I used to count calories.
Counting calories was part of my training as a dietitian — one of our homework assignments.
It seemed everyone in my class was really good at it, like they had memorized the calorie content of a bunch of foods. I treated the project as more of an experiment. I mean, if this is what we’re supposed to have our patients do, I should be able to do it.
The funny thing is, the more I counted calories, the less I was paying attention to the food in front of me. It was like looking at a spreadsheet on a plate. All you see is numbers.
I’d choose the less tasty entree because it was lower in calories, even if it didn’t sound appealing. If I got hungry after the meal, I’d second guess myself. “But I ate 700 calories!? That should be enough!”
It was like a battle between the calculator and my stomach.
The calculations said I needed a certain amount of calories per day. If I went over, it was a “bad” day. If I went under, it was an excuse to eat junk food. I’d think to myself, “Well, these chocolates are only 90 calories…”
I’ll admit, I failed miserably and stopped counting calories within a few weeks. I never really enjoyed it and I felt restricted, like I was going to develop disordered eating. I questioned the accuracy of all the calculations. There are a number of formulas to choose from and they all give you different answers. I couldn’t memorize the nutrition facts like my classmates, and frankly, I got tired of feeling like I belonged in the remedial nutrition class.
Now, I actively encourage my clients to stop counting calories and here’s why.
6 Reasons to Stop Counting Calories
1) Labels can lie.
Seriously. Labeling laws allow a 20% margin of error on the nutrition facts panel. That means your 100-calorie snack pack could be 119 calories. Or that 500 calorie TV dinner could be nearly 600 calories. Legally. Ooops.
“[T]he ratio between the amount obtained by laboratory analysis and the amount declared on the product label in the Nutrition Facts panel must be 120% or less, i.e., the label is considered to be out of compliance if the nutrient content of a composite of the product is greater than 20% above the value declared on the label.” (FDA Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling Manual)
2) Nutrients vary by season, variety, ripeness, etc.
While it’s nice to have the nutrient analysis of foods, there is no way food companies or the USDA could analyze every variety of tomato from every region from every season from different growing conditions (i.e organic vs. conventional) and every other variable for nutrients, including calories.
That super sweet summer tomato likely has more calories (and valuable nutrients) than that tasteless, pink one from the dead of winter. Which one would you rather eat?
3) “More calories equals weight gain” is not an exact science.
If calorie counting worked long term, America would be the thinnest country in the world. We are a nation of compulsive dieters and you wouldn’t know it looking at us. Turns out the composition of what you’re eating is crucial to how many calories you eat and how many calories you burn.
The quality of the calories going in can affect the number of calories being burned off. – Dr. Ludwig, obesity researcher
In a study comparing 3 diets: low-fat, low-glycemic, and low-carb, the people on the low carb diet burned 350 calories more than the low-fat diet. (JAMA, 2012) And yet, our nutrition guidelines recommend a low-calorie, low-fat diet. Trouble is, when you focus on calories, you’re likely to eat less fat (since fat is more calorie-dense than carbohydrate and protein). And when you eat less fat, you’re likely to eat more carbohydrates. See the problem?
If you’re happy eating tasteless, low-fat food, going hungry and not losing weight, by all means, count calories and cut fat out of your diet.
4) We don’t absorb all calories.
It’s true! A study on almond consumption in humans found that up to 20% of the calories were not absorbed. (J Agric Food Chem, 2008) The exact reason is unknown, but possibly due to the “cellular structure” of nuts and the way our bodies digest food. I would speculate that we absorb a lot more calories from highly processed foods. Maybe that’s just me.
Or maybe not.
In summary, a calorie is not necessarily a calorie: given the functional differences between edible plants, interfamily and even interspecies differences must be considered when making comparisons between food processing techniques. (Proc Natl Acad Sci, 2012)
There’s also good evidence that our gut health (and gut bacteria) plays a role in how many calories we absorb from our food. (Amer J Clin Nutr, 2011)
5) Focusing on calories often means we restrict healthy foods.
This especially happens when it comes to fat. We often omit higher fat foods simply because they are higher in calories without taking into consideration what benefits we might get from them, such as staying fuller for longer (hangry much?), absorbing antioxidants from vegetables, and getting necessary nutrients, like fat-soluble vitamins. (This is crucially important for pregnant women who may become deficient in key brain-building nutrients if they restrict fat.)
I intentionally choose to fully ignore calorie labels, especially on real foods that are naturally high in fat such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds. My body likes these foods, there are benefits to eating them, and I don’t need a calorie count to tell me otherwise.
6) Too much math.
Honestly, I don’t have time or energy to calculate everything that goes into my mouth. That probably sounds odd, since my life’s work is helping people improve their health by eating better, but I firmly believe this can be done and is best done without counting. (And I have satisfied clients and readers to prove it.) Counting calories is especially fruitless when you know #1-5.
So now you might be wondering:
If I think calorie counting is a such waste of time, what do I do instead?
How do I prevent myself from eating too much?
How do I stay at the same weight, year after year? (and help my clients do the same)
My answer is simple.
11 things I do instead of counting calories:
- I listen to my body.
- I always eat when I’m hungry. (Here’s how to know if you’re truly hungry.)
- I eat foods that I’m actually in the mood to eat.
- I put my full attention on the meal in front of me.
- I notice the sensations in my body before, during, and after eating.
- I sit down when I eat.
- I chew every bite before taking another.
- I savor the flavors, texture, mouth feel, sounds, richness, crunchiness or softness, saltiness or sweetness.
- I make an effort to eat healthy foods and make an equal effort to eat the healthy foods that taste good to me.
- I sometimes choose to eat foods purely for the pleasure of eating them, even when they are not “healthy”.
- I sometimes choose to eat more food than is comfortable, either because the food tastes really good or because I know I wont have time to eat again for a while (such as during a busy work day).
If this sounds like a breath of fresh air, I’m with you. Just putting this down on paper (or rather, in html) feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
I stopped feeling like a disobedient dietitian when I let go if this whole counting calories obsession. There’s a certain sense of freedom that comes from eating in the way we are meant to eat.
It’s sustainable and enjoyable. It frees up so much time and energy to spend on things that actually matter to you. And in the process, your body will naturally find a healthy weight.
It’s empowering to know that your body knows best. It validates all of those signals your body sends you moment to moment, even the urge to eat a little something extra at the end of a meal.
Now before you go, I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
1) Have you counted calories before?
2) Were you able to sustain it long term or did you give up? Why?
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Until next week,
243 CommentsLeave a comment
Love this Lily! I haven’t counted calories for years and years and instead focused on enjoying my food and listening to my body, like you! Now people are always amazed at my metabolism and strength, even after I had twins! I also truly believe that happiness is the best recipe for feeling good and looking good, which is why after years of teaching yoga and offering personal training, I now help people heal their mindset and step into a whole new perspective where what they desire is not only possible, it’s is totally achievable! Keep the great work coming, love your blog!
We have the same food philosophy, Lana. I really believe our body has enough know-how to tell us when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to stop. I started teaching Pilates to help people get stronger and reshape their bodies, which it does, but so often it comes back to food. So glad you are enjoying my blog!
what about the anxiety that comes with stopping, how do you deal with it?
I never counted calories or carbs grams when my weight was 10 lb over I just time to love at my habits, stopped all sugar, used Xylitol. also stopped gluten and limited my dairy. The best thing for me to eat only eat when I’m hungry do not eat after 5:00PM. I relax more, read more,
do yoga, meditation, thirty minutes hit my target zone. eat non-GMO and fresh, organic healthy fruits, vegetables seeds and nuts food, and drink some almond or hemp milk smoothies, just enjoy my life because when you have deep inner balance everything else balance itself out. Just happier, healthier about life, and love.
Love this from a values perspective- I too can’t handle the math or the obsessiveness of measuring, etc.
still struggling to lose the baby weight though… sigh!
Ahhh help me speed up my metabolism!!
I am on a weight loss journey and from my own experience I can say that counting calories DID NOT help me at all. In the beginning I DIDN’T count calories and ended up eating LESS than when I started counting calories and lost way more weight. Its simply because, when I didn’t count those calories, I would eat until I feel full, and when I know how many calories I am allowed I would just stuff my face into that peanut butter just to reach my calorie limit even though I am already stuffed in my stomach, and becuase of that, I know am on a plateau cause I am always getting the same amount of calories every day and when I don’t count them, I never take in the same amount. Cause some days I may eat those 2 tbsp of PB which adds 200 cals some days not, so my body keeps guessing of how many cal I’m going to take in and that is how I’ll lose weight – by shocking my metabolism!
So this is a great topic – STOP COUNTING those damn calories! It will ease your “headache” and just make everything easier. But you do need to watch your portion sizes if you plan to lose weight without counting calories 😉
So happy to hear you have let go of the calorie-counting tailspin! Keep listening to your body and its hunger/fullness cues.
so good to read this. as a full-time pilates instructor teaching private clients, small and large groups 6 days a week for the passed 14 years, I have really struggled with body image and food intake issues. Pushing myself to do more hours of work, my own workouts (I love to work out!) take care of myself and husband, and have some sort of social life has made me a calorie burning machine. But I bought in to the hype for way too long counting calories, not eating “carbs”, not eating fat, fasting, taking appetite reducing supplements, doing psychological therapy, juice cleanses, many other approaches to “gain control” of my appetite. Only in the passed 7 months have I finally realized that my body is my best friend and it is HUNGRY after lifting reformer boxes, climbing the Cadillac, doing demos, lecturing and cueing constantly for 7 hours, taking a high intensity interval training class, going to yoga class, hauling heavy bags of groceries up three flights of stairs, doing housework, and taking a walk through the canyon or on the beach…………of course I am hungry! My boss has a saying, “feed your body like a thoroughbred”. I know the kinds of foods that make my body happy. I usually crave specific things and try to honor that. I am a practicing whole food plant based vegan, and listen to MDs and Nutritionists who say exactly as the author did here- don’t count calories, eat whole unprocessed foods, enjoy, focus on your food, be grateful for it and eat until you are satisfied. I am finally living in a body that has very low body fat, healthy hair and skin, energy to do my high output life and becoming happy.
What about pregnant women?Regards
Great question, Olivia. At most, pregnant women need only 300 extra calories per day during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. And that number WILL vary day to day.
So essentially, I recommend the same mindful eating techniques described above for pregnant women instead of calorie counting or “eating for two”. I’ve worked with hundreds of pregnant women, and those who follow the above principles do far better at gaining the appropriate amount of weight during their pregnancy and avoiding (or managing) complications like gestational diabetes.
PS, if you want some ideas to put this into practice, you might be interested in getting my freebie “33 Yummy & Healthy Pregnancy Snacks”.
I have recently been diagnosed with NON – PURGING Bulimia as a result of 4 years of very restrictive dieting and high intensity exercise. My metabolism fell flat, my hormones were not even registering on the test and my food “intolerances” were thru the roof, my adrenal glands were kaput and I was NOT eating fats at all. I would count calories religiously and it did work for me for about 2 years, then I started to gain fat on my stomach and legs and I started to cut more calories to no avail. Now I eat fats, and I have finally stopped counting calories. I love love love food, but I still freak out after every meal because I ate till I was full. I eat whole foods and lots of fiberous foods like Coconut Flour and Flaxseed Meal, but I have gained 1 pant size and feel like I am working on gaining yet another pant size. I love the freedom that comes with eating this way, but the confusion of what is an “ideal” size/weight for me is what plagues me daily. Our society does everything it can to instill in us that TIGHT TONED size 1 to 4 bodies is the only “healthy” body type to be… What is ideal, what is the right HEALTHY weight, how does one find that? BMI is not a “one size” fits all. How does one focus on just eating healthy whole foods, fruits, veggies without getting caught up in the “OH NO MY BELLY IS HANGING OVER MY PANTS A LITTLE, I MUST BE FAT!” Mentality?
I applaud your progress, Amber. Your story is similar to many of my clients and I’m impressed with your bravery to put it out into the world.
My simple answer is: As your body adjusts to being nourished and no longer believes you are starving, your stress hormones will calm down and your weight will normalize. The more you focus on feeling really good in your body, enjoying what you eat, finding outlets to manage stress and feel joy, the less you’ll be consumed by seeking a “perfect” body as defined by the media. It IS a process and I encourage you to reach out for whatever support you need during this transition.
I’m so happy to hear of your progress! I’m truly excited and happy for you!
Yea I have counted calories for years now. It helped me shed 120lbs and basically gain my life back. However, I just have been having trouble sticking to it. Counting calories is work and I don’t have the same discipline to reach a certain goal each day like I used to and I usually always go over. I also have bad days when I go over my calories or when I’m not seeing the number go down on the scale and then I end up going back to the internet again and again to find out why it is if I need to adjust my calories or whatnot. It’s stressing to me and I’ve gained 30+lbs and I haven’t been able to sustain a good diet from it mainly because I make decisions on foods depending on their calories so if I’m stuck in a regular family restaurant I get anxiety not knowing the calorie content in the food I eat. I rely on it too much and sometimes eat because I have available calories to eat but not because I’m truly hungry. This article actually inspired me to delete my my fitness pal app on my phone and concentrate on the food in front of me. Thank you
Yes Rolando! When we shift our focus to the food in front of us (staying in the moment) instead of relying on external cues to guide what and how much to eat, we break the yo-yo dieting cycle.
I am a woman who is 21 years old, five foot eight inches tall, and used to weigh 225 pounds (obese in the BMI chart). After about one year of counting calories every day in an online logging system and working out three to four times a week, I now weigh 155 pounds (normal in the BMI chart). At first, I absolutely LOVED counting calories! I could eat 1900 calories and lose up to 2 pounds a week. I felt such a sense of control over my eating that I had never felt before. It became almost like a hobby- I liked trying different filling and healthy meal combinations and learning how I could cut calories but eat more. However, towards the end of my weight loss, the website told me that I would need to eat 1400 calories to continue to lose weight. I really struggled with feeling full. I began to feel very guilty when I would go over my calories. I started to have the “F*** it!” attitude and told myself that I just could not do it anymore! I started indulging more and more in unhealthy foods. Then, I started to feel obsessive. When I couldn’t get to a computer to log my calories, I felt helpless and worried. I few weeks ago, I stopped counting calories completely. I still do it in my head automatically because it is such a part of how I think about food now. It just got unhealthy. I have gained a few pounds but I think I am just adjusting to my new eating patterns. Without counting calories AT FIRST, I don’t think I would have been so successful at weight loss. It helped me understand portion control and what foods I can eat more/less of. But, I think counting calories should be a temporary lesson on eating, not a lifestyle. Thanks for posting this article!
Lily, you hit the nail on the head. Calorie counting works short term but it is unsustainable. I’m so happy to hear you’ve chosen to trust your body and find a more long-term approach to eating.
Calorie counting has ruined my life… I developed anorexia 14 years ago… then over eating… bulimia and undereating. I struggle and still count. 🙁
Hi Orla, I’m so sorry to hear that. Calorie counting has led many people down a similar path, but luckily there is another way. I hope you can use some of the mindful eating tips above and find the support you need to move through this. Ups and downs are part of the journey. ~Hugs~
Lovely! An article like this is so refreshing and just what I needed to hear. I started calorie counting at age 13 and it has lead me through years of restriction and more recently binge-restrict cycling in the tumult of recovery. All of this trouble had spawned from not listening to and depriving my body. Honestly, once you let go of calorie counting, your quality of life really improves and if you just follow your instincts, you’ll most likely see your body change for the better.
Trusting our instincts and knowing that they wont lead us astray is really the key message here. How wonderful that you’ve embrace a new approach to food and your body, KC.
I have definitely been able to sustain counting… Infact I’ve been doing it for 3 years straight and am fed up with it. I no longer count daily but count weekly.. It’s driving me nuts. I just want to eat healthily 6 days a week and have a meal out once a week without gaining weight. Sounds easy right? My brain makes it incredibly difficult because I don’t know how much is a healthy amount to eat without counting.
