Control vs. Structure

Artwork by Della McGee

Five weeks ago, my partner Mike asked if I would like to join him in a cut. A cut is a term in the weightlifting world to reduce calories for a specific amount of time to lean the body out. We had both gained weight over the winter. Mike did it intentionally to increase his muscle mass and me because of some hormonal challenges.

At first, I told him no. My reasons were because I did not want to have my identity based on how my body looked or how much I weighed. I have had body dysmorphia and disordered eating most of my adult life. After much thought, I decided to join him. Our long-term goals are health and fitness, and a leaner body assists us in reaching those goals.

I was able to change my mind because I have healed so much of my Not Good Enough Syndrome over the past few months that I realized that I could do this. My goal wasn’t necessarily a particular number on the scale. My goal was to feel lighter and leaner in my body.

Both Mike and I are people who work well within a structured routine. I want to stop here and say that control and structure are two different things. Control in the way I mean refers to rigidly trying to manipulate a change in a specific behavior or an outcome. Control has always contributed to binge eating for me. Structure is a guideline or systematic framework. Structure is fluid where control is inflexible.

The protocol that he and I chose to use is a fitness app called MyFitnessPal. Just a note that I use the free version and receive nothing from the company for talking about them here. You put in the amount of weight you want to lose or maintain, and it gives you a daily calorie count to reach your goal.

The most helpful decision we made was to create a daily schedule for our meals. We divided the calories up between 4 meals and a snack. We eat around the same time for each meal every day. There are exceptions to this, of course. Life happens.

This lifestyle change was incredibly hard the first 30 days as the body got used to this new structure. It takes that long to integrate new habits, so that made sense to me. Once the body adjusted to the schedule, the protocol became much more manageable. Mike has lost about 12 pounds, and I have maintained my average weight. I have noticed that my clothes are looser and my body looks leaner.

I have not binged once on this new schedule. I have stayed within my calorie range every day, give or take 100 calories in one direction or the other. I find this liberating instead of confining. I am not sure this would work for everyone. My personality digs structure. Not everyone does.

When I tried to control my eating, I was constantly in battle with myself. That battle would result in binging. There is no battle when I use the app to record my calorie intake. I have just so many calories to spend every day, so it makes me incredibly mindful of my choices. I have found that food tastes better. It could be because I am no longer engaging in unconscious eating.

Just like when I first entered A.A., I had to go to a meeting every day to maintain my sobriety. I need to use the app every day for the same reason. The decision to use the app is a lifestyle choice, not a diet. We eat whatever we want within the calories we have set for ourselves. I will keep you posted as I continue on this journey.


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