The magical calorie. It’s become the cornerstone of nutritional advice. It’s also a major pain in the butt. There are some legitimate reasons to count calories, but on the whole, for most people, it really isn’t necessary. That’s why usually I don’t recommend counting calories.
The Problems With Calorie Counting
If you’re a competitive bodybuilder or you compete in a sport that has weight classes, calorie counting has its merits. But for most of us, there are much better and more convenient ways to monitor food intake.
It’s not hard to tell if you’re eating too much. If you’re gaining weight, you have an excess, if you’re losing weight you have a deficiency, and if you’re staying the same you have a balance.
The calories in the food, based on tables, you eat are a rough estimate as is the amount of calories you need on a daily basis. Your needs are going to vary day-by-day depending on your demands. Some days this will be significantly lower than the recommended amount and some days it will be much more.
Focusing on eating the same amount every day teaches you to ignore your body and the signals it’s sending. Devoid of excess sugar, the human body is very good at monitoring its needs. Stop eating when you’re satisfied. This is a sensation that you’ll need to cultivate since most of us have been ignoring it for a very long time.
Counting calories becomes even more complicated when you’re preparing your own food, or even just not eating processed food. Those nutritional labels are very helpful when tracking food in an app or log. But what is the nutritional value of the bowl of stew you just made? It’s difficult to track.
The biggest issue with calorie counting is that it inspires obsessive behavior and eating disorders. Mealtime should be a break from our usually very busy days. It should not be a time to fret about making a spreadsheet of your meal. I’ve met many people who’ve damaged their bodies with long-term calorie restriction.
It’s much more important to make good food choices than to count calories. If you’re preparing your own food from whole ingredients and keeping sugar intake low, it’s unlikely you’ll have a need to monitor your calorie intake.
There will always be exceptions and there will certainly be people who benefit from calorie counting, but it isn’t necessary for most of us. For the rest of us, eat less processed food, avoid excess sugar, and cook more with whole foods. Calories weren’t used for nutrition until the early 1900s and humans were healthy before that. Don’t add an extra layer of complexity to your life if you don’t need to.