Geri, it’s not easy to go cold turkey on calorie counting, but hopefully some of the tips in the article will help you tune in to your body’s inner wisdom around food. It’s less about thinking and more about feeling.
Hi, this article has been like a breath of fresh air! For weeks I’ve been obsessed with the My Fitness Pal app and trying to stick to under 1000 calories to lose weight; every meal and snack I would weigh exactly and record it, turning away anything with more than 4 calories per gram but reading this has made me put the app away. I still felt hungry or would eat just to hit the 1000 calorie mark but now I’m going to focus on where my calories come from, not how many I eat. I will try my best to make healthy choices and see where that takes me on my diet journey. Thank you!
Absolutely Jade, quality counts! Our bodies are pretty good at regulating the amount of food we need if we eat mostly real foods. Many processed foods are engineered to make us overeat (the more we eat, the more of their product we buy). This article might be of interest as you continue on your healthy eating journey. Cheers!
This article helped me so much. I’m 18 years old and have been obsessed with calories for the past month to the point where I’m just exhausted. I’ve realized I don’t need to keep track of everything I eat or calculate exactly how many calories I’ve burned. Just maintain good portions, eat more protein and have good habits and I’ll be fine. (Also, I’m 5’4″ and 118 pounds so I don’t even need to lose weight, but at my age, it’s hard not to want to look a certain way)
Meg, I agree – counting calories is like a full time job and who needs that when you have your whole future ahead of you? You are at a healthy weight, you have healthy habits, and you have so many more productive things to spend your time on. Our bodies are perfectly capable of regulating how much energy we need and knowing that at your age is a true blessing.
I stopped counting calories AND threw out the scale a few years back. I’ve been feeling great ever since! I go by what my body intuitively craves and how my clothes and body feel. Now that I’m pregnant, I’m continuing the same mindset. So far, I’ve had healthy and normal weight gain during my pregnancy. I’m having a little girl and I never want her to have to hear the word “diet” or worry about a number on a scale. I’m glad I learned early!
Real foods and learning to trust our bodies equals a happy body 🙂
I have been counting calories for about a year now, and I’ve been trying to stop. I’m in recovery for disordered eating and it has been my goal to stop counting for weeks now, and I’m pretty sure this page gave me the little push I needed to stop. Thank you. 🙂
I’m so humbled my post has given you the extra confidence to ditch calorie counting. Best of luck, Caitlin!
I’ve been counting (calories, points, pegs, whatever) since 2012. I successfully lost about 50 pounds doing so and then eventually the motivation came to a grinding halt. I literally began to get frustrated and cry because there were so many days where all I wanted to do was eat. If I was out of calories for the day, I was out of luck! All the dinners with friends when all I ordered was a water; or cooking a delicious dinner for my husband and I had to eat something entirely separate because even one serving “put me into the red.” And then, because I work in a deadline-driven job, I’d have a stressful week and I would binge, binge, binge, the entire week. Popcorn, candy, copious amounts of granola/nuts/protein bars/chips. Anything I could get my hands on.
I remember one day I was calculating my intake for the day and I literally hit a moment of panic: I will literally have to do this for the rest of my life. Can I do this for the rest of my life? So I don’t gain back all the weight I lost? There has to be another way! That feeling was so unsettling to me to have to take my phone with me to every meal, my scale to every function and my measuring cups to every event that I used a fork. But, this article is the first article I’ve read that goes back and resolidifies everything that I’ve had a gut feeling about before: listening to my body. I know my body is an amazing machine; I’ve seen it not be able to run for 1 minute to running 5 miles non-stop; never able to climb a hill to scaling hiking trails up mountains… just amazing things. So, question is, why couldn’t I trust it to let me know what it needed in regards to hunger? When to eat and when not? What it really needed when a craving hit? This article has given me a new lease on life– we always hear to love our bodies… but what’s love without trust?
Gia, I’m sure your story will inspire many to rethink the sustainability of calorie counting! At a certain point, it can become mentally exhausting. Your gut feeling is spot on! Your body is an amazing machine that has well-calibrated “fuel gauges” to tell you when it’s time to eat. The key is trusting those gauges and not waiting until the tank is empty to fuel up again. That takes practice, patience, and trust – all things that your body was born doing and will be able to do again. We’ve been brainwashed, or perhaps convinced, that calorie counting is THE way to health, but it’s not.
Enjoy this period of experimentation and play around with what food combinations keep you satisfied and craving-free. I suggest these two articles as a starting point. 1) On cravings and food addiction and 2) on breakfast.
Hi, there! Love this article.. I have struggled with calorie counting for some time now. It seems the internet always has something to say when it comes to weight loss. I recently have been researching an amount of calories best for my body and I have discovered multiple answers, a whole range of possibilities! I have been left stumped. I have lost weight calorie counting but I realize how addicting this can be, not to mention dangerous. It is a slippery slope one does not want to go down. I know many individuals who have become caught up in calorie counting to an extreme where they are underweight and malnourished. This blog has helped open my eyes to the possibility of simply listening to my body and it’s needs regarding hunger, clean eating and let myself be. I will definitely try and work on this approach next time I put away those walnuts I will try to remember this and concentrate on the health benefits instead of the calories.. Thank you!
I’ve been counting calories on and off for about 1.5 years. Initially it was a helpful tool to help me with portion sizes. I feel off the wagon because I was choosing poor foods and snacking. Now that I am back to counting calories and exercising, I am not finding it frustrating as now that once I have eaten all my meal and snack and logged my exercise by the end of the day I still have 500-800 calories to consume but I don’t because I’m not hungry and it is not like I’m eating nothing but salads. So I am going to try listening to my body and watching my portion sizes and choices
Hi Lily, I have just read your article and found it very helpful, I have been calorie counting for 18 months or so and have become totally obsessed, so obsessed it has become a food battle and I have turned in to a food nut, im trying to stop counting….. im on day 3 and just had to do a rough check on my total for the day too see if im ok for a yogurt!!! so ive only made it 2 days with out checking on my phone app but one of those days I still made a list before I went to bed. CALORIE COUNTING IS BAD!!!!! I can not stress this enough, yes it has helped me loose 49lb BUT im now neurotic about what I eat, finding myself eating only the lowest of calorie foods so I can stay within my goal, under my goal = good over my goal makes me feel genuinely god awful about myself like im a failure and im going to go to sleep and wake up 49lbs heavier instantly again. I have had to confide in my mum for help as I feel ashamed ive let it get this far only realising how bad I had got with my two weeks off work, trying to let myself go a bit and enjoy some nice treats instead turned into a daily binge and guilt trip afterwards, I put on about 4lb and felt like my world was/is ending which is ridiculous I know, but hard to explain. But im going to push on and get over this calorie habit (which I now think is as bad as smoking health wise!!!) I exercise regularly and I just need to find my bodys balance, anyone who is thinking about doing it please don’t…… its good for a while but it doesn’t last good.. it takes over and makes every day a menu chore 🙁
as a teenage girl and full time athlete, calorie counting has consumed my life. i’ve been doing it on and off for about 2 years now and the only time I ever feel free is when I binge eat and go crazy for a day eating anything I want. I have tried a few times to stop calorie counting and failed after about 1 or 2 days, but i’m trying again today. The only positive I have gained from my experience is learning about the nutrients within different types of foods, and with this knowledge i’m going to try and eat healthier while listening to my body instead of reading off an app. I love reading articles like this because sometimes I get into the mind frame that calorie counting is actually good thing and that im lazy stopping. Maybe it is a good thing for some people, and it did help me lose weight, but I would much rather be the slightly healthier, extremely happy girl I was 2 years ago.
Yes, I count calories. Every single one of them.
And I am sick of it now.
I am actually in tears because my whole day is consumed with thoughts of food and horrible body image (remnants of a severe ED that I am still recovering from)
I eat the same bloody combination of foods every single day. I don’t listen to my body. And I don’t stop eating until I have reached my calorie count for the day – even if I am feeling beyond full.
I am sick and tired of it. I am a 33 years old who is struggling to make her mark in the field of writing. But I am unable to work for more than 3 hours because obsessive thoughts have exhausted my creativity.
It’s embarrassing, sickening and humiliating.
I am ready to change, but I am scared to change.
Thank you for a lovely post #HUGS
I also counted calories but after reading your article last night, I decided to stop! Originally when I did not count calories and just ditched unhealthy food (like fried food and such), I lost weight fast and I was happy with what I ate, and never overate anything. Then, I wanted to shed more lbs (I’m 5’5 and 125 back then but I was not satisfied how I was), I started counting calories. It worked at first, but then I became obsessed with counting calories (I weighed literally everything I ate) and I was depressed when I did not reach my goal. Like many of others said above, when I saw I still had some calories I could take and were still below my daily goal, I would snack even though I wasn’t physically hungry.
It later developed into a binge eating disorder. I’m fighting the binge eating now and when I woke up this morning, I decided to stop counting calories and I feel great so far when I actually listen to my body and eat as healthy as I can.
Thank you for this article!
Hey Girl! The same happened to me. I developed anorexia through counting calories. I began exercising more than I usually did and started eating roughly 1,200 maximum calories a day. I am currently going to a nutritionist to help me reach a healthy weight. But I still see myself as fat and still have my anorexic mind telling me I’m eating to much even though my body needs it. I can’t stop stressing about the amount of calories I’m being forced to eat (about 4,000 daily) and I cry almost everyday because my mind makes me feel like a bad person just for eating a certain amount. There is a part of me that tells me that this is part of the process and that I should eat, that it is not bad. But the “ghost”(the way I talk about my anorexic mind) is stronger and makes me feel bad because of eating. Our bodies are incredible, and without the need of counting calories we can stabilize our weight. We can reach our healthy weight and maintain it, you can eat whatever you want and your body will know how to process it. The most important thing is to eat Whole Foods, and goods you enjoy. What I’m trying to think is that food is not only a number but instead is something filled with experiences, emotions and love. So if you love cookies go ahead and bake them and enjoy every bite of the cookie. I am just a teenage girl and it gets me so stressed to think that many other girls at this age, including friends of mine, are counting calories and I wouldn’t like for them to develop the problem I am currently going through. A recommendation I would give to anyone who reads this is: “Don’t count calories, your body knows how to handle food in a good way. But stressing over a number can cause your whole life go around it, and you will not enjoy being chained to counting calories.” How can I convince my friends to stop counting calories? I need help! ILY Guys!
LOVE this post! We have the same views! 🙂
I love the idea sounds wonderful but nothing but calorie counting and removing wheat and milk and lowering cars works for me. I exercise up to 8 times a week……my issue is that I am hypothyroid so not only do I need to not eat too much I also need to eat enough to keep my metabolism moving. It’s really not fun!
What do you do if you genuinely don’t believe your natural ‘gauges’ work (or that you can hear them?) I used to be 300lbs and after a gastric bypass 4 1/2 years ago I’m now a very very nearly healthy 160lbs (I would like to be half a stone lighter than this to take me off of the top end of my healthy bmi, even though I know that this thought in itself is unhealthy.)
Anyway, as my weight loss inevitably slowed down at around the 14/15st mark I had to resort to tried and tested calorie counting to shift the last 3 stone. However, since having plastic surgery to deal with extra skin I have become totally and utterly obsessive about my calorie counting (and my weight in general) to the point that I would probably consider myself to have an eating disorder (in that the mindset is the same, not that I’m underweight.) To try and average my calories at around 1200 a day I skip meals, have fast days, have cut carbs, fat… you name it I’ve tried it and obsessed over it! Of course it never works, I generally end up getting my calories from absolute junk (why would I eat a banana when I could have a snack chocolate bar?) then binging on the weekend, eating in excess of 3000 calories in the day. Then the guilt cycle returns!
Problem is, I don’t truly believe that my body tells me the right things, or I’m completely inept at reading what my body is telling me. I have a condition that means I can’t really exercise (or move much, so I know I don’t burn an ‘average’ amount), I’m constantly exhausted (so reach for the sugar fixes) and definitely have mental health related comfort eating problems. I feel certain that if I stopped calorie counting every bite that goes in my mouth I would put all that weight back on as the signals I need to be listening to are so clouded with other noise. However, I know that this way isn’t healthy, in any way. I also know that everyone I know that effortlessly maintains their weight wouldn’t have a clue how many calories are in anything. They know what’s healthy and what’s not but that’s as far as it goes.
I know everything you say is right but I just can’t bring myself to let go for fear of what the loss of control will bring…so where do I start?!
I know exactly how you feel. With all due respect to some of the other respondents here, when I read their posts that say they “feel full” long before they reach their low calorie limit for the day, it hurts my brain. If you are already thin, and can stay that way without outside support (i.e. calorie counting, etc.), then that’s amazing and YOU DON’T NEED TO COUNT CALORIES.
For those of us who are not that way, for whatever reason, our “feelings” are not going to tell us to stop eating at a point that will sustain a low body weight. I can eat all the healthy food in the world, cutting out the junk, and still be heavier than I should be. It’s all about portion sizes in this situation, of course. I fully acknowledge that eating garbage is problematic for many reasons, one’s weight being only one of them.
I appreciate that there are many paths to good health and wellness, and I’m so grateful for that because everyone is different and needs to find the path that will work for them. For some of us, counting calories is a simple and affordable way to manage our portion sizes and food choices while still having some variety in our eating. Joining a weight loss program is out of the question for many people, for financial reasons, but we can all read packaging at the grocery store, measure the contents of those packages, and take a few hours one afternoon to look up the calorie contents of foods in the produce and meat sections to create a little database for ourselves that we can refer to again and again.
Blessings to all, and may everyone enjoy good health in the best way(s) that they can. <3
I have suffered bulimia and anorexia for 9 years. I am in recovery and I am very very happy that i stopped counting calories. Although i have a lot of bloating and i gained some weight because my body still have to adjust to the food intake.
However i feel so much more free and for the first time in my life i don’t think negative about food anymore. If i want to eat crisp i will eat it but enough to sattisfy my cravings.
When i had my period i would litteraly eat my whole period straight cookies.. At first i fell bad and fat but i just let it go. And after my period my cravings went away and i lost a little weight just from my normal eating routine.
So i don’t really mind the weight so much. It is such a small step but such a big change in my life. As long as i can enjoy food with a good feeling. But sometimes when i see skinny girls i will feel bad about myself i will feel very fat. I just have no idea how to help this feeling and bad self image
HI I have read the article with interest and have not known which way to turn . I started dieting in 1996 and have been on and off weight watchers and more recently slimming world I now weigh two Stone more than then so diets don’t work . I am going to follow the sensible advice and pack in the dieting and plan I can’t stick to . anyone feel like me ? .
Reading this makes me feel like I should seriously try to stop counting. However, the hardest part about stopping is learning how to not do it in your head, especially because I have memorized so many things. The best example I have is when I wake up in the morning and I’m not very hungry. I could just have a piece of fruit or something, but I know that I can technically have 300 calories for breakfast, so I go ahead and eat that much.
My biggest problem is I work out a ton. I typically workout for an hour and 15 minutes 4 times a week and ride my bike to work most days of the week (5 miles a day). I have a heart rate monitor and typically burn 350-500 with an average of 400 calories per gym session. I’m fine with eating on my gym days because I can eat more, but then I struggle on my days off from the gym. I’ve found myself becoming unhealthy and running or doing extra amounts of exercise just to burn off excess calories. I weigh myself almost every day and I just want to break the habit.
