocked to see how many calories were in things I ate every day, from apples to Barbeque sauce. It was also horrible to realize that just one meal could take up all of my allotted calories for the day. I went from eating when I was hungry to making sure I was under my calorie limit, eating a few crackers and hoping it would satiate me. Obviously, it never did, and I fell into a pattern of proudly eating as few calories as I could in a day to “binging” the next. The fact is, most days I had only eaten around 2000 calories, but due to my skewed perception, I counted it as a binge. The fitness app I had would count your calories on a bar. If you were under, the bar was green, if you went over, the bar showed an ugly red. That way, to me it didn’t matter if I was over 10 or 200 calories; if the fitness app told me it was bad, I wholeheartedly believed it.

This shitty app was now controlling my life. Suddenly, I was always thinking about my next meal. The idea of food loomed over my mind like a dark cloud. I was constantly planning to fit in meals with the calories I had been allotted by the app. Each day, I decided what I was going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, most often skipping a meal in order to fit in fast food or a drink from Starbucks. Instead of seeing food as fuel, I saw it as my number one enemy. Looking back, it’s insane how quickly everything went downhill. I became obsessed and my mental health was suffering.

When I finally realized what was happening to me and how much I had changed in a few mere months, I knew I had to take back my life. It took me a while, but I am starting to feel more comfortable in the amount I eat again. I’ve learned that the number of calories a person needs is not a fixed thing. The amount you will need and the number of calories you burn varies each day, so please listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry.


a woman stands over the stove cutting an herb out of a pot on the window sill with a pair of scissors. there are pans of pasta stirfry on the burner.
Tina Dawson | Unsplash

Hailey Inman

Wilfrid Laurier '23

Hailey Inman is a first year Psychology major who's minoring in french. She loves reading, writing and painting.
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