Did you ever have to track your food and count calories? That’s likely the case if you’re reading this. And I’m glad you are here!
Although it might be a temporary fix, it is not realistic to live 365 days a calendar year. Not only is counting calories not a good way to live a healthy lifestyle, but it can also lead to more stress, guilt and confusion about food.
You might be surprised to learn that registered dietitians rarely recommend counting calories. It’s not supportive, and it can actually make you more far away from your goals.
7 Reasons to Stop Counting Calories
1. It’s not practical to count calories in daily life
We don’t eat in situations where we can track every ingredient, use measuring cups or even know what’s in the dish.
We eat out, we eat at home with our families, and we eat healthy whole foods that don’t have a lot of calories. This is normal life! This is why counting calories is not a good idea for everyday life. It can become cumbersome, or even impossible, to keep up.
Consider, for example, what happens if we get used to eating in food situations that require us to count calories or track them. What happens when we are in one of these social settings?
People who strictly count calories will often avoid social situations or eat less to avoid getting “off-track”. They feel frustrated and confused if they do choose to participate.
The moral of this story is that counting calories is not practical.
2. It overlooks nutritional value
Calories are not a way to tell how nutritious a food item. It’s that simple.
You can eat up to 2,000 calories of any food by using calorie counting. However, you may not be aware of the nutritional content of those 2,000 calories. These calories can be from whole foods, processed foods, and packaged foods.
They are identical calorie-wise, but they are very different nutrient-wise. Your body requires calories to provide energy, but also vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and antioxidants. A number-based approach to calories is not the best way to look at what contributes to your overall health and well-being.
You may also find it difficult to eat healthy foods if you count calories. Instead of seeing avocados or cashews as a nutritious, filling food item, you might start to see them as high-calorie foods that you should avoid.
This can not only lead to you being discouraged from eating healthy foods, but it can also cause you to develop a negative relationship with food. You may become afraid of certain foods because they are high in calories.
3. Calorie counting can lead to disordered eating behaviors
People who have counted calories before often have an unhealthy relationship to food. This can manifest itself in disordered eating habits.
Many disordered eating behaviors in our society today are accepted as normal and socially acceptable. These behaviors could be signs of a unhealthy relationship with food, but you may not realize it.
Here are some examples of disordered eating behavior:
- Yo-yo dieting
- Exercise can be used to make up for “bad” food choices or to “burn off” calories.
- Skip meals
- Anxiety about eating certain foods
- Fitness routines or rigid nutrition
- Extreme guilt or shame following eating
- Obsessing about your weight and body image
- Feeling out-of-control with food
- Staying on top of every nutrition trend
It can be easy to fall prey to unhealthy eating habits when you are counting calories. It can be easy to become so focused on consuming a certain amount of calories per day that you stop thinking about what your food choices are.
You will feel more in control of your food if you are so strict about it. It can feel like eating well can be difficult, which can ultimately lead to a negative effect on your mental and physical health.
4. It causes you to ignore your body and needs
Our bodies send signals to us to tell us what we need. Your hunger signals and satiety signals tell you what your body needs to feel and function at its peak. It could be that your body needs more energy (feeling hungry), or that you ate too much food (feeling full).
If we don’t follow these cues carefully, it’s easy to eat too much or too little.
Many things have taught us to focus on external factors and not our bodies.
- Counting calories, macros, or points
- Eat until your plate is clean
- A specific portion size is required for a diet or plan
Mindful eating, on the other hand, is a way to eat that you listen to your body and what it needs. Mindful eating is about developing a strong mind-body connection, with compassion and without judgement. This allows you to discover what works best for you. This allows you to see that what works for one person may not work for you.
This is why many diets, plans, or trends don’t work. They’re one-size-fits-all solutions. They require us to follow certain rules, but we don’t have to tune into our bodies to find out if it’s working.
A mindful approach to nutrition will help you achieve more balance, peace, confidence, and health. You can feel more in touch with your body and know exactly what to eat.
5. Calorie counting to manage your weight will most likely help you gain it
People want a positive relationship to food. However, they also want to lose weight.
They say that they will only count calories for a brief time until they reach their goal weight. Then, I’ll adopt new, healthy eating habits.