I’m 5’6 and 160 lbs and the internet tells me I should eat 1870 calories based on my activity level, but I have no idea if that’s anywhere near the right number because I think it’s impossible to truly know…
How did you stop counting? Any tips would be great 🙂
I have been calorie counting for almost a year and it is exhausting!! I beat myself up most daily! Even if I don’t go over my calories I still found myself being myself up! It’s crazy! I have actually developed an eating disorder from the calorie counting and have now found that if I really tell myself no… I will binge eat. Or if I let myself have something I will just say “I will save the calories” and end up not eating enough to sustain my health! This is a breathe of fresh air to read however I have developed anorexia (almost) and don’t like food at all now. It thoroughly repulses me to eat, see food or even go out to eat. I will get full blown panic attacks because of my calorie counting. It’s rediculous…. And if I don’t count I feel like I will die…
I enjoyed the article but I am going to politely disagree. I think that it all comes down to the person and what works for them. When I counted calories on my first diet I lout 25lbs. Now I’m doing it again and I’m losing 5lbs a month on average.
The simple fact that you are now on another diet (your own words!) proves the nonsense of counting calories… You say yourself that it is useless, only you don’t realize it yet…
I read this article while trying to avoid some thoughts echoing in the back of my mind, telling me I should just starve to death. I’ve been in recovery from Anorexia for two years, and I haven’t gotten rid of calorie counting tools just yet. It’s hard: my mother cooks heavenly, but I seem to have this unconscious tendency to remember every single number. It’s exhausting, because I can’t seem to be able to eat in peace…I do it in a hurry, almost desperate, feeling that if I give my thoughts a few extra seconds, they’ll strike and I’ll leave half of my plate full. I don’t want to go back to torturing myself, but I don’t know where to start. However, I want to keep trying. Any advice?
I love this!!! I have been feeling overwhelmed by my food diary and need a break but was scared of gaining weight!! This all makes sense and my loved ones will approve of me not obsessing! Thanks 🙂
This just changed my whole world. Thank you so much. I needed this more than anything. I appreciate what you do, truly.
Just discovered your blog and it’s amazing! I am a registered dietitian working with eating disorders and it can be very challenging to decrease/eliminate calorie counting. My patients are so relieved when they are able to stop calorie counting/analyzing food labels and take their power back from calories/food.
Thanks so much, Jessica! I love connecting with other RDs that embrace mindful eating and real food. 🙂
I have been counting calories now for about a month and I have seen some improvement I am starting to have a ripped core. However I hate it it’s awful and I losing energy and stressing about calorie content and I eat up to limit just because I can. I just count down the time till I can eat again just waiting for it to be time for a meal. So myquestion is how can I make sure I don’t binge eat to much if I quit as well as I tend to over eat when I am full so how stop that. Also how do I quit counting calories cause every foods has now become about counting calories.
I suggest using the tools in this post for a more sustainable approach (and to prevent under- or over-eating without relying on counting calories).
This couldn’t have come at a better time! I am stuck in a viscous circle of calorie counting, treat/binge days & over exercising! I need to stop counting & remember the above! Im going to print it off and put it on the fridge! Thank you for making me realise im not alone, and more importantly – that life is NOT all about numbers – there are worse things in the world I could be than a little bit overweight!! <3
I have felt like that’s how you should manage your diet for years, but have allowed myself to try ever ridiculous fad diet out there. Things in life change all the time and I started trying to adapt my crazy schedule and eating and I just started gaining and gaining, and now I find my self scared to not count calories in fear things will become more out of control. It used to never be this hard. I am active and enjoy working out, I struggle with allowing myself to eat so I’n not hungry. I often wake up in the middle of the night just starving. Thanks for the rational insight, I’ve got to bring myself back to a more reasonable diet.
I’ve been cutting my calories for a while and for some reason am now struggling with feelings of hunger and headaches! But because I have been counting calories for 9 months I feel I can’t stop because it’s part of my daily life I had a back injury a few weeks back so cut my calories again in fear of putting weight back on because I’m unable to train for 6 weeks. It’s become an obsession to count and weigh my food. Has anybody else had this experience ?
while searching on the internet about how to stop overeating which then led me to “how to know if you’re hungry” i came across this blog and honestly, i am truly amazed. i’ve been always cautious about the calories my body take in and pretty much gets winded up. They say it helps, to count the calories and to not go beyond the bar. and after reading this, woah ! My brain suddenly flipped. and instantly i want to start listening to my body. BUT ! i have this one question bothering me about HUNGER.
IS IT OKAY FOR ME TO NOT EAT DURING MEALTIMES BECAUSE IM NOT FEELING HUNGRY ?
ITS MEALTIME AND IM NOT FEELING THE HUNGER, COULD I SKIP EATING UNTIL I FEEL HUNGRY?
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS REGARDING EATING BREAKFASTS AS THE BIGGEST MEAL ?
you helped me alot just by reading your blog THANK YOU <3
Glad you found it helpful, Opry. I believe you should listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry and not eat when you’re not hungry as described in this article.
Here’s my take on breakfast.
I’m 21 years old and have had a long history with my weight For the new year, I vowed to shed 3 pounds from my 138 pound, 5’2 frame. I told myself that I was going to sign up at my local gym and record every single thing I put in my body. It wasn’t easy but I managed to lost 6-8 (I still struggle with the last two numbers) which I am very proud of. Now that I’m on summer vacation , it is becoming more of a hassle to count everything I am eating and also going to the gym to keep the weight off. I know that I can watch what I eat when I am not exercising. For example, don’t eat carbs 3x a day and drink 2 liters of water. However, I’m scared that if I do stop going to the gym, I’ll end up gaining all that weight back.
In the past few years my body has changed significantly. I carry more fat around my midsection, which was never an issue for me before. My diet has also changed, due to a different lifestyle. I tried calorie counting and failed. It was stressful counting every morsel I put into my mouth. It also lead me to feel guilty if I forgot to add something, or went over. In my “thin days” I ate a lot of full fat dairy, as you said, my body liked it. I’m going to go back to just listening to what my body likes and craves, see if I can finally she’d these pounds.
This is ridiculous. I have Hachimoto’s disease and obese parents. I used to be very fat from childhood to adolescence untill I STARTED TO COUNT CALORIES. Now its been 7 years since I lost all of my extra weight and I wont gain it back. Counting calories work all the time if you count EVERY TO THE LAST ONE.
Lily this article is great! I too am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and do not recommended calorie counting for my clients which I explain why for the same reasons you just outlined. Everyone is so focused on calories and grams of fat that they are missing the big picture. Although I can’t blame them since this is what we have been influenced into thinking is “healthy” thanks to our own dietary guidelines and food industry. Sigh. Just eat whole real foods, your body knows what to do!
Stephanie, RD, LDN
Great Article! This is exactly what I tell my clients and is spot on with the current research. In my personal experience I’ve done Jenny Craig and it worked for about a year and then it wasn’t sustainable which is exactly what the science says will happen. I’ve tried the zone diet, weighing all my food so I could know how much of a brownie I could have for dessert. It worked and I got down to a size 4 (smallest size as an adult) BUT I was dealing with a ton of food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies and was struggling with some health issues. When I switched to paleo I actually increased my calories by about 200 a day and lost 12 pounds, not to mention I felt amazing. Now I know what foods I can eat and how they affect my body. Counting calories is an over simplification of how our body processes food. There is so much more to food than macronutrients.
“Counting calories is an over simplification of how our body processes food.There is so much more to food than macronutrients.” Such as?
Macronutrients, calories, and vitamin/mineral content on labels (and databases, for foods that aren’t packaged) are all estimates, but it is the best information I have to work with. Maybe on a molecular, atomic, subatomic, and quantum level there is more going on with food but until it can be put into layman’s terms and in a useful way that I can apply every day in life, I will continue to look at food labels and track my calories. This has worked for me for a couple of years, so there must be something to it. Yes I know cooked food affects a person slightly differently than raw food, and all carbs are not equal, and all fats are not equal, and yada yada yada. But the laws of thermodynamics are immutable and no one is exempt from them, regardless of what they believe.
I don’t really agree with everything you say. Over the last few months I’ve tried to follow these sorts of rules and not count calories but I’ve gained 5 kilos and am over my BMI now. If you are a person who generally likes healthy food and who doesn’t want to eat junk and isn’t starving ALL the time this works. However I can eat 14000 kj a day, easily, and that’s with a healthy salad for lunch. If I maintain this I’ll be 150 kg. So for me I have to write it down and work it out otherwise I’ll just keep eating because I love really good food. I love beautiful cakes and meats and hot chips. So I’m sorry to say but for me I have to have some form of guideline to measure my food intake against.
As needless to say I’m a male who battles an eating disorder. I’m a recovering bulimic and I began to count calories but after reading this and a few articles it’s helping me recooperate into a healthy individual again. Counting calories is an unhealthy obsession, well at least it was to me and dreaded eating food. As well I have that same thought, “that was 800 calories how am I still hungry”?!..
But thank you and wish me luck in my journey
Thank you so much for this article! As someone who has stuggled with an eating disorder for 8 years it is nearly impossible for me to not add up calories in my head almost automatically. I knew the calorie count to almost everything or can at least give a good guesstimate. I find during periods where I’m but counting I overestimate and eat too little, which causes me to have less energy, then I go back to counting again. Every time I try to quit I just end up starting again 🙁 it calms me down to know I haven’t eaten too much when I think I did.
Any advise for this?
Fats aren’t bad for health at all. I love fatty fish like salmon belly sashimi, mackerel, cod and eel and eat them regularly. Curries, fatty pork belly, chicken and duck fat are all good in moderation.
Perhaps lacking a sweet tooth helps because fruit tastes better than cake and I prefer water, tea or a latte to sodas.
One doesn’t need to eat till the point of being stuffed either. Just enough to feel full and it’s time to stop eating. That’s it.
I have been counting calories for the last 6 months and I have lost 45 lbs, but I dont want to have to use my app on my phone for life. It is time consuming and Im constantly thinking about what to eat, how humuch, scan this, measure this, log this, and i feel like I have forgotten how to enjoy food and enjoy my life without stressing! Im starting to feel like food is the devil and I dont know what to do. I want to be able to maintain my weight loss and enjoy myself and my life. I have cut out all the foods that I enjoy because they are “bad for you” or ” too many calories “. I dont want ti fain the weight back, but I feel if I stop counting, that’s exactly wats going to happen.
This is fantastic Lily! I used to struggle with counting calories a few years ago when I was bulimic. I eventually went into recovery and eat intuitively according to what made me feel good and what I needed to sustain exercise and an active lifestyle. Then about 18 months later I was introduced to macro counting, which in my opinion is far more dangerous to the perfectionist then calorie counting. I started count the exact amount of carbs, fats and proteins that I needed to reach each day to the gram! Its mentally exhausting and has destroyed my relationship with food again. I am now in the process of transitioning to intuitive eating but its definitely hard when you see your food as numbers rather than fuel to nourish. Thank you for this article, its helpful to know that I can and should trust my body to take care of itself. Much love x
Glad you’re on the path to a healthy relationship with food, Anna. Nourishment > Numbers!
For more on the downside of counting macronutrients, which many people suggest is a “safe” alternative to calorie counting, read this. 🙂
Thank you for you article! I’ve been obsessively calorie counting for a few months now and I’ve finally decided enough is enough! Is becoming unhealthy both mentally and physically. Ill have a 1000 calorie deficit and feel like its an achievement (i know deep down it really isn’t). Its not making me happy and it really needs to stop. This is my first step! its good to know i’m not alone!
Counting calories is not a bad thing. It isn’t 100% accurate but it gives you an idea of what you are putting in your body. At the end of the day, food is fuel for the body not pleasure for the mind. People seem to think food is for pleasure, what you put in your body is what you get out of it. If you are not a disciplined person in any form of life you will not be successful period, if you are a spender you will likely never be wealthy, If you eat for pleasure and have no idea how many calories, even +/- 20% you will likely go back to being over weight or stay over weight. Yes, there is a few that can eat what they want and not gain but for the 95% of us we will gain. The issue with trusting your body for the signal it needs nourishment is you can be easily confuse what the mind wants vs what the body needs. Most of the time people are dehydrated and not hungry causing over eating throughout the day. Discipline is key in any successful person. Successful people keep journals of Money, Work, Expenses, Work Hours, Etc, so why not keep track of the most important thing in the world? YOUR HEALTH!
I counted calories for over a year. I lost a lot of weight but I also lost a lot of muscle I looked like I belonged in a concentration camp. once I reached my goal I was able to keep the weight off for maybe 6 months and began putting the weight back on as soon as I went back to eating normally now I’m back to being 90 pounds overweight.
I really enjoyed this article! I have counted calories before for a physical education assignment and I spent more time counting than eating. This article has really put my mind and stomach in the right place. Thank you!
I’ve been counting calories for about 6 months now and it’s doing my head in. I seem to always be over or starving (until I started eating “low-calorie high vegetable based meals” such as spaghetti with zuchinni in stead of noodles). I’ve been using an app to count calories and nutrients and I can’t seem to make the numbers “right”. I’m usually over on protein but under in iron and stupidly over (like 400% the other day) on vitamins A and C.
Ready to give up the counting. One mango will set you over on your vitamin C and A by the hundreds of %…
I’m so tired of nutritionists who act like they’re so brilliant for telling people NOt to count calories. Did it ever occur to you that everybody’s different, thus, a successful diet is going to be different for each person? I work in the accounting field and am very Numbers Oriented. When i started my diet i kept a checkbook register where every morning i “deposited” a certain # of calories & each meal/snack I’d deduct that many calories. I went to nutritionists for 9 months & every week theyd tell me to stop counting calories & instead to use their color coded system (similar to the 21 day weight loss diet). I refused to stop but with the nutritionists i changed what my calories consisted of… less processed foods, less artificial sweetener, less (but not NO) carbs. And ive lost 44pounds in 6 months and not felt deprived. I have healthy breakfast & lunch and if the office is having cake i eat it! Deduct my calories & end up with a small dinner. And my weight loss has been consistent. Please accept that because you dont like to count calories doesn’t mean you should go on a crusade to ensure that nobody else does either.
Well said and I agree. I think the basics apply to everyone, but folks should do what they consistently are able to do, and what works for them and fits into their life.
This is exactly what I wanted to write, I track my Calories on MyFitnessPal, but I don’t obsess over it. If im going out or eating at a family members I don’t bother to track it, I don’t weigh Vegetables and stuff like that but instead estimate the portions. If I was really hungry but had used up my Calories I will still eat but I make sure I always listen to my body. I know when my body is hungry and when it is not. I use it as a tool to help keep me on track but nothing has to be exact and im flexible with the process. I’m a Personal Trainer and currently deducting back my Calories to loose some body fat, but I’m fully aware the human body does not like being in a Calorie Deficit, if im feeling hungry and My Calories are up, I will have something to eat. At worst I will be eating Maintenance Cals, but over the week I will still be in a deficit. Its what you do majority of the time that counts.
I think more than anything its important to be in control and listen to your body, but to never obsess about Calorie Counting. Its a great tool that gives you some control but you should never let it become a necessity that takes over your life and stops you from living it to its fullest.
I’ve been counting calories for the last two years but would rather not do it….I have truly gotten to the point where I feel that if I don’t that I may eat more than I necessarily need. I have experienced most of those things that you mentioned as a result of counting calories.
Hi, so I calorie counted three years ago after a death when I gained 20 lbs and was miserable. Well three months ago I felt miserable again but only being 152 lbs and 5’6 so I started counting. I’m back down to 142 as of now. I’m stuck on this I work out 5 days doing Pilates or gym or just a few minutes of lifting weight. My question is is that enough to see progress in toning my body? It worries me to think I’ll lose my progress by stopping. I’m past my goal weight. Please help me I’m not sure where to go from here.
