I get asked regularly about how many calories I eat and how I keep track of calories.  While I do watch what I eat, I don’t count calories.  This really surprises most people.  So I thought I’d share my reasons for not counting calories.

  • It’s too cumbersome and feels obsessive.  While I do feel there is some benefit to recording everything you put into your mouth, at least for a short period of time like a few days, having to deconstruct each ingredient and record it is just too cumbersome.  Having to put so much time and energy to recording every little bite feels obsessive to me and takes away the enjoyment of my food.  I find this requires way to much time to properly record food.
  • It’s not completely accurate.  The best you can do is estimate calories.  You will find variations of calorie counts in many different products and brands so it’s next to impossible to get an accurate count.  Even for natural foods like bananas, there will be variations in sizes that result in variations in calories.  Granted these are minor variations, but little variations can add up. So unless you work in a lab and measure out and weigh each ingredient, you’re probably not very close on your estimate.
  • All calories are not the same.  Looking at the number of calories consumed doesn’t always give an accurate picture.  Eating 1500 calories of fruits and veggies and lean protein is far different than eating a large slice of cheesecake that is also 1500 calories.  Our bodies need a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats to function properly and that isn’t measured by calories alone.

Instead of counting calories, try focusing on the quality of your food rather than the quantity.  Eating real, unprocessed foods will give you a bigger bang for your buck not only calorie-wise but nutrition-wise as well.  Also remember that low calorie is not the same as healthy – your body needs calories to burn for fuel so it’s important to get enough of the right kind of calories.  Taking an overall, balanced approach to eating is much more sustainable in the long run.  Fill your plate with at least half vegetables and you’ll find that you don’t need to worry about counting calories because it’s hard to overeat vegetables.  And remember to mindfully eat by sitting down to eat and not eating on the go.  This focused effort can save you lots of calories just by paying attention to the food you consume.  Be sure to pay attention to proper portion sizes (read here how to measure portion sizes).  If you feel like you need to see in writing what you are eating, simply write down the name of the food and don’t worry about how many calories that food contains.  This will help you become more conscious about what you put into your body without obsessing over details that may not be accurate.

Do you count calories?  Have you ever tried counting calories?

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