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Be healthy and aware of dieting limits

Editor's note: This column is one in a series as three RiverTown Multimedia reporters take part in the Slim Down with RiverTown weightloss challenge.

Making a conscious decision to start dieting can be daunting for many people. A dieting plan too often turns into a failed attempt at living healthier, causing people to stray away from even thinking about changing their eating and exercising habits.

Or, in my case, dieting can be taken to unhealthy extremes that have lasting impacts on a person's physical and mental health.

Katie DavidsonI made a conscious effort to lose weight the summer after my freshman year of college while I was training for my first season of collegiate cross-country. I was the classic "Freshman 15" victim — no longer being a three-sport athlete or being able to come home to home-cooked meals affected the number I saw on the scale.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands by counting calories, being strict about what I could or couldn't eat and upping my running mileage. At first, my diet was normal, and I was losing weight in a healthy manner, but as I began to see results, I became obsessed with losing weight and was eventually admitted into the Melrose Center for my eating disorder.

But this column isn't about that portion of my life; it's about how I've since learned how to accept my body while still attempting to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

When I first left St. Louis Park's Melrose Center, I was sensitive when anything related to weight, dieting or even the subject of food came up. I used to cover up food labels so that I couldn't read how many calories a specific snack had, and my friends and family knew that commenting on my weight, their weight or anyone's appearance wouldn't fly with me.

But over the past five years, I've become better at "accepting my body" by no longer using a scale on a regular basis, caring less about fitting into a certain pants size, feeling less anxious if I skip a day of working out and being more willing to allow myself to eat different foods that used to be "off limits".

However, I have yet to start counting calories on a regular basis since 2014. Initially, this was a dieting tactic I ruled out after I was in treatment. Having a specific number of calories I could consume and a set number I had to burn every day fueled my obsession with dieting. But now I feel like recording my food intake will help me eliminate the poor, late-night snacking habits I've developed, and more importantly, I feel as though my mental health is strong enough to count calories without letting my diet get out of control.

READ MORE: Slim Down With RiverTown

I plan on using the free MyFitnessPal app to log my meals and exercise during the Slim Down Challenge. I know I'm not ready to start weighing myself on a daily basis again, and I think being aware of my dieting limits is healthy.

Sure, it'll be great if being more conscious about my food intake allows me to shed some pounds, but I'm more concerned with completing this next test of mental strength in my recovery process.

I'd love to see everyone complete their fitness goals by the end of the Slim Down Challenge, but more importantly, I hope all participants are able to maintain a healthy diet while still giving their bodies the self-love they deserve. Push your limits, but set limits before things get out of control. Take it from me — it's hard to improve your physical strength if you aren't tuned into your mental well-being.

Tip of the week from Vibrant Health

Social support

By Greg Goblirsch, M.D.

Share your strategies and goals with your friends and family so they can be supportive of your goals.

Focus on changing one healthier behavior at a time. You don’t have to overhaul your entire schedule and try to accomplish everything on your list at one time. Look at your prioritized list and choose one healthier behavior. When that is part of your routine, start working on the next behavior on the list.

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