Hi Lily! Thank you for your article. I think it sounds refreshing to give up on the math and stress caused by counting calories. My biggest issue is that I don’t know how to trust my body. How can I eat what I want, when I want, and maintain a healthy body weight? Personally, I ALWAYS feel hungry! If I eat something, healthy or junky or otherwise, I feel like I am still really hungry and I have to focus my attention elsewhere to avoid popping that fridge open for something else. Also, if I ate what I was in the mood for, I would be eating pizza and ice cream constantly. That’s what my body tells me I want. Obviously this is wrong. Counting calories helps me remember, “no Stephanie, you really don’t need more than one slice of pizza.” And “yes, the salad IS a better lunch option than the fried cheese. ” What am I doing wrong? How can I lose or maintain weight by simply “trusting my body”? My body is a liar! Thank you!
Hi my name is Liz. I had the same problem when i was 14 (i’m now 23) my period stopped through calorie counting and being obbssesive about how much food i was eating. So i stopped counting the calories and ate what i wanted and did not obbsses. if you eat when your hungry and don’t restrict yourself you hopefully can put weight on without counting the calories. I’m not a nutritionist just telling you what worked for me. Hope this helps.
I am trying to gain weight fast because I’m being made to as I have no period. I count calories so I know I won’t drop weight so that my weekly weigh ins go well. I feel like I have no choice but to continue counting. What should I do?
Thanks so much for this. I’ve been struggling with my weight and body image for 30 years. At 5’3″ and 200 lbs. I really need help because even though my husband and I have really turned around the types of foods we are eating, I still feel like a failure. I resolve to do better, but then get overwhelmed and lose focus. Your post is freeing, making me feel that maybe the issue really isn’t mine. It’s an image of perfect meals; perfect daily intake that can’t be attained. Perhaps now I can relax a litte. Thank you.
Well, I am so happy to hear these things from another person. I was totally struggling with counting calories that I thought Ill get crazy! I stopped counting two days ago but still in my mind I have the numbers that I hope to forget soon.
I really want to lose 5 lbs(now im 130lb and 5′ 57) but it seems that its not gonna happen. I work out 3-4 times a week 40 min cardio and 30 min ab exercise. I was on 1200 calories diet for a long time but no change!
I’d like to have some suggestions on what should I do.
Hi, my name is Liz. I’m not a nutritionist or anything like that, but to answer your question on losing those 5lbs i believe upping your calories is needed especially with your amount of excercise.
I’m a bit concerned because I’m an athlete, primarily a runner. I’m also vegan (I promise I get enough protein). I just can’t help but worry when I decide to eat an extra piece of cake (or two extra pieces), even though I’m thin as a rail and it seems like I can eat anything and still keep losing weight. I just have no gauge on how much I should be eating; no online forums help. In fact, they seem to say that even athletes should restrict (if I were to restrict I would be unhealthily thin). I guess I’m just afraid that I’ll get really overweight if I keep eating like this. What would you suggest?
Great article. I have been struggling with this for months not… I started just wanting to be healthier and happier with my body. I am17 years old and 5’1″ and was 113 pounds. Once I started exercising and eating somewhat healthy I felt so good about myself… Until I became engrossed in it. I began only consuming 500-800 calories a day and ended up at 86 pounds. I was diagnosed anorexic in May 2015 and have been working my way to getting better. Although I see a therapist and am back to a healthy 100 pounds, I can’t seem to shake this counting calorie habit. It’s as if it’s an obsession. I binge and then I starve myself, and I am never really focusing on if I’m hungry, because I eat until my calories are up for the day. Whether it be all junk or all good, once I’m at that mark, I’m done eating. Such a difficult thing… Why can’t I find balance? 🙁 Great article though, some things definitely worth trying!!
THANK YOU! I have tried counting calories many times and I always get aggravated with it and stop. I even tried explaining to my friend today why I can’t do it..but was having a hard time since she says it helps her. You nailed it! It’s exactly how I feel when counting calories. I feel like I have to answer to a stupid app about what I can and can’t eat. I feel like I starve myself on this just so the app doesn’t say “you went over” or “bad day” and then turn around and make myself feel horrible about myself. You summed it up perfectly. Thank you!!
You’re welcome, Jackie! Counting calories isn’t for everyone. Feel free to pass this along to anyone who makes you feel otherwise. 🙂
I’ve been counting calorie and keeping track of how many grams of carbs, fat, and proteins I for about two months now and have had mixed success. Yes, I have toned down and I found the process of examining my diet to be really revolutionary to how I view nutrition. I have really grown to appreciate being health-conscious and actually thinking about what it is I’m consuming. That said, I’ve come to grow obsessive about the calories I’m eating and fixated on losing weight instead of staying where I am. As other people have commented above, we live in a culture where standards for the female body are ridiculous and it’s hard to beat body dysmorphia when it comes to weight loss. At this point, my calorie counting has become unhealthy for my mental health because it causes me panic if I can’t “precisely” measure out the calories in a meal.
My main question is about the concept of how to judge accurately what hunger is and when to listen to the body’s cravings. Sometimes I crave a lot of food all at once, more than I think I actually need. How do I know which urges are positive and which are not? I’m most afraid of reverting to my old standards and overeating/eating mindlessly.
I have been counting calories for months now. If I’m being honest, it’s kind of ruining my life. Everyday, I am constantly stressing over how many calories I eat. It seriously never leaves my mind. I’ve been scared to stop counting, because I’m terrified of gaining back the weight I lost. But, I’m going to try to stop, because I really don’t want to live like this. I couldn’t imagine doing this for the rest of my life. Especially, because I am only in my early teens, and I don’t want to waste my life obsessing over food and calories. Thank you for writing this, because it was honestly really helpful and I feel like a lot of the stress has been lifted off of my shoulders.
Thankyou Lily for this. Been counting calories for 2 weeks and was worried i am going down a terrible path of obbssesion and misery. When i was 14 i began counting calories and got very obbssesed with my food, i was almost scared to eat, luckiky after about 1 year of this i stopped as i didn’t have a period anymore as i wasn’t giving my body enough of what it needed to work, my period started again and i no longer counted calories or obbssesed about food. Now 23 and have IBS i am very aware of what i eat and how much as i don’t want to upset my tummy. Last week i came across the ‘Nutracheck’ app and began counting calories, the first week i found it good, was handy to know what i was eating but in the second week i found myself feeling guily if i went over my daily calorie allowance. I reconised these feelings were the same feelings i had when i was 14. I was scared i was heading down that terrible path so after reading your blog i deleted the app straight away, i did pay £9.99 for it but i don’t give a crap. I feel free. Again…thankyou Lily, i believe you have saved me.
Hi Lily ,
I am trying to lose weight for some time now but I have few issues. If I exceed 1100 calories a day (and this is a low carb ) then I gain weight. I have no idea what is happening , I can’t live all my life on 1100 cal a day , and that is just to maintain my weight. 67kg and 165 cm
I don’t count calories. I track calories intelligently. I know how much I should eat each day, and stay within that range, give or take 100-200 calories. This is not the same as calorie restriction. I eat the right amount of calories for my weight, body composition, and activity level.
I know nutrition labels are estimates, obviously, but it’s the best information I have to work with, and it is information that HAS WORKED for me. Monitoring calories at least keeps me aware of how much and what I am eating. It enables me to plan what I need to prepare for the day. Maybe this is a stretch for those who focus on just the calorie numbers, but I am still able to pay attention to the quality of the food I consume; it actually makes me even more aware of it. I know the macro and micro content of everything I eat. And, I happen to look awesome.
It works for me; sorry that it doesn’t work for others who are unwilling to try it, or that most people go through life clueless about nutrition and their own energy needs. The statement, “If calorie counting worked long term, America would be the thinnest country in the world” is flawed. It’s not that calorie monitoring doesn’t work, people simply don’t want to do it. I think many Americans are overweight because they like to eat (nothing wrong with that, because I like food too) and prefer to be clueless about how much they are eating, or are too lazy to bother tracking or even being generally aware of it. There is a dichotomy of wanting to look good on the beach or poolside or whatever, but wanting to enjoy delicious food. A vast majority of people choose food. But, looking good (or being healthy, if you want to pretend to care more about health than looks) and enjoying food are not mutually exclusive. It can be done with education about one’s energy needs, and some determination. It’s easier for me to say NO to extra food (even “healthy” foods) if I know it will put me in a surplus. If I don’t have that information, naturally I will just dive in forks blazing, blissfully unaware.
Knowledge is power and I’d rather know whether I can “afford” an indulgence or not. Knowing keeps me from gaining weight and it also keeps me from losing precious muscle mass. It keeps my body composition the way I want it. It’s not that difficult, especially with all the apps out there that help you out.
Thank you for writing this article. For the last few months I’ve been eating 200-500 calories a day because I feel so bad when there’s a number higher than that on my calorie counter app but this is what I needed to read at a moment like this so thank you, you’re doing a great job
This makes no sense at all. You eat 500 calories/day because you don’t want to see more than that on the app? So you eat what, 1 meal/day?
Thank you. I recently gave calorie counting up. Every time I started calorie counting to lose weight I became obsessive and bulimic. I’m finding that I just need to eat when I’m hungry (when the stomach is growling and my mouth is salivating at the thought of food). I also stop eating a few hours before bed and I’m fine. 🙂 I’m way more satisfied after my meals because I’ve eaten what i wanted. This philosophy is so obvious but the pursuit of a flat stomach and “thigh gaps” is killing us! Thank you for this article.
The ONLY time I ever lose weight is when I strictly count my calories, which means weighing everything. I am for 1200 to 1300 calories a day. (57 year old woman 5″ 4″ weighing 136 to 140 lbs).
I now weigh less than most of my life, including teenage years. I weigh myself every day and cut back on CALORIES when my weight climbs a bit.
For me, it is all about filling my plate with lots and lots of vegetables. I mean LOTS. They are also delicious. I take no prescription medicine, unlike 80% of North Americans my age. I do exercise every day.
I don’t know why everyone bitching about how difficult it is to count calories. If you don’t eat junk just whole foods I don’t see the problem. Just enter 50 gramma of buckwheat or apple or curd cheese etc and ta dah. What labels does everyone read!??there are no labels on fresh food..and there’s nothing obsessive about it. Ppl who go under 1400 kkal are not smart ppl. They didn’t have success simply because they are under eating . Never mind the ones who eat 1000-1200. This is just pure dumb. I’m 5’1 119 stones I exercise 4-5 times a week. For maintenance I need about 1900 kkal for weight loss about 1500 and trust me I’m not starving. Quite the opposite. And low carb low fat is absolute bullshit
With the abundance of resources online that help with meal planning, I don’t see what’s so hard about counting calories. “More calories equals weight gain” is closer to being exact science than “listen to your body”. A lot of people are over weight because they only listen to their bodies. Some of the things listed just sound like excuses to be lazy. If you avoid healthy foods or starve yourself to death because you’re counting calories, then you need to learn more about nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet. If you’re too lazy to plan out your meals to be filling while staying withing a calorie range, then there is probably no hope for you and you should get used to being over weight.
This was amazing to hear I recently starting counting calories and was restricting to 2140 a day but was gaining weight and feeling fat!! I though this is impossible counting calories is supposed to be great and help lose weight but it is having the absolute opposite effect on me and my body! When I did portion control and exercised I had a much better result . After this article I refuse to count anymore and I am glad to know I am not the only one in this boat!!!
Hi!! I was wondering if you could elaborate on the steps you list to lose weight or eat healthily without calorie counting (if there are places on your blog to read more about them that would be just as great!) For me, I started to try calorie counting about two weeks ago (it’s something I’ve never tried before) after doing a sort of progress check of where I am and want to be with my weight and health. I am a high schooler, and I’m also a dancer and a vegetarian (as of about a year now). I’ve always struggled with my weight and (especially with dance) I’d like to lose some weight to not only improve how I feel but also how I am able to use my body. I’ve also gained some weight recently and I’m not really sure why and am trying to figure out if it is related to becoming vegetarian (I’m really hoping it’s not). If you have any tips they would be greatly appreciated
I have been counting calories for around 4 months and I am just left feeling starved trying to calculate how many calories I eat and how many I burn to try and lose weight. Not worth it
Just wanted to give you a sincere thanks! I have just, like countless others, recently fell into the calorie counting trap. I decided that I wanted to get in shape and lose a few pounds, so what better way to do that than get a calorie count/diet app? Luckily, I have only been doing this for 6 or so weeks, but have already started feeling the ‘burden’ of this practice! Found myself not being able to sleep wondering if I logged all my calories, did I eat too much or too little? Etc. etc…. I’m 35 years old and started feeling very tired all the time and just generally unwell, which is why I decided to start this new journey. And at first, (before the calorie counting) and just doing exercises, within a few days, I felt great!…in came the calorie counting and within just a couple weeks now, I am stressed, hungry (I think), and more tired than ever. I have been on the verge of tears wondering if I logged the right amount, should I over or underestimate?!…well, after stumbling across this article, @2AM, it was like a huge burden has been lifted! I deleted my app and for the first time in 6 weeks, I’m excited about eating for nourishment, and it not feeling like a ‘chore’! Again, thank you sincerely!!!
I love this post more than you could ever know. I am a runner, and soon to be triathlete and have lost 25 lbs in the last year because of my new love for running. Along with my running I have been counting calories and lately as I have transitioned more into triathlon training I have felt tired and hungry all the time. I’ve been searching for answers on whether or not to stick to my calorie and macro restrictions and this post finally made it click. I already make healthy food choices the majority of the time and I think I’m ready to just eat to my hunger instead of following strict rules. Thank you so much!
Hi! I have counted calories off and on for the past 3 years. Yes it works BUT it is such a pain to count…every…little…thing that goes in my mouth. Eventually the weight does creep back on.
I came across your article the morning I said I was going to start counting calories again. It made me think. Is this what I want to do again? For the 50th time? NO! if I listen to my body and your 11 rules to do instead of counting there’s no way I can fail. Thank you!
I LOVE this article you put together. I have been off and on counting calories for over a year. And after every single month, I may lose five pounds, but I find away to gain it back, plus more. I recently have gotten frustrated with counting calories and was deciding whether or not I should give it up, since it did keep me in line. But, yes I am one of those people who stress if I go over by 100 calories. I have a few questions, if you don’t mind. I love to eat healthy, but now I’m in this mindset that if I eat one piece of cake, it’s the end of me and I should binge on everything in sight and then I’ll restart tomorrow and all will be good. Until I find out that my mother made my favorite dessert..then it’s back to bingeing and hoping to start fresh the next day when I don’t. How do I get rid of that mindset? Because right now it’s bothering me and making me want to pull my hair out. Also, since I have been counting calories for so long, what do I do to make sure I don’t completely mess up and eat way more than I should? And last question, I exercise a few times a week. I know that we are more hungry after exercising since we are burning calories. But, I want to lose weight and not overeat after a five mile run. How do I keep that balance? Thank you so much for this article and your time!
I have no problem with anything you said, and it was a very informative article. I have been using myfitnesspal for a few years, and I have slowly, methodically, lost about 30 pounds. It takes me about 3 minutes a day, which I believe is time well spent. I plan on using it until I reach my goal weight, which is now just 6 pounds away. I do not worry about doing it perfectly, but i do it consistently. That is all that really matters I eat intutively and eat anything I want whenever I want. I believe it is all about the numbers. If you post your daily calories next to your 10 day running average weight each day, you will take the emotion out of seeing large changes in the scale. I have lost 30 pounds over about 8 years, and I am certain I will keep all of my weight off for the rest of my life. Losing weight requires primarily mental changes, as well as keeping score. It requires hard work and a lot of knowledge and tracking and journaling to get where you want to go. It takes a little time, but you can learn to eat any food, and fully understand what you are doing. By the way, when I hit my goal weight, I do not plan on tracking the numbers any more. I now know how and what to eat, by tracking the numbers. I enjoy food more than I ever. I like the slow eating and tasting part of your blog.
