Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don’t Do It
When I changed my diet to eating whole, plant-based foods, I said goodbye to calorie counting forever.
By eating 60-80% raw, 95% whole, plant-based foods, I don’t need to count calories.
I spent many years obsessed with counting calories when I was young, and I don’t think it was a complete waste. It’s helpful to know which foods are high in food energy but low in nutrition.
But ultimately, focusing on calories won’t get you what you want. Let me explain why.
In this article:
Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work
- It’s unsustainable. Nobody sticks with calorie counting long term. It’s boring, tedious, restrictive, and stressful. It also leads to an unhealthy way of looking at food, creating fear through measurement. It doesn’t address the true reasons you’re overeating, which can run the gamut from poor nutrition and boredom to trauma, hormones, and screwed-up hunger cues.
- It motivates you to eat packaged foods, which are almost always processed. When you’re counting calories, it’s easy to choose products with labeling that spells out the exact number of calories in every serving. It’s just a head game, though. The manufacturers are packaging small portions or using fake foods to lower calories or fat. Foods with the lowest calorie count and highest nutrition don’t come in packages at all.
- You can’t nail down how many calories you actually need. Software predictions of how many calories you need on any given day are usually inaccurate. Some days will require hundreds more calories than other days, depending on how many hours you’re awake or how much physical activity you do. Assigning a rigid, even arbitrary number that’s the same every day leads calorie-counters to feel shame, which affects their natural enjoyment for food and stifles their decision-making freedom.
- Calorie counts on charts are inaccurate. Labels can be misleading! A variety of factors affect how many calories are in any given item of food, and there’s much you don’t know about the supply chain and the ingredients. You probably don’t know exactly how much your chicken breast weighs, for example, so the label’s calorie count that’s based on an average chicken breast probably isn’t accurate to what you’re actually eating. (And if you are actually weighing that chicken breast … see reason #1 above.)
- “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie” is a lie! The Oxford-Cornell China Project is the biggest nutrition study in history. Studying 6,500 people in 65 counties of China, the researchers learned that plant eaters can eat 200 calories a day more than meat eaters and stay thin! If you’re having lunch with a friend and she goes for skittles and a ham sandwich while you stick with whole, raw plant foods, you’re still the winner, even if you ate a lot more calories! You’d be much better off, not only in your overall health, aging, and energy, but very possibly in weight maintenance as well.
- Counting calories creates a bunny trail, ironically leading you further away from good health. People do programs like Weight Watchers, where junk food is totally endorsed and all food is equal, assigned points based on superficial measurements. I’d rather have you focus on eating nutrient-dense foods. Greens. Vegetables. Fruit. Legumes. Healthy fats. Nuts and Seeds. All of these have a dramatic effect on weight and health.
The complexity of the modern age sometimes leads to ever more unnecessary complexities. Can you imagine cavemen counting calories? The whole thing is simply an outgrowth of the processed food diet. If we eliminate processed food, we don’t have to invent silly counting programs.
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Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
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