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Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don’t Do It

Robyn Openshaw - Updated: March 21, 2024 - - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Photo of hands holding calorie counting app on phone with food in background from "Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don't Do It" by Green Smoothie Girl

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:

Photo of food surrounding tablet with calorie counter app displayed from "6 Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting And Don't Do It" by Green Smoothie Girl

Counting calories has been a weight-loss method for quite a while. But focusing on the number won't get you where you want to be.

Why Calorie Counting Doesn't Work

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

    Woman's hands holding phone with calorie counting app and a cup of coffee from "6 Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting And Don't Do It" by Green Smoothie Girl

    Calorie counting apps are often inaccurate, and your calorie needs change daily anyway.

  1. 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.)
  1. 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.

Photo of woman holding salad in one hand and cheeseburger with measuring tape in the other from "Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don't Do It" by Green Smoothie Girl

Not all calories are created equal. You can eat more calories from healthful foods and stay fitter than eating fewer calories in junk food!

  1. 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.

Check out my VIDEO classes on why FOOD and not CALORIES should be your focus.

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Read next: Drink Green Smoothies All Day and Lose Weight

Photograph of Robyn Openshaw, founder of Green Smoothie GirlRobyn 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.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that help support the GSG mission without costing you extra. I recommend only companies and products that I use myself.

Photo of hands holding calorie counting app on phone with food in background and post's text from "Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don't Do It" by Green Smoothie Girl

Posted in: Exercise, Healthy Weight, Lifestyle, Mind/Body Connection, Whole Food

5 thoughts on “Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don’t Do It”

Leave a Comment
  1. Annette says:

    Robyn, this was a fabulous article! Thank you for writing this because I just had a friend ask me as I was going through this last detox, “How many calories are you consuming?’ I told her I had no clue and while it’s a bit less than normal, even when I eat my every day food, I don’t worry about counting calories since plant-based foods carry all the healthy calories I need. Instinctually, I know what calories I need by paying attention to what I eat with plant-based foods and listening to my body on the days I work-out harder. I can enjoy eating my food and that is freedom. 😀

  2. Ingrid Palet says:

    Hey Robin, this is so true, I truly like your blog. I wish this information was continuously viewed on all television channels especially during dinner time and prime time.

  3. vande1b says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I have been doing a plant based diet now for the month of January and it has been going great. The only problem is I am training for a Marathon and I find it really hard to get enough protein. I know if this a ‘common’ misconception but I would say 5/7 days I can do it but the other 2 days, I really struggle, especially if I am sick of eating beans all the time. Any advice? Any suggestions? Thanks you, Rebecca

  4. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this! I was sucked into the counting calories craze and I just can’t get on top of it. I make most of my food home made and I like to add a lot of different items in one meal i.e. salads, stir frys. But if I say I added a carrot to my stir fry, but only ate 3 bites of a carrot then how many calories is that? Thank you again. I feel this huge weight off my shoulders!

  5. Emma says:

    In some ways, you are right, it is really not long-term, few people do it for very long and count everything-everything-everything.
    However, I would disagree with you a little, because counting calories is probably a very important process. For example, I now want to reduce the number of calories per day, I will count about a week to understand how much I need to eat and what, so as not to exceed the approximate norm. Also, good supplements will help me lose weight faster. I read this review – which has been a great help to me in choosing the right product for my purposes

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