I loved this article. I started calorie counting a little over a year ago. At first it worked great. I lost 20 pounds in a little under a year. Then I started working out and training for a marathon. All of a sudden I was gaining weight like crazy and getting sick all the time. Even though I eat 85 % real unprocessed foods. Lots of fruits and vegetables, butter, olive oilt, almond milk, fish, chicken. I am going to stop counting and eat until I am full. I don’t think I am eating enough. Could be wrong but I am going to give it a try. Thanks.
I did do it a couple times and lost weight. The first time I gave up but was able to lose 70 pounds. I gained back 60 then decided to get back at it and lost 100 but gained back 40. So it’s better but recently I’ve never felt like I was never not counting and I have a feeling I’m suffering with BED and heard another diet isn’t the answer so I’m going to try and give it up even though I still worry about my weight.
Counting calories does work for me, I lost 15 pounds in 8 weeks eating 1600-1800 cal a day with exercise (and I’ve kept it off). However, I don’t like doing it and I agree that I did eat less healthy food when I was doing it. I love your article and when I am at my body’s normal weight, I know this way of eating will maintain that weight. However, I still need to loose 10 lbs (started with 30lbs to loose after babies, I’ve lost 20 of it) so I’m wondering how you suggest to loose weight eating this way? Thank you!!
I am curious to see what your take is on macros vs calories! I track my protein macros daily because I have low muscle tone after a twin pregnancy that had me on strict bed rest for 10 weeks! I play with my carbs and fats based on how I feel each day, but I aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every day! Is this kind of tracking the same as counting calories?! For me it’s been extremely helpful because I had no idea how little protein I was getting! I’ve been doing much better since I’ve been tracking and have lost 11 pounds!
Hi Rae, Like counting calories, tracking macronutrients has its place. However, it also has some pitfalls. Check out my post, The Downside of Tracking Macronutrients, for 5 reasons it can backfire and an in-depth, evidence-based explanation.
I have counted calories for 5 months now and have lost about 35 pounds. Unfortunately I have become beyond obsessive with how many calories is in everything, avoiding my favorite things (like avocados) because of the calorie count, and nearing an eating disorder, so I’ve decided to stop. I always felt it was “dumb” to have to log things like watermelon and anything fresh anyway. Today is day 1 of not counting calories and I’ve never been this anxious about anything. I’m so deathly afraid of gaining/not losing weight but I know that I need a break from calorie counting to gain back my sanity and possibly even help tame down my massive cheat days. Has anyone else been this nervous? Have you still lost weight even after giving up counting calories? Help.
Thank you for everything you said in your article. It’s good to finally hear someone talk about something besides preaching about calorie-counting. I have been a personal fitness trainer for 17 years, and have taught fitness classes for longer than that, and have always been concerned that not only my clients, but many of the women around me seem to be obsessed with the idea of starving themselves and counting calories. I have for 30+ years maintained a healthy lifestyle, balancing fitness with mostly-healthy eating, and have maintained the same weight without stepping on scales with the exception of periodic checkups when necessary, simply by listening to my body and being reasonable with food choices. I have heard women talk incessantly about dieting over the years. As a mother of three teenage girls, it concerns me that our society puts so much emphasis on this, when we should really focus on reducing the amount of stress obsessive dieting creates and let women eat healthy, balanced diets. “Less is more” and “more is better” have controlled our eating and exercise world by opposing and often destructive measures, and often wreak havoc on our overall quality of life.
Thank you for stepping out as a professional and saying what women need to hear. Maybe, by reducing some of the stress that goes with the pressures of maintaining healthy weight, the amount of cortisol that women store in their bodies will be reduced, thereby cutting the risk of weight gain, as well.
If women can learn to practice what you are preaching (which I’ve been saying for years), and listen more to their bodies and less to the scales and what society is saying, maybe they will begin to live life more fully and feel better about themselves.
I just found this article. When I started to lose weight (305lbs) I wasn’t counting calories, just trying to eat then stop when full and make an effort to eat more veggies and less processed stuff. I got down to 250 and then started to count calories. What happened next was I lost a crazy amount of weight really fast. I was netting like 400 calories a day and feeling proud and like it was worth it. I didn’t lose more than 35 lbs for the next 1.5 years because I’d either HAVE to eat all these calories I had on my app after working out, or I NEEDED more calories because I felt like what I was given wasn’t enough. I would stay away from fat, or bananas or anything even remotely high calorie. I would read the boards and people would say its just CICO and keep with the calorie amount and it will work. For me it leads to being very disordered, I am back to listening to my body and eating for health, to fuel my workouts and more active life style. This article was what I needed to remember that its okay not to count calories!
This article was exactly what I needed. I recently downloaded an app to track my calories and freaked out when I saw that my incredibly healthy, well proportioned meals were high in calories. I was already skeptical to download the app, when I was younger I developed anorexia that was driven by counting calories, but the calories in my healthy foods made me feel like I was doing something wrong! Thank you for assuring me that it’s more important to focus on the food than the number.
I have been heavily invested in the calories in my food since I was 15 (I am now 22). When I was about 17 I put on a few stone and felt unhappy about my body. I started to count calories obsessively in order to lose the weight I had gained and was so happy when I lost the weight and more. I was obsessed and in love with calorie counting- it made me happy again and I gained more friends. I felt like people liked me because I had lost weight, when infact it was only because I liked myself again, looking back.
Since then, for the past about 4 years, I have counted calories and worried about my weight despite being slim and healthy and very happy with my life. It was something I knew was a bad habit but I thought it was a blessing in disguise as I’ve stayed happy and slim.
However, over the past year, I have been suffering with anxiety and a spell of depression. I thought I was getting over both of these things recently, but for the past few months I have been more obsessed than ever about my weight due to having a lot of time to worry (I am currently on a sabbatical from uni). I have been having tight feelings in my chest and shortness of breath caused from tight/close fitting clothing that I have worn many times in the past. Even stretchy clothing, if it feels slightly too restricting on my chest, I convince myself I’ve put on weight.
Therefore, food has been a nightmare. I’ve been stress eating from all of the worry and then feeling breathless and tight-chested straight after.
I know this is only a phase and reading your blog has made me realise I’m only suffering from anxiety induced from food and calories and I just need to change my attitude to food and my body. I am so glad I have found you and like-minded people. I’m excited to start enjoying food again!
You’ve inspired me to further leave my disordered, controlling, and too complex, relationship with food by dropping the calculator. I think my life will be a lot easier now, with rough mental estimates of calories being the only thing I will go by, for now. Thank you.
I believe in all that you wrote! I have been on a lifestyle journey for the past 3 years after gaining a lot of weight, feeling terrible everyday and being diagnosed with PCOS. I changed everything! Happy to report, I have lost around 80lbs and kept it off. I exercise everyday and focused on simply eating foods which were as natural as possible almost all the time, nothing prepackaged or refined. Finally, the day came were I wanted to lose the last 10 but it would never come off. I decided to count my calories and see if that helped. It did not. I became obsessive, thought about food constantly and ended up eating more crap than I had since changing my ways… And…. Those 10 lbs went no where. I will tell you, I felt like I was developing an eating disorder. 6 months later, I decided to go back to eating whole foods and letting my body guide me as I used to. I feel free again… So liberated! I would never recommend counting calories to anyone. If nature made it, eat it. That’s my guide.
I am recovering from Anorexia so I am an expert when it comes to counting calories, protein, fat, and carbs to the gram. I feel like I am so in control when I count it all but I eat the exact same foods every day of my life because they are my safe foods. I get all of my fruits, vegetables, and dairy every day. Just in the last couple of weeks I finally decided to increase my fat intake because I know it’s not fat that makes you fat but unhealthy carbs, This Thursday is a big day for me or possibly even tomorrow because for the first time in well over a year, I will not be counting calories, carbs, fat, or protein. I still will be tracking the servings of fruits and vegetables and dairy and what foods are protein and fat foods to make sure I get enough but I am trying to eat food and enjoy it instead of eating numbers. I just went back to school after taking last semester off because I was too sick and weak both physically and mentally to continue. Now I am determined to succeed and prove everyone wrong. I was wondering if you had any suggestions to make it easier to handle mentally not tracking my calories or macros. For the first time I do it, I will be eating the same foods but not tracking the nutritional content.
I’ve just met this words!! This’s amazing for me. You’re the first one who undertand me and my problem right now! I cant find the ways to deal with my eating disorder. I wanna give it up all the times, but it didnt work. I’ve read all words! I really hope i gonna be a ordinary person like i was in two years ago. Thanks for whatever you’ve done for the world! You’re wonderful 🙂
After being diagnosed with prediabetes, I went on a low glycemic diet and lost 15 pounds ( from 210 to 195 for a 6’0” male) . I eat fresh and eat better, more fats ( avocado, nuts and healthy oils ) , less & better carbs ( no fries or white bread) . I feel better , healthier & my prediabetes is gone.
Why the 2 extremes?
Why wouldn’t u be able to count and listening to yr body? My counting is my daily “game”, I love it..
I’m not obsessing about it.. I’m making it to a healthy part of my life..
As I am doing “bodybuilding”, cutting without counting is very counterproductive..
Why does it always have to be either or??
I did a little research myself. It kills me to see people counting calories like I used to. Everywhere we go we see a sign on the food that says its calorie intake. Now I actually avoid low calorie foods especially if it is marketed that way. I find that low calorie food is loaded with more sugar. So for my research… this is what I found. I first looked at our history. When we look at our history we can see a couple changes in our diets and with that you can also see a growing population with children developing type 2 diabetes. This is such a new phenomenon that I had to look into it. So back when I started counting calories I also worked out. Initially I lost a little weight may about 5-8 pounds but I felt hungry all the time and I had trouble finding foods. I did this for 2 months with those results and no improvements past 8 pounds. Next I then started checking for food that was actually real food. I it didn’t matter how many calories it had it just couldn’t have added sweeteners of any sorts. There was some exceptions because it is almost impossible to find bread without added sugar so I would look for bread with low sugar and high fibers. The more fiber the food had the more I saw it on my plate basically. I did not work out even 1 day during this research. I lost 17 pounds effortlessly. So basically produce, learning to cook, watching my sugars, and eating foods with lots of fiber dropped off weight like crazy. I try to teach people this. And it hurts me to see people ordering low fat milk even though it actually has the most sugar… then wanting sugar free syrup even though they aren’t diabetic I just shake my head. Sugar free syrup isn’t going to be any better for you than sugar. Just go get yourself a treat and enjoy it every now and then. These diets are just a result of lobbies to get people in gyms and on stupid fad diets. The sugar industry is killing it. No one went to the gym in the 30’s they stayed slim by eating real food and walking sometimes lol. Now that we have all the research to keep people healthy from disease we now create other ways to disable people from practical eating. Take time out of your week to prepare food and to make it easier to cook meals. It is such a wonderful feeling to make your own meals and to sit down with family and enjoy it. Let’s bring that back.
I count calories and I find it fine but only count them as estimates as you stated they are not hard numbers and I don’t obsess over them. I only use it as a general guide as to where I am on body fuel by about 4 in the afternoon; gives me a feel for the day. I eat what I want and never don’t eat something because of it’s calorie count. I lift weights and get plenty of fat from steaks, eggs, fish, nuts, coconut oil, avocado and even dark chocolate. Ha, my motto is eat like a bear and you won’t have any issues; non-processed plants, lean meats, nuts, berries and water (except for the chocolate, lol). Thank you for the article.
This is really nice to hear. I think you’re right, and it’s so refreshingly simple. Right now I’m using calorie counting as a way to make me aware of what I’m eating and give me structure. I’ve developed a taste for healthy foods that I now love, and thanks to tracking, I know why I feel full after I eat eggs and why chicken is so delicious with a bit of butter (hello, fat!). I noticed I started to worry when my carbs ticked up as I was eating things like broccoli. Broccoli?! Who cares if broccoli has carbs in it! Surely not me, because I care about the quality of my calories, even more than my macros, even more than my calorie count. /Quality is more important than quantity/ – that’s the bottom line. Listening to your body, focusing on the really delicious (always natural and whole) things in life, and worrying less are key ingredients to living a balanced life. Thanks for this article.
I hate to admit this but I am obsessed with counting calories. I have counted calories with success in the past and my best weight loss total was 50kg over a 12-month period. I have tried so many other methods to lose the weight, I have tried just eating healthy without checking the calories, cutting carbohydrates, paleo and the 5/2 diet, but none of those methods worked for me. Sadly, I have put weight back on again so I have committed to cut the calories again but now I am also including more whole foods, cutting out processed foods and sugar and increasing my fresh fruit and vegies. This seems to be working for me right now, not feeling deprived, learning to love fresh foods again and if I go out for dinner I will allow myself to eat whatever I want on the menu without feeling guilty and then get right back on the calorie counting the following day. The reason I put the weight back on is that once I have achieved my weight loss goal I allow myself to be influenced by friends or family who say ‘one little bit of junk won’t hurt’ OR ‘you need to reward yourself every now and again’ and before I know it I am eating crap again and the weight increases. Personally, I don’t think food should be used as a ‘reward’ and I have accepted that I am a junk food addict so for me staying away from temptation is the best way to stay healthy.
I fully support not counting calories and also not labeling foods as bad or good. Healthy and unhealthy is fine. We shouldn’t stop ourselves from having a cookie every once in a while because it is “bad”. Many people, including myself have had major negative effects from counting calories. In middle and high school I always struggled with eating and body image. Once I learned what a calorie was it all went down hill fast. Anorexia took control of my life. I restricted calories to the point of starvation. It was an obsession. I fully believe listening to your body is essential for your health. Now that I am following more of your philosophy on how to approach eating I’ve noticed that some days my body simply just needs more food while other days it may not need quite as much. I hope to see more people advocating against counting calories because of the damage it can cause for people who already struggle with their eating.
I am so glad to hear you’re healing your relationship with food, Abby. Thank you for sharing your story and helping to inspire others.
Hello! I have a question,
I am a teenage girl, 5’4′ and 115 lbs – low body fat higher muscle but low metabolism. I struggle with counting calories because other than what I deem to be simple aerobic activity, I am unable to partake in heavy gym workouts or running etc. Therefore, I have resorted to counting calories as a away of regulating what I eat; that being said I eat plant-based (& vegan). Other than other health issues, I get hungry some days and really want food but do not want to eat it for fear that I will gain weight or not feel well.
Sorry for the huge prognosis, I was just wondering if I could have some advice?
I really appreciate it thank you so much!
I was able to count calories and maintain this for over a year, I went from 82 kg to 48kg, and I’m a 5 foot 9 20 year old male. At about 50kg, my organs started to shut down, and I was diagnosed with anorexia. When my weight reached such a low level, I began a cycle of bingeing and restricting during recovery till eventually my weight stabilised at 62kg.
I have always struggled with my weight and body image. At about 15 I started eating a completely clean diet and exercising daily and got down to my ideal body weight. I ate until I was full and felt amazing. However, I was obsessive and would not touch a piece of white bread or something with added sugar etc and I realized while my body was very healthy, an obsession like that is not. Fast forward to June of 2016 I was at a normal weight, about 130 at 5’3 and I was happy with my body. During the summer before college, I somehow put on 15 pounds by partying and not eating right. I got up to 146 which was quite heavy for me. Recently, I started counting calories and in 5 weeks I lost 12 pounds and am at 134, close to where I’d like to be. I eat very healthy and workout at least 3 times a week. I’m finally feeling good again. However, I take everything to extremes and I can already feel myself wanting to completely restrict myself from food just because of the calories, or not wanting to touch carbs, etc. I’m happy with my weight loss but don’t want to rely on calorie counting. Yet, I’m nervous about gaining weight because I want to stay where I am but since I’ve stopped counting calories im worried I will put on weight again, even though I am a very healthy eater. I feel conflicted and don’t know where to find my “happy medium.” I just want to feel good in my own skin but not obsess over something I don’t believe is maintainable.
