This is one of my favorite topics. The ‘fitness gurus’ say you need to track, weigh, measure, and have My Fitness Pal be your best friend. They couldn’t be more wrong. The right answer is: it depends. Here’s how to see if you need to count calories to lose weight.
Counting calories comes at a cost. Okay fine, you can count calories for free on apps (great)! BUT it can come as a big cost to your mental health. It can even be a very, very bad idea for you.
When calorie counting is a bad idea:
When you become obsessive: meaning, you can’t go ANYWHERE without having to track beforehand.
- You check all the menus before you go out.
- All your food is pre-planned.
- You weigh and measure ridiculous things, like spinach, to make sure you have the calorie count right
- It consumes your every waking moment.
You get anxiety, stressed out, or overwhelmed if you don’t know the calorie count of something.
- You may feel very worried if you don’t know the calorie count of dinner for your night out, so you may make an excuse to not go.
- You order the lowest caloric food possible to make sure you don’t ‘overdo’ it when you are just estimating.
- Sometimes you’ll even make an excuse to not do something, or isolate yourself, so you have the exact knowledge of what you’re eating.
It causes you to overeat or binge
- If you have one thing where you don’t know the calorie count, and all of a sudden you get a binge urge.
- The ‘what the hell’ effect, where you feel as though you screwed up, so you just keep eating anyway.
There are all serious reasons as to why you should not count calories. If any of these are you? Delete My Fitness Pal, and as Elsa so beautifully sings, let it goooooooo.
You do not need to count calories for weight loss.
Can it be beneficial for some people? Absolutely. However, if it affects your relationship with self and food, that’s a hard no right there.
Our bodies are pretty incredible things. It has millions upon millions of functionalities that we have even yet to discover. I love how we think if we micromanage it, we can control it. Nope…nope nope. We aren’t smart enough.
Instead, here’s what you can do to lose weight without food obsession and calorie counting:
- Focus on your hunger and fullness cues: being aware of when you’re hungry, and when it’s time to eat is your body inner processes working efficiently. Listening to these will help you stay in a comfortable place food-wise.
- Make food neutral: shaming yourself for eating something ‘bad’ or praising yourself for eating something ‘good’ will only hurt you in the long run. This way of thinking keeps you in the diet cycle, where you feel guilty, keep eating, and start over.
- Learn why you turn to food: if you’re racing to the pantry when you aren’t hungry, spend time finding the emotion behind it. Are you lonely? Stressed? Anxious? Tired? So many emotions bring up cravings, and when we aren’t able to tap into our emotions and actually deal, that’s when we overeat.
- Intentional movement: Moving in a way that isn’t for punishment, but in a way that makes you feel good.
If you’re trying to lose weight, first, focus on healing your relationship with food. After, focus on the above, and watch how your stress and food obsession dissipates! Check out my free resources to help get you started!