It doesn’t work that way. First, if you have restrictive eating habits in order to reach a certain weight, it won’t be manageable unless you continue these restrictive habits.
I believe that calorie counting or dieting is something most of us have done before. Often, we are at our goal weight for a very short amount of time before we regain the weight we lost and we need to start over.
Studies show that dieters gain weight back in 12 months when they are focused on short-term results and not long-term behavior changes. Unfortunately, weight gain can lead to many people getting back into dieting and the stop-and-start cycle.
Do you feel this way?
If you don’t reach your goal weight, you can still continue on this cycle. You might try a different diet if the first one didn’t work, and this will be your last.
You may feel shame or guilt because you have not yet created healthy eating habits. This can have a negative impact on your mental health and lead to unhealthy eating habits. This can lead to you sacrificing your health and well-being to reach a certain number.
Instead of telling your self that you will calorie count until you reach the goal weight, commit yourself to a sustainable approach to nutrition that doesn’t include dieting.
You can make long-lasting, consistent changes that last beyond 30 days and find what works for you. This will allow you to achieve and maintain a weight that is natural for you.
6. It doesn’t solve the underlying problem
If you are currently counting calories, it is possible that this would be a good decision for your health and well-being. We have found that people often count calories to lose or gain weight.
Calorie counting may temporarily help you lose weight, but it is only temporary. It doesn’t address the root cause. Instead of addressing the symptom, we prefer to address the cause. We find out what is causing you to be uncomfortable with your weight.
These are the three most common reasons people want to lose weight or gain weight:
1. Not living a lifestyle and eating habits that support your individual needs
If you choose to follow a diet that isn’t right, it can often lead to you gaining weight that you don’t like.
Imagine, for example, that a friend or influencer tells you that you should eat one way even though you love eating different foods. Let’s assume that we are referring to a strict paleo diet.
You may find yourself unable to eat foods you love because you hear it from someone else. This can lead to a dangerous pendulum-style eating pattern. This can lead to unintentional weight loss or gain.
You may also experience the same symptoms if your lifestyle factors are not being taken care of. For example, stress and poor sleep patterns are two examples. If we are constantly stressed, not managing it well, and consequently not sleeping well, our eating habits can become unpredictable and out of control.
You must do what feels right for you and your body.
2. A health condition is present
Weight fluctuations can be influenced by our health. It’s therefore important to understand your body and how you can support it.
You may be aware of a specific disease, but are unsure how to manage it through food and lifestyle. You may also have disordered eating habits which can lead to weight fluctuations.
It doesn’t matter what condition you have, it is important to look at the whole picture, not just the weight.
3. Body image challenges
While you may feel at a healthy weight and your body is comfortable, you might still feel the need to lose weight.
Your body will not be able to maintain your weight if you adopt restrictive eating habits like calorie counting or calorie counting. Weight fluctuations can be dangerous for your health and can also make it more difficult to maintain a healthy body image.
Counting calories won’t help you overcome these problems. These are all reasons to be more mindful about nutrition. This will allow you to have a more positive relationship with food, increase awareness of your body’s unique needs and incorporate healthy eating habits that will help you every day.
7. Counting Calories Restricts the Pleasure of the Food Experience
You probably know me well enough to have heard me repeat this phrase before.
Food is more than just nourishment. It’s culture, tradition, pleasure, joy, and it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate the many roles that food plays in our lives.
Every day I prepare meals that not only nourish my body, but also fill me with joy.
Food is a powerful way of bringing joy and nourishment into our lives. Unfortunately, many diets neglect this “life/joy”. They can make it seem like cooking is a chore or that your meals don’t satisfy your hunger.
They can make you see food as a means to an ending. Or they may make you look forward to the next time you can eat the food you have been restricting. This can cause a lot of stress and put a lot mental energy into what you should and shouldn’t eat.
Shift your focus from counting calories to eating a healthy diet that is wide in variety and control portion sizes. Let nutrition lead the way to better health and better weight with calories not your main focus. A balanced approach to health with goals that fit into your lifestyle will better serve you to get to the weight you want to be.
Stress and obsession with food are not necessary. There’s a better way, and it is possible to have a positive relationship with food.