Well I’m rather young, actually in high school and I was a bit overweight when I was younger and after battling to get to a healthier weight I was looking for a way to maintain my new look. So I thought calorie counting was the way forward I got an app for it and everything but the problem was I wasn’t happy. I was hungry all. the. time ! And during the weekends I would lose my mind and eat absolute garbage so it was combating any losses during the week. Also I was unhappy and irritable and it just wasn’t worth it. I don’t know what I will do I exercise regularly and I’m an ovo vegetarian dedicated to healthy eating but where weight loss/ maintenance is concerned in stumped.
I have to say, this article is kind of sad. Counting calories is not hard, it’s not difficult, and it’s not time consuming. So you spent 4 minutes calculating some numbers before you eat? Who cares if the packages are off by 20%? Just weight yourself a couple times a month and make the necessary adjustments. The bottom line is CICO works – if your honest. I really find it rather insulting that you tell people that counting calories is just too much time and it takes the joy out of eating. That’s your article in a nutshell. Anytime I have needed to lose weight, I simply start counting calories. It doesn’t take the joy out of anything. I eat whatever I want, and enjoy the food just the same. Listen to your body you say? Yea, yea yea. Keep on listening. If it works and you get results, Ok great then don’t count calories. Either way is perfectly valid. A lot of overweight people literally eat these kinds of articles up because it gives them an excuse not to be mindful of the caloric intake they consume on a daily basis.
I am a dietetics student and have been keeping track of my calories since early high school. I feel like it has gotten to the point where it has taken control of my life which lead me to this article. Reading this has made me delete my calorie app on my phone and I am going to try and listen to my body. Wish me luck
I love this post. Counting calories since I was 17 until now (over 50!). Trying to get away of it, but it is difficult…
Found myself addicted to ‘low calories food’ and this is the worse!
Will be more than happy to get more of your posts.
I actually enjoy counting calories strangly enough, I started to count calories 3 years ago, after that I have become addicted to know more about the food we consume, about what inside of our food, and able to just to look at food and know automatically how much calories are inside the food, I have been using myfitnesspal for the counting of the calories, and the math in it is simple, and easy get around, I am really bad with math, but myfitnesspal made this task simple, my goal now is simply to just to lose 30 kilos, 20 kilo witch I have lost over 8 months period, and once I lose the 10 kilos, I well get of the app, if of course I skinned off all my excess fat that I have, of course, counting calories has its pros and cons, but if you don’t take the time to research about, and just read what are the common mistakes, it will just make it more difficult to do.
This has been really useful and I’m going to stop counting calories, it’s too much pressure on me and just eat healthy eg The Eat Well Plate.
I have been calorie counting for about a month now on a desperate journey on trying to loose weight. I am 14 and 70kg and naturally burn about 1500 cals a day. I now eat less that 400. This has really helped me start trying to give up calorie counting. I know its bad but i cant stop xx
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I actually always consistently gained wait when counting calories! Eating intuitively has been much better for me. I didn’t drop much weight but you could see difference in my arms and my body. I looked leaner and my face slimmed down.
I absolutely love this article! I was/ am a counting calorie freak! i trick myself into believing that i am doing a great thing but in reality i’m not. I make myself miserable trying to keep track of my calories and not going “over” my daily goal instead of just living and eating. I do suffer from anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder and a slight eating disorder and also a set of parents (mostly my mom) that feel a need to monitor and comment on my food choices and my weight constantly. so I do struggle quite a lot with trying to not only keep myself happy and stable but fed as well. This article really just gave me life lol. i thank you for this article!
I can not agree more. When I started to count calories using an app on my phone, I was pretty happy with myself. I always ate a little less than the calories suggested by the app, so I feel I have accomplished something. The problem is, adding those numbers to my phone made eating less enjoyable, and sometimes stressful. If I suddenly realized I had a big lunch and my phone tells me that I can only eat certain amount of calories for dinner, I’ll be extremely unhappy and cannot concentrate on any other things. And I binged during the weekends and ate like crazy due to the stress that counting calories caused. I then felt super guilty plus my stomach was exploding. I finally decided to delete that app yesterday. And I hope things will get better.
Just follow those tips that Lily provided, I 100% agree with what she said. Focus on what you are eating, see them as real food not numbers, and eat slower, enjoy it, and you’ll probably won’t overeat. Drink more water, eat healthy food, and try to avoid junk food. If you love snacks, don’t buy them. Instead you should buy fresh fruits and vegetables that you need to take time to cook.
Bravo for ditching the app and embracing mindful eating. 😉
I just don’t understand how someone can say that calorie counting doesn’t work when over 100 years of human metabolic research has proved without a shadow of doubt that the human body operates on the laws of energy and this can not be cheated in any way. Eat more calories than you burn and you gain fat. Eat less calories than you burn and you will lose fat.
I needed this article! I have been a habitual calorie for 5 years and earlier today I made a comment about not knowing how to eat normal anymore. I eat food all day long that I don’t particularly like just so I can stay within my range. I’m exhausted and food is a major stress in my life. I am deleting my calorie counting app today and never looking back! Thank you:)
I like this a lot. I wanted that hamburger and fries last nigt snd a beer and enjoyed it all. 🙂 Today I’m back to being ‘good’ and will have my coffee plain no creamer and less suger most days I like splenda as it’s nice and sweet. Cutting the creamer and suger kut, drinking diet pop, diet energy drinks (I love them and will still have a full suger one once a week). For breakfast I’ll have two toast with a nice gob of peanut butter, yum!
I got so obsessed with calorie countoe when I was younger and got real sick.
I’m not sliding down to that again!
If I want a slice of pie, then I deserve to have that dang pie! lol
We all do.
I have only recently heard of advice on NOT counting calories. That led me to having a look into the reasons why you wouldn’t want to, which brought me here. At the end of Week 8 of my calorie counting journey (week 15 of turning my life around 180 degrees) I am finding the results to be exactly what I was looking for. There is no issue of choosing less tasty, lower calorie meals over delicious, high calorie meals because I eat tasty, nutritious and fulfilling meals.
Cutting fat to lose weight myth is very out dated. Fat is essential to a healthy diet, adds flavour to our foods, and helps you feel full for longer. It is in fact high in calories. This would suggest that by getting these healthy macro-nutrients in your diet you would need need to lower the intake of some of the actual problematic foods: Bread, Pasta, Sugar. These are high in calorie, lacking in nutrients, and very often eaten well over the recommended portion sizes.
Focusing solely on calorie intake is not the way to go, and neither is completely ignoring it. Eating whole foods, hitting your recommended intake of fat and protein macro-nutrients whilst sticking to your calorie needs (TDEE) and observing how your weight is being affected, is a much healthier and more accurate way to manage your weight. I feel your one sided argument could lead many people away from finding the solution they need.
I have made myself a very simple spreadsheet and I’m sure there are many free ones out there much better than mine, so the maths is no problem. I just spend about 10-15 minutes a day planning my meals for the next day so that I hit my macro-nutrient targets with a variety of foods for each meal. I have been aiming to lose just half a pound of fat a week with 1750 calorie deficit per week and so far the results have proven that I am doing just that.
What we eat makes up who we are and how we are feeling. I suggest you and your readers free up a small chunk of your time into planning what fuel you are putting into your body. This way you might even find that energy you are lacking that deters you so much away from doing this.
If anybody would like to take more control over their diet without reading overly one sided articles such as this, look into the terms Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and find out how much grams of fat and protein you require to eat at your body weight.
Calorie counting may not work for everybody but to ignore the benefits and even move people away from it without any education is very damaging to the development of many people’s health.
I’m a qualufied dietitian myself, and have to admit my personal experience with counting calories has been puzzling. Long story short: been dieting for weight loss a few times in my life. It seems that whenever I was counting calories (to 1200 or so), my weight magically stayed unchanged, even if I was holding on for 4 weeks. If I just listened to my body, weight loss happened. Don’t think there was a dramatic difference in the diet itself, though no counting was probably less strict, and it may have been a purely psychological reason behind.
Very interesting. Yeah, it seems that tracking calories (or even macronutrients) can be problematic for some people. Perhaps because it shifts the focus from trusting our inner cues to trusting data? Who knows…
I’ve found myself in a constant cycle of deleting and re-downloading calorie counting apps. I remember back to before these apps existed – I always listened to my body, only ate when I was hungry, and indulged when I wanted to.
When I started counting calories, I started obsessing over ever meal. The worst habit I developed was “saving up” calories for dinner and dessert. I’d eat barely anything throughout the day, feel proud to see how many calories this allowed for dinner, and then completely pig out. This led to weight gain, further obsession with calories, and excessive exercising post-pig-out.
Counting calories can be a helpful tool for weight loss, but for my lifestyle and body, it just does not work. This is not to undermine the science that eating less calories than you burn will result in weight loss. However, I’ve ultimately found that listening to my body is the best method.
Deleting the calorie counting app as I post this 🙂
I spent almost a year calorie counting. In that time, I went from 230 down to 190 in 3 months, then down to 186 the following month and a half, and finally 176.8 at my lowest.
Unfortunately, because I had to stick to a calorie restriction of no more than 1300 by 176, I couldn’t continue with the restrictions if I wanted to lose weight.
I stick by my calorie counting, but as I am extremely lazy, I can’t keep it up. Not because counting calories is hard, but because restricting myself to lose weight without exercising isn’t feasible. And I’ve tried.. I just can’t make myself stick to working out.
Calorie counting works. But only if you don’t work out and are fine with passing on lots of yummy foods. And only for so long if you’re continuing to limit yourself.
I have counted calories before, it was horrible! After a while I became weak because I was starving my body. I did the recommended calorie count for my age, weight, gender, and height! It sounded fool proof because it had all my information! However it did not take into consideration me personally. Like how my body would react to cutting that many calories. I lost 10 ponds in 3 weeks, then I didn’t lose any the next 2 months. I became so exhausted and I finally had to bumped my calories back up. I ended up right back where I startrd. I was going to try eating only when I’m hungry but I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But im going to try it Now! This article has really inspired me, thank you!
This is amazing! as i was beating myself up over an avocado, i thought, this is ridiculous! clearly avocados are healthy, whether high in fat and calories or not, so i googled “are avocado’s healthy even with high calories” and found this! I think this is how i will eat going forward! i love healthy food, but sometimes the “fat and calories are bad” mentality sneaks up and has me feeling guilty! I shouldn’t feel guilty for having avocado!
I do the same. but I figure now, they’re quality calories., n you can burn calories. Exercise and enjoy healthy foods is my moto now.
I’ve been counoting calories for a year and a half now, it was sustainable when it came to losing fat. And it’s not much of a bother to be completely honest it just dowant seem relevant to watch calories if you’re trying to maintain your weight. I’ve been fighting to stay at 2,400 but a lit of times I’m still hungry, not even for bad food just regular food in general.
Recently researching about how much diets are worthless I have stopped counting calories. When I was doing it I always ended up binge eating on the weekends when I was able eat and drink things I didn’t allow myself to consume during the work week. I’ve stopped counting calories and dieting that I actually ate less or I should say binge eat something. If I want pizza I’ll go get pizza, if I’m hungry I’ll grab whatever. I eat till when I’m satisfied and I happen to not snack on anything until I feel hungry which is much later. I feel so much better and less guilty. Dieting has really harmed me mentally and physically. Slowing down my metabolism and making me develop rituals such as pinching my sides and cheeks when I eat something I deem unhealthy. I’m on the road to recovery.
I am very, very grateful for your post! This is my second go at counting calories, and I haven’t made it as long as I did the first time. The fact is, I feel like I’m not allowed to eat anything that I actually want to eat!! And the math (for someone who doesn’t like math) is really annoying. Also, as you mentioned, I feel like I’m becoming obsessive. And I’ve eaten more than I wanted because I was trying to reach my calorie goal.
But the biggest reason I’ve decided to quit is that I have no room for flexibility in my diet! If one of my coworkers treats us to lunch, I forgo the gift and eat my boring sandwich because I have no clue how many calories are in the lunch they provided!
At any rate, I am SO done! I’ve looked at a bunch of different websites and your article is the first that has made any sense. “Eat when you’re hungry.” “Listen to your body.” Good grief! It’s so simple it’s genius!
Anyway, I’ll stop ranting! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel free to eat (but I know it’ll take a bit for my mental calculator to stop).
I am obsessed that I will put weight on again so I am always trying to burn as much calories as I can.On the days when I am not going to the gym I am eating less.Once a week (sometimes every other week) I treat my self with some not so healthy stuff and that’s the only calorie count free day for me.This became very tiring and most of the time I am hungry.I an 40 years old and starting a family which is the additional pressure on me- what if I gain weight during the pregnancy.I don’t know what to do to stop this stupid obsession but to still remain fit?
This article was very nice. I’ve been counting calories for 70 days, it hasnt been the best. I just got sick of it. I used to decide to not eat an apple cause it’s carb dense and I could eat this candy instead(yeah, silly mistake) So thanks, Im going to focus on nourishing myself with good, whole food.???? everything in moderation.
This sounds nice, but a lot of people (myself included) would be obese if we followed this. For example, if you’re a woman less than 5′ tall, with a physical handicap that precludes most forms of exercise and maybe a slow metabolism from thyroid trouble/PCOS/just plain old bad genetics on top of everything else, you HAVE to count calories to have any chance at all of keeping your BMI under 25.
I’ve been tracking calories for about 5 months now and I wanna stop, but I just can’t. I feel like I’ll lose control if I do.
Unlike you, I do enjoy my food, I do eat healthy foods a lot and it doesn’t bother me to count my calories, I kinda like it, it makes me feel good. But I know this has turned into an obsession and I have to stop, I just don’t know how.
I was able to count calories for a good amount of time, I didn’t give up. But like I wasn’t really eat fruits, vegetables or enough nutrients to keep it sustainable, my body gave in to the deprivation of nutrients and I started binging, and it became a cycle through out the years, I don’t know how to help myself. I try, but it seems that the binging always comes back.(My diet consisted of bun and cheese, bread and peanutbutter and jamaican food)
I have been counting calories for years. Not so much to restrict myself, but to have an idea of how much I am eating everyday. I’m considering stopping this because I think I eat more and think about food more because I am also counting and thinking about what I have eaten/what I will eat.
Do you think stopping counting is a good idea for me? If I focus my diet on vegetables, fruits, and vegetarian proteins?
I’d like to be losing more weight but I haven’t in the last two years (because I think I am thinking to much about food because of counting and keeping track).
Hey that was really satisfying…just like food…u did justice to make a person not feel guilty about food….we all know the healthy from the unhealthy!!!!
I have counted before, I started when I was nineteen, I lost weight, a lot of weight, but I developed an eating disorder that I still struggle with the mindset, I’m now twenty-three. I’m at a good weight now but during my anorexia of almost three years, I was only 93lbs., it was awful. Counting calories can really hurt you, I would never recommend some one to do it. Just eat, be happy. I’m trying every day to do just that and to love myself, there’s no point in being unhappy and restricting food and counting, just live life and try to be healthy along the way.
This article is fairly accurate. So in the past, I would go on diets that really restricted my food intake and it was honestly exhausting. About 4 months ago, I decided to change my eating habits for good to ensure I was eating intuitively rather than counting calories. I don’t restrict myself. If I’m craving a certain food, then I’ll eat it guilt free. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight, I don’t know exactly how much as I refuse to check the scales but I’m feeling a lot fitter than I ever have before. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is to have a great relationship with food. I don’t starve myself and I feed my body the nutrition it needs to fuel it. Being mindful about your body and what it needs to function can really benefit you.
On that note, I’m hungry.
