Calorie Counting: To Do or Not To Do?

Calories do not matter. The quality of the food is what matters.

Why I Do Not Advocate Calorie Counting

Stop calorie counting! There, I said it. There is so much push in the health and fitness industry for people to count their calories. It even goes beyond just calories and into counting carbohydrates, points, or fats. I’m not a big advocate for this way of living and eating. I think that it encourages negative, obsessive thinking as well as does not focus on food quality.

But what about calories in and calories out? Eat less calories than you burn; burn more calories than you eat? You may have heard this if you have ever tried a weight loss program. But what if you are eating highly processed foods (like fast food) everyday but then going to the gym and working out until you’ve burned more calories than what you ate? It may seem okay because you are burning off calories you ate but that does not change the quality. It does not change how those highly processed, high sodium, high sugar foods affect your body negatively by clogging your arteries or spiking your blood sugar.

The other thing about counting calories I don’t like is that it makes your diet feel extremely restricted. That’s not a fun way to live. Constantly obsessing over how many calories you’ve eaten and feeling deprived. That’s why I love living and promoting a plant-based diet because you can eat so much more! As long as you are choosing whole, unprocessed, fresh foods then you can eat as much as you’d like while still seeing positive results in both weight and your overall health.

Why the Method is Flawed

I stopped counting calories many years ago and never looked back. Calorie restriction and obsessive counting does not work because of one simple reason: not all calories are the same. If you take away anything from this post I want you to understand that not all calories are created equal. On one end of the spectrum, calories are highly refined or highly processed while on the other end they are rich in nutrients and in their natural form. I gave the example earlier about eating fast food but then exercising to “cancel it out”. This method simply does not work and it is not logical to think you can eat whatever you want without consequence.

Calorie Density

⁣Food processing for instance, increases calorie density by:

  • Adding sugar
  • Adding fat
  • Removing fiber
  • Removing water

As a result, the weight and bulk of that food decreases but the calories increase. This means it will take up less space in your stomach.

Processed foods cause the stomach and brain to become confused. Highly refined and highly processed foods cause the most confusion. What happens is the brain and body think “I’m getting calories but I still feel hungry because there’s still space for more. As a result, we are still hungry. And you guessed it, therefore eat more to compensate because the brain and body tells us so.

Normally, they send a signal out saying that we are full and to stop eating but when they are confused like this the signals are all out of wack and not reliable. Let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum.

Now on the other hand, high fiber whole unprocessed and minimally processed foods do NOT confuse our bodies. They have their proper calorie density and bulk that takes up more space and allows us to feel truly full and satisfied.

So I encourage you to say goodbye to calorie counting for GOOD and start focusing on the quality of the food you are eating. Believe me, your body will thank you for it.

If you are struggling to transition from calorie counting to a healthier lifestyle without calorie counting then please schedule a free consultation with me! I’d love to help you.


The information in this post was gathered from The Whole Foods Diet by John Mackey, Alona Pulde, MD, and Matthew Lederman, MD. For more information or to purchase, click here.

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