I only started calorie counting around a month ago and its really wearing me down and making me miserable. I started my weight loss journey in January 2017 and have managed to drop my weight from 20st to 13st, and for majority of that I never counted calories, ate what I wanted but just cut out a lot of the bad stuff like takeaways, full fat fizzy juice, crisps, sweets etc & started going to the gym. But in the last few months I’ve been alot stricter on myself and its been the worst few months of my life. I’m absolutely obsessed with how many calories are in everything & started making sure that according to my fitbit that I was burning every calorie that went into my body. I also started using my fitness pal to track calories. I’ve since ditched the fitbit and deleted my fitness app in a bid to return to my attitude to calorie counting from this time last year but I’m really struggling with it, i still find myself tallying up everything in my head trying to work out what I’m allowed to have. I’ve spoken to my family about it who tell me that since im a regular at the gym and am burning minimum 800 cals per gym session that i am entitled to eat what I want without even giving it a second thought but it just doesn’t resonate with me, I’m just so obsessed with counting the calories and it’s really bringing me down. I’ve not been out with my friends in ages because I’m scared to go out drinking because the amount of calories there are in the food I’ll be eating or the alcohol I’ll be drinking. My advice to anyone would be, if you’re considering starting calorie counting, DONT DO IT!
I used to count calories as well. And my obsession was that I always had to eat less calories than I need even when Im not trying to lose weight. (I had an eating disorder) I would never treat myself with “unhealthy” food like chocolate or white wheat something… I was always hungry but I felt like I would be a weak person if I break my rules and eat a little more. I would only eat 2 times a day and consume 600-800 calories a day. And then I realized I couldnt live like this. One night my body refused to sleep simply because it didnt feel like I’d be able to make to the morning. I didnt eat that night as well, because I couldnt eat after 6 pm. That night I promised myself to fix my mind. Ive been trying so hard since then. Its beeb almost 3 months and I sometimes still count calories. I still have obvious disordered behaviours. But I try to move on. I try to eat that thin slice of bread every morning even if I dont feel like eating it. Because once your brain gets use to controlling and calculating everything, you always make plans on your head about what to eat next and when you dont eat what you already planned, you never feel satisfied even if youre full. Fixing your mind after an eating disorder is really really hard. But the first thing to do is absolutely to stop counting calories. Noone can tell you how much to eat. Yes,sometimes you will eat so much, sometimes you will regret eating that extra extra chocolate. But your body needs those “binges” as well to find the balance. I promise as long as you realize how much uncomfortable you feel after overeating or going extra about “unhealthy” food, you will just start asking yourself questions like “Am I really enjoying it” “Will I feel regretful after eating this” “Will this extra chocolate make me eat as small as possible tomorrow” and you wikl let your body guide you. Stoo counting calories, be present with your food. Enjoy your food. And dont focus on the scale. Let your body find the ideal weight until you nourish yourself with enough and healthy food. I promise, you wont get fat. You might gain weight but that doesnt always have to be a bas thing. In my case, I know that I have to gain weight. I cant have my period. But I cant put myself under pressure to gain weight. After an eating disorder, gaining weight is a big big deal. But I try to focus on building a healthy relationship with food. While doing this,I know that my body will find the balance and get itself to my ideal weight. Let things happen naturally.
I just stumbled apon your article now, after literally typing “stress over counting calories” into the google search box.
My mother counted calories when she wanted to lose some weight and I learnt it from her when I was still in high school.
I have IBS, gluten and dairy intolerances. When I stopped eating the the things that made me sick there was literaly only a handful of things that I could eat. I became depressed and I felt cheated that I couldn’t eat the cake at the restaurant or binge into some ice cream with the kids. I started to indulge in processed gluten free processed foods, one reason because I was allowed to eat them and secondly to ‘make up’ for the foods I couldn’t. I realised I was gaining too much weight and on a shopping spree for new pants I decided I refused to buy a bigger size. I started counting calories to see how many calories I was actually eating. A calorie calculor said I should only eat 1200 calories per day. The counting went from experiment to obsession and since my cortisol levels is already through the roof I knew it wasn’t good for me. After reading your article my mind is made up. No more counting, but only healthy foods that I love and know is good for me.
Thank you for your inspiration.
Hi I’ll try and give this ago as I’m currently suffering with severe anorexia nervosa and calories are restricting my food intake and getting myself back to being healthy (weight wise and more importantly, mentally ).
I find that calorie counting always leads to under consumption during the day and too much junk food at night making the point of dieting useless. Too much of a restriction can lead to sessions of binge eating and it’s not good for anyone and can lead to weight gain. The best thing to do is just try and make as many healthy choices as possible, eat when you’re hungry and eat slowly to see when you get full and indulge in cravings you get if they make your body feel good (not everyday though and not if it’s really bad for you) just exercise and make yourself feel good
I have counted calories, it helped more to limit fats and increase protein or fruits and vegetables gradually. Exercise also helped. Calorie counting only lasted so long as I felt I succeeded and didn’t need that any longer. I don’t think humans are made to count and be as restricted by that vs the love of good foods… The mind will eventually latch onto what’s good and healthy.
I counted calories before, and well, it worked for losing weight. But I didn’t want to do it forever.
Now I want to lose a little fat again, and instead of counting and weighting everything, I do it a very loose and easy way, without thinking much of it. 🙂
I just skip breakfast until I am actually hungry, then eat some healthy stuff, which I just estimate as a certain amount of calories, I don’t count them and it doesn’t matter if it is more or less, depending on what I like this day. This keeps me satisfied until evening, when I eat a huge meal with my boyfriend, and I absolutely eat what I want and what feels good (most is healthy anyways, I am vegan and there are a lot of vegetables, legumes, fruits etc.) and if I want there is still space for a treat. This way, I am never hungry, I can eat what I want, I do not need to weigh foods or anything, do not excessively count calories but still know that I am eating slightly under my current need to meet my goals. 🙂
I think I am obsessed with counting calories and it scares me – not as much as gaining weight scares me, but close.
Since about three months ago I have been counting every single thing I put into my mouth. I have lost some weight, but eating has become a constant battle.
I have to check the amount of calories before I dare to take a bite.
I want to enjoy food again and not focus on the numbers I add to my log with every meal.
I am 17 years old and weight less now than I have in years. I used to be categorized as “not skinny, but not really fat either”. It caused me to turn my life around completely. I went from little or no exercise, to being scolded by my mother for exercising while I am ill.
I feel obligated to exercise everyday so I can lose more weight, but still make the minimum amount of calories needed for a “health diet”.
I used to love swimming, but an obsession with how many calories I can burn in a day has sucked the joy out of it.
Counting calories helped me to learn to love healthy foods, but after a few months of intense counting, I don’t enjoy any food as much as I used to.
I am starting to irritate my mother, who struggles to cook things that I will eat and make sure the restuarants we go to has something that I can order. I feel ashamed sometimes.
I really want to uninstall the calorie counter on my phone and try to enjoy food like I used to.
Yet I can’t get myself to do it.
What if I gain all the weight I lost?
I counted calories for about a year and a half before quitting. I just started to feel like if I counted calories any longer, I would head down a slippery slope leading to an eating disorder. There were days I would eat perfectly healthy, but feel so bad about myself because an apple with natural peanutbutter put me over my calorie limit. Something told me this wasnt the right and so I stopped. I immediately felt better;
carefree but still eating healthy.
However, I think its a good thing to do for a month. Its a learning experience for sure, I learned the basics about nutrition because counting calories sparked my curiosity to know the 4ws of eating healthy. It helped me to be able to guestimate if the meal in front of me was a good choice.
This is long, but it was really nice to hear a shared opinion from not only a professional, but someone who has went through calorie counting crazyness.
When I was counting calories I was thinking about food all the time, feeling deprived and binging a lot. I decided to eat till I was satisfied not full, and I was gonna eat whatever I wanted. I started eating waaaaay less food than ever, was actually really satisfied and lost 20 pounds(10 more than what I was shooting befote) , after that my appetite catched up I naturally increased food and I’ve maintained this weight ever since, training hard and progressing in the gym. I’ve never looked back and I fixed my relationship with food. To me eating what you want but eating slowly savoring everything was the key.
Very glad I’ve found this article as I first started counting cailories when I was 13 and have been doing it on and off ever since. I’ve recently started working out for 45 minutes six times a week and I am thinking about competing in a marathon..I usually eat about 1400 a day (not counting what excercise has burnt off) and yet I have been stuck at the same weight. I find it very hard to lose weight or tone up and I am wondering if it could be how much I eat or what I’m eating. I hardly ever eat added sugar and I never eat white bread or much junk food….I really want to stop counting cailories yet I am scared I will gain back what little weight I have lost…and I’m not sure how much I should rly be eating as every website says different things?!!! I am 16 years old, female and I weigh 62kgs. I was wondering if you could give me some tips on nutrition such as how much protein,fibre and carbs and fat I should be having on average a day?
Good web site you have here.. It?s hard to find good quality writing like yours these days.
I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!
Me and my sister in law have been calorie counting for about two months she has lost 5lb and I have lost 10 lb
When I started I was 12 st 2lb now I’m 11st 3lb and I would like to say we don’t obsess my sister in law has gone over a few times but never lets it stress her out I have never been over unlike other diets we have tried this is the best because We can still eat what we want within our calorie budget I feel healthier then I have in years also my husbands aunty has been calorie counting for years and has never had a problem. This works for us
Thanks for providing such a great information.
i really have to disagree.. counting calories is essential to weight loss. no, americans don’t count calories they just get what is marketed as “healthy” ALWAYS check labels! you never really know what’s in that “fitness, detox” premade smoothie.. of course, counting calories doesn’t have to be obsessive but it’s very important to know how many cals you’re consuming
This article did not provide solid reasons why someone should stop counting calories. It did provide reasons but, the reasons all promoted having a lack in discipline (my opinion). I found that we as Americans consume so much garbage, that having a slight system of “watching what you eat” will make a difference. The system of counting calories is no more difficult than reading any other item on the label except that most people do not understand the science behind the other items on the label. Most people understand the basics of less in and burn more equals weight loss, and you get an easy to use system of that method by counting calories.
I have tried calorie counting, but I wanted to stop because I felt that I was going to get an eating disorder. This article helps me a lot, thank you
I have counted calories for such a long time now, and I’m slowly realising how obsessed I am with it. I couldn’t eat anything without counting the calories, and then checking whether or not it’s too much… Often I go to bed hungry because I’m like “I’ve had 1000kcal already. I’m not permitted to eat anything else.” What also made it worse, was that I had an app, which helped me calculate the calories. But I need to stop, before it’s getting even worse, so I’m just gonna go and eat something, without counting the calories! (and delete this rubbish app)
I think its more important to exercise to burn off calories and tone muscles then to count calories. Just exercise and eat healthy enjoyable food.
It’s working for me. I was eating ENORMOUS portions (out eating my husband, who is larger than me!) and seemed to have an endless appetite. Was getting close to the ‘overweight’ section on my Dr.’s chart. Calorie counting helped me control my portions and let me see in numbers what foods were contributing more or less calories to my day (sometimes it was surprising). The online tool I used to count also let me roughly see what nutrients I was regularly missing from the food I was eating, so I could steer towards foods that fit the things I was missing. My hunger and amount consumed per day is down overall – I can see that from the chart the site automatically shows me and that makes me feel good. I can end with a calorie deficit at the end of the day and not feel like I need to fill it with junk food every time. I’m NOT looking to lose a large amount of weight fast, which is why it might be working for me. I just want portion control so I stop having acid reflux, carb crashes, and slowly gaining wight from 2000+cal no impulse control binge eating and all day grazing for more than a decade. This kind of diet allows me to remember to leave enough calories for the things I truly want (like an ice cream), rather than eating all day when I’m bored at work.
My friend sent me this link because I have been counting calories for about 2 years now… I lost 20lbs in one year without trying (but nice huh??) but ultimately, now it’s consuming me… I’m not sure how to stop… I know how to eat healthy and I know I need to make a change but it’s so hard… I’m scared of going overboard and having that weight back even though I was never “heavy” (went from 145 to 124ish and have been hovering there for a few months). Any advice??
I started counting calories about two months ago and it worked great for me. I started realizing how much difference there is between eating a big portion of fruit and an unhealthy snack if you also include how long you feel satisfied for.
I had no problem feeling guilty about the food I ate. I sometimes ate two ice creams a day with no problems. And yes, I sometimes ate an extra snack because I had not eaten many calories that day. That’s the whole point: those moments are there to destroy the feeling that you are limiting yourself and also to reward yourself for having eaten a healthy amount that day, if you want to.
Sometimes I went over, sometimes I stayed well below the daily amount (up to a 1000 calories) , but on a weekly basis, I basically broke evenand met my daily average goal.
I did realize however that some foods just weren’t worth the amount of calories they “cost”
I think a main difference is what my approach was. I did not start calorie counting to lose weight. I did it to eat a healthy amount of food in the long term and, more importantly, to gain insight into my eating habits.
Another difference might be that I’m quite mathematically oriented anyway and I enjoyed doing the calculations. I did it all on paper as well and devised my own system that worked for me.
I believe this approach can work for the right person and with the right approach : someone who has a fairly good feel for numbers and who doesn’t treat it as a diet, but as a way to gain insight into why they eat as much as they do.
If you start calorie counting, my main tips would be:
1: Only do it if you have a feel for numbers
2: don’t see it as a diet to lose weight quickly. In fact, try to see weight loss as an added bonus, not a goal.
3: don’t necessarily restrict your calories for the first one or two weeks : just record what you eat (and maybe when)
4: after that: look back on what you’ve eaten and Identify where and when you’ve eaten many calories in a short time.
5 decide on your trade-offs : which high calorie foods that don’t fill you up are you willing to eat less of and which ones do you enjoy and want to keep.
6 Incorporate your trade-offs into your “diet” without putting pressure on yourself until you’ ve reached a point that matches your calorie intake goal and makes you feel completely happy.
7 Again: if you feel restricted, it means you’ve entered “diet mode” again. Revisit your plan and change it until you are happy. That change might include a slight rise in your daily calorie intake to allow you to eat that big bar of chocolate once a week.
8 This “diet” has nothing to do do with becoming super-slim or any short-term effects. In fact: if you notice that short-term thinking is taking over, that may be a signal that you went wrong somewhere. Any weight level that’s comfortably inside the recommended range for you is OK if you feel OK with it.
9 Enjoy indulging yourself once in a while. Those moments of indulgence will present themselves naturally either emotionally or by you seeing you’ve stayed well below your daily calorie intake. Those moments of indulgence are perfect for proving to yourself that you’re not on a diet and erasing the feeling of restriction.
Thanks, Lily for this lovely useful tips. I am feeling good that at least someone has told me not to count calories all the time. I have developed a very bad habit. I always count calories whenever I eat. Usually, I don’t enjoy my food. I am going to follow your tips and will share my experience with you. Thanks again.
I have a genetic metabolic disorder (primary carnitine uptake disorder) that makes it difficult to manage my weight and I always feel hungry and sluggish because my body does not store the levocarnitine from the foods I eat which helps your body convert fat into energy. Even after seeing a genetic dietician, I was never told that I should be trying to eat a certain way to help manage this. Well, my weight has gotten out of control after 3 kids, so I did a lot of searching myself and found an article that says a high carb (good carbs of course), low fat diet works best for this type of disorder. So I’ve been using apps to count my fats and carbs, however they all put you on a calories restriction as well because of course, that would set the limit on how many macronutrients you consume, so how do I set my limits and track them for fat and carbs (and I’m also cutting added sugars because I’m ADDICTED) without being restricted by the calories? I do also take a levocarnitine supplement, but even with that, I was becoming hypoglycemic between meals, which is another reason I felt I needed to research an appropriate diet for my body.
I count calories and I’ve been the same weight since I was 18 and I’ll be 50 soon. If I don’t count, I’ll over eat. I also choose nutrition and lift heavy weights. My blood is perfect and I feel amazing. No medical issues and turning 50!!!
I have been counting calories for 2 years, and I have now a major problem: I can’t stop counting because I fear of gaining weight in the wrong places. I need to gain weight, but I don’t trust myself to eat as much as I need to do so, so I thought counting it would be a good idea. After trying to gain for half a year now, I have only achieved one kilo. I want to get rid of that mindset of counting everything, but whenever I eat, it always seems to kick in. So now, even if I’m hungry, I justify it by simply saying to wait till the next meal. If you have any tips, please let me know. I would really appreciate it
Thank you for saying that food diversity and calories are essential for our health. My mom wants to go on a trip and try authentic food. We should find restaurants that offer these options.
I am with you!
I’ve never counted calories in my life or even thought about them until my housemate noticed that I wasn’t losing any weight after going to the gym for 6 months. This is because I’m eating what I want when I want instead of actually thinking about my foods more carefully. But I am still happy with who I am. Plus it is summer now in Australia, no more comfort eating! More outdoor activities!
So I am glad to know there are other people out there who don’t rely on calories as she was trying to convince me that eating a normal tub of hummus is the same as eating a meat pie because they have the same calories ?!? My body definitely says otherwise!
I really enjoyed this article….but…I lost 60 pounds counting calories. It worked, and is no excuse for eating the “wrong” foods. Vegetables have very few calories, for example. So eat them. When you are on a calorie restricting diet you will be open to eating more “healthy” things because you will actually be hungry. Having a number to hit (and yes it’s OK for it to not be exact) can give you the confidence that if you stick to it, you WILL lose weight. I cannot tell you how many people I run into in my life that all say the same thing..”I listen to my body, I don’t understand why I’m overweight”. Sorry, but if listening to your body worked then there would not be an obesity epidemic in this country. Losing weight is hard, human biology made it that way. To expect anything else is unrealistic. When you put hard work into something you get a pay off, which in this case is less joint pain, better heart health, etc. Literally the only common principle in all these studies about human health is overwhelmingly that people who eat less live longer, healthier lives. People need to stop lying to themselves and do the hard work.
First off, congrats on losing the weight if that’s the amount you needed to lose. Although you are correct about how difficult it is to lose weight, I disagree with you about the “I listened to my body and I’m overweight” comment. I don’t think if someone truly listened to their body they would be overweight. I think there is a huge disconnection in our culture today between what is real physical hunger and what is emotional hunger. I think counting calories can be beneficial short term but had long term consequences and may lead to disordered eating.
I’m counting the calories of fat almost every day, because I have no appetids every day, because I see myself every day as a fat person in the mirror and I cut down carbs cause I think ; ” You look like a fat pig in the mirror today,.” So I worry about how much of the food I would eat and cutting fatty foods.
Calorie counting started of wanting to lose a few lbs for a romantic holiday, I mean a few lbs. Not stones. 5 years later I’ve been diagnosed with anorexia, believe me it’s not worth it. I’ve been in and out of hospital countless times, to this day I can’t eat something unless it’s “tracked” or what “fits”, living of 10 food groups. I’m not saying this will happen to everyone, but GUYS come on listen to your body, it knows what it wants
Lily, thank you so much for writing about this. I started counting calories when I was 14 years old. My high school coach recommended me to download MyFitnessPal and count every single calorie. Flash forward to a year later, and I’m in a full time eating disorder treatment center for anorexia nervosa. Counting calories can lead to obsessive and restrictive eating which ultimately takes the joy and nutrition out of a meal. Hard to have a nutrient dense meal (filled with tons of different veggies and types of grains and sauces) because it would be too much work to put it in my fitness pal. Anyways, thanks for bringing up such an important topic that many of us struggle with today!
I never understood why westerners were so involved with counting calories and burning 1 pound of fat in a month. Whats the point? To look better? Waste of time in my opinion.
Everyone has their own way. When it comes to weightloss, it is simple. Amount of calories in should equal amount of calories used.
Of course we should not deprive ourselves and over obsess about counting calories and listen to our bodies, but I have found counting calories has greatly benefitted my weightloss journey.
Yea. There is math. I find it worth it. I can still eat high calorie foods along with my healthy foods and still hit my weightloss target for each week.
People need to realize that caloric intake amount is detrimental to one’s weightloss journey.
This is amazing. I can’t stand calorie counting. However, what if my goals aren’t to lose weight but to gain mass? Can the same principles apply. I worry about over-eating when trying to maintain a calorie surplus. Thanks for the help!
If I eat 2,000 calories a day and lose 1,000 Calories a day but the calories I ate we’re good calories ( Vegatables and Fruits and Protein) Will I still lose weight even if I didn’t lose more than I ate ?
I have been trying to stop counting calories for months now, but I have all the calorie counts of my favorite foods memorized. I find myself estimating how many were in the oatmeal I ate in the morning, and if a handful of cashews would be “too many”. I am not so disordered anymore, I just think it interferes with eating until I’m satisfied. How do you suggest I get counts out of my head?
Once you’ve been counting your energy intake (calories) for a month or so, counting takes less mental energy than not counting. That’s especially true with cereal or syrup, where you don’t really know how much you’ve eaten unless you have at least a crude method of measurement, like a 9 oz plastic cup.
Calorie counting is a different thing from having a FIXED, RIGID calorie limit. The capacity to burn energy (calories) is a limited resource. Spending that resource wisely means doing it in the most enjoyable way. Fruit is a better buy than fruit juice. Yes, you can work some unhealthy chocolate chips into your diet without gaining weight. Back to the cereal example, some varieties are around 100 calories/cup, and others are up around 250.
Whether you admit it or not, everyone reading this limits his calories. It’s just that those who are sensible about it let their hunger (or lack of it) be the limit, not some 4-digit number that is certain to be an an over- or under-estimate.
Counting Calories is not a go for me. It takes so much time to do and keep track and it’s honestly stressful.
I struggled with binge eating for a pretty long time, and when I realised that my relationship with food was unhealthy I knew I needed to change that. For a while I was practicing intuitive eating and it was amazing how just paying attention helped me eat as little or as much as my body actually needed.
I stopped that after a while for some reason, but the sentiment really stuck with me that I don’t need to binge. I gained a lot of weight recently and I’ve been trying to count calories, but the unhealthy habits it’s causing me lead me to this article. My relationship with food has started becoming unhealthy again. But this article reminded me that for me personally, I’d rather just listen to my body than labels or impersonal guidelines.
Calorie counting has ruled my life. I am batteling anorexia right now and am in treatment. I have made great progress but in combination with my OCD, I feel like I have to count calories in order to have a sense of control and I feel like I just have to know that number! I am so sick of it and want to stop so badly! I just feel like I cant stop because the urge is so strong. Thank you for this article, your points are so helpful and relatable <3
I keep bouncing all over from counting calories, restricting food groups and counting macros. I love this article and want to ditch everything I’ve done in the past. Yes, some has worked, but when you put so much effort in and it doesn’t work one week, it leads to binge eating snacks and retaliating against the rules. So no counting it is, and no scale. But, I do have one questions. After years of different diets, is there a timeframe of how long it will take my metabolism to start working properly for me? Or has it always been, I’ve just been doing it wrong? In other words, I want to trust the process of not counting, but what does that look like in terms of my body realizing I’m trusting it again??
I was always counting calories obsessing over calories making sure I hit them and if meals were prepared by others I’d probably end up undereating and that went on and on for awhile until I realized I probably had an eating disorder. I’m at a normal weight but figure out that it is still possible to get one even at normal weight. So I’m recovering now but I know the real me now I don’t care about weight I just want to enjoy my life and if I dont care no one else will. Its what’s on the inside that counts I’d rather enjoy my life and die happy then die at a “healthy weight” I hope all of you are doing well now.
I’ve just come across your website, what a refreshing view! I’m on my second day of not counting calories and going with my hunger feeling. Up til last week i had been counting cals for ages! and I hated being ruled by numbers, we are human and have a natural balance to flow with and I like this feeling.
I’m hoping to drop 24 lbs over the next six-eight months and I WILL NOT COUNT A SINGLE NUMER!
Ill let you know how i get on
I have been counting my calories for 6 years now and lost a total of 90 lbs on my own. I did stop counting my calories a couple of years ago and I gained almost 50 lbs of that 90 lbs I lost that took me 6 years to lose. Now I’m back on counting my calories again and it’s very hard. It seems to be more harder for me now to stay under 1200 calories a day than before. I noticed when I first stopped counting my calories a couple of years ago, it was very difficult for me to know how many calories I was eating a day so needless to say, I would overeat a lot. Now I’m back counting my calories again and it’s harder for me to lose weight now and stay under my limit.
Oh yes I have just recently started counting calories for the first time ever in my life. I am a 5’0″ tall 130 lb 44 year old woman. It’s been about 3 weeks now. The feeling I felt when I first started was depression at how many calories all of the fun foods are to eat (Doritos, Cheese Fries, Ice Cream, Snickers candy bars, etc.) I found myself doing exactly what the health and fitness gurus tell you not to do: skipping snacks and meals in order to save my calories for one meal. This article was so helpful in getting to a place that is more healthy in the long run than counting calories. What was helpful to hear was listen to your body, take time to chew and think about your food, ignore calories on healthy fat foods. I realized I need to change the way I think about food. Before counting calories I was so excited to go out to dinner. During counting calories I found myself hating going out to dinner because I could not control myself, I wanted to eat and eat and eat. I need to be better about portion control especially when eating out.
My brother is trying to start calorie counting but I know the dangers so I am trying to get him to not, but he will not listen. Do you know any advice to help with that?
I may be the only person who find that he she eats MORE when logging food in a diary. I know I comfort eat and have used it to cope with life problems that should have been addressed. Over all, within days or a week, I can tell I’m eating more. It could even be said that it triggers binging. I have to think less about food. I have had little success during and losing weight in my life. I can not do a food diary for fear I will gain weight that I won’t be able to lose.
I am still struggling to find answers. I developed an eating disorder years ago and became severely underweight. I have gained some of it back, but never were at a healthy weight after that again. 7 weeks ago I started counting calories according to what I figured out I need. For the first time in years I feel comfortable in my own skin. I am on 2500-2600 calories per day and cant believe I can eat so much and still gain weight so slowly! But I realise that it is not sustainable to count calories for the rest of my life and I do not know how to continue from here without having to count my calories and not worry about not eating enough.
Counting calories does indeed have a place — if you need to lose weight. But, there needs to be balance. Calorie deficits works. That’s just fact…calories in vs. calories burned. And that number depends on a lot of factors (height, age, current weight, etc…). The calories consumed need to be quality ones…you can’t eat junk because it fits into your calorie load for the day. That’s not healthy. You need to be nourishing your body and using calorie deficits as just a tool to get you to a healthy weight for YOU. During that time, you’ve hopefully learned to listen to your body, understand what YOUR body needs as fuel per day (and that’s not based on on what others can or can’t eat…it’s really very individual). And you’re being active! Once you understand what you need for nourishment per day, understand what food portions work for YOU, then maintaining weight no longer needs calorie tracking. Problem is, people want to eat that HUGE plate in front of them when that’s not necessarily a correct or healthy portion for you at all. Someone who is 6 feet tall needs more calories than someone who is 4 foot 11. If you’re smaller, you need less. That’s indeed where listening to your body comes in to play.
Iv been calorie counting from the start of January. I have gained more weight than i did the whole month of December. Im so deflated and fed up. Im stressed out over calories and the scales which just makes me binge eat. So today iv given up. Im going to try and eat healthy with out counting calories, points or syns.
Hello Lily. This article was for sure a relief. You asked two questions and here’s answer one: yes, I have counted calories before while trying to not eat the foods I’m intolerant to; dairy and grain + sugar combined. Yeah… grocery shopping sucked before, now it’s even worse. Answer two: I have NOT been able to sustain the darn calorie count. I quit because it got overwhelming, I felt “trapped”, I felt even MORE hungry trying to maintain calorie intake a day. I actually have restarted calorie dieting sooo many times and have failed; I was actually trying right now but after reading your article, I whipped out a snack because I was STARVING. Also, I quit calorie counting because you’re right! There are SO much healthy foods but such high in calories. Plus, I did worse keeping track than just following your method without even know your method. So yay, thank you for the article, it was underwhelming and I’ll for sure be sharing this article.
I have a routine of deliberately letting myself get overweight all winter, then doing a new diet and fitness routine every spring (keeping logs of what works and doesn’t each time). That has meant that every March, I’m starting a brand new program based on whatever new book I just bought says (even if it totally contradicts everything that worked the last time).
The plans that involved meticulous calorie counting have been the consistently the least effective, while the ones that control the intake via some other method are consistently more effective. Time restriction, macro restriction, fist sized portions, etc, have all been far more effective.
After 2+ years of counting calories, i’m officially stopping today, and making a food diary instead of everything I ate. I’m so tired and I genuinely think obessive calorie counting has made me binge as I feel like a failure when I go even 200 calories over my limit and end up eating everything. Hopefully this new method fixes my relationship with food
Genuinely just went through the bin to find wrappers to add up my weekly count, added it all up did the calculations and thought what a waste of time it can be, ‘they’ suggest 2500 cal a week, it looks like next to nothing on the plate, I’m pretty active so I’m going to leave the base of 2500 a day as an inactive bases then have a calorie counter app on the go then once I’ve clocked up a burn – burger time, cookies, popcorn, mars bar, milk shake – I don’t think that calorie counting is a worthwhile thing to attaining health but it can be a fun thing to play with especially when you don’t care I.e. this bag of m&ms has # calories, calories equals energy, energy equals action, so if I have this packet I can get to the offlicence with the energy attained, result 6 pack of beers and watching a squirrel fall out of a tree in a park, brilliant.
Thank you for your advice – great article!
i have been calorie counting for a good four months now and it is so toxic but my brain tells me i need to do it. this is really helpful but i’ve tried not counting and i just feel guilty and then rely on my head to add it all up and it’s miserable. food is all i think about and what i’ll eat next and when and all the rules i made for certain foods. i’m unsure of what to do because i know my body needs more than what i’m giving it but the last thing i want to do is gain weight. i just can’t take that in or even imagine but my body may need it. i haven’t had my period for around 115 days and i’m so clueless on what to do.
I’ve been counting calories and having a hard time loosing weight. I’m happier when I don’t look at a scale or count calories. I’m still over weight but think I’m just gonna focus on eating healthier. You’re article helped thanks.
Hey! I found your article because I was looking up on google “should I eat something if I don’t know the calories?” I am in the process of recovering from disordered eating (obsessively counting calories and trying to eat only “clean,” “healthy” foods), and reading this helped me more than you know! I have counted calories for about a year now, and it has RUINED my relationship with food, my bodies trust in me, and many, many memories. I am beginning my intuitive eating journey, and will definitely be reading more of what you’ve written! Thank you again! 🙂
Lily, how do you eat mindfully and slowly/pay attention with little children? I have 1.5 and 4.5 year old boys, and meals are one chance for us to have really engaging conversations; however, this does not lend itself to me really tasting my food. In years past, I did use mindful eating/higher fat/French philosophy to lose weight and loved it, but a big part of it was really tasting my food, and now that feels like a big choice to make – that, or the time with my children. So I’m thinking about not counting calories, but not sure how to solve this piece of it. If you have any thoughts re: moms of multiple kids. Thank-you!
I also have two children, so I completely understand the chaos of meal times. You may not be able to have a quiet, seated meal without interruptions where you can really savor your food like you did pre-kids, but you can still apply the mindful eating principles of hunger/fullness awareness regardless.
Think of the flipside: What would your stress levels be like if you had to weigh and measure every morsel of food you eat? What happens if you then have a bite of your kids leftovers? Or if they take some of your food? Now your calculations are all thrown off! My opinion is that is much more stressful than going with the (new) flow of family meals and eating until you reach satiety. It’s also really helpful to model this to young children, as I describe in this article: real food for toddlers: mindful eating starts young You can even build a discussion of how full your tummy feels into mealtime with them to give both you and them a chance to check in.