It’s easy to become completely obsessed with counting calories. Maybe you’ve already been there.
If you’ve ended up in this headspace, you know it’s not an enjoyable way to live your life.
With this approach, you can also have that constant feeling of….
… always being hungry.
With hunger, unhelpful habits can start to appear. Enter snaccidents.
And no matter how disciplined you have, self-control can only go so far before that little voice in your head can justify anything.
When you’re tired, bored, sad or lonely your willpower drops dramatically.
This happens to me, I get it.
So you look in the pantry for that little something after dinner because you’re hungry. You know you should have the celery stick. Please no, not another celery stick.
But at the back of the cupboard you know there’s a little something that will actually satisfy you.
It’s staring at you, calling your name, you’re ravenous because you’ve been on the restricted count my bloody calories diet.
You’ve been doing so well. You deserve it. I’ll get back on the counting calories tomorrow. It’s ‘treat yo self’ time.
Chocolate is now joining you on the couch to watch just one more episode of Downtown Abbey. Just one more episode. Just one piece of chocolate.
Just like ‘The Titanic’…..you know how it ends.
You get up in the morning, pick up the chocolate wrapper, sans chocolate.
The anxiety, disappointment and guilt sets in. Feelings that should never come as a result of eating.
And then another day of….counting calories…. plus hunger.
This is not the relationship you want with food. If you are in this headspace with counting calories please have a think about your approach. I give a few suggestions later in the article on how to form a healthier relationship with calories and more importantly what you are eating.
How do you know if you have taken calorie counting too far?
For many people, counting calories means thoughts like this become all-consuming:
- How many calories have I eaten today?
- How many calories will I eat for lunch?
- How many calories does that mean I have left for dinner?
- Have dinner, better restrict that ingredient….. the one I love. It’ll add too many calories
- I am hungry but can’t have a snack because I am almost at my calorie limit
- I won’t be able to have even a small amount of Julie’s birthday cake because it will blow my daily calories
- I’ve exceeded my calorie limit today and it’s only lunchtime, oh well, I will start again tomorrow (insert ravenously eating until the next day of ‘restriction’)
Calorie counting can work for certain personality types
Counting calories long term without having a negative impact on your headspace is not very common. But counting calories certainly works for a certain type of personality.
I call the person who likes to count calories ‘The Monica’.
You know someone who is very…
Someone who likes an orderly system of, if I do this and this, it’s good. Everything needs to be in the right place for ‘The Monica‘.
She’s super disciplined and everything is timed and counted within an inch of her life. She also has little tendencies like noticing if the footstool has been moved two inches to the left.
And that’s not a criticism at all, I have a few good friends who are nutritionists and they happily count calories and it works for them. Sometimes I’d love to be that person but it just doesn’t work for me.
Counting calories could be useful for you if:
- You find counting calories to be motivational
- You have enough time to dedicate to it
- It does not cause anxiety, guilt or disappointment
My recommendation if you want to take the counting calories approach
If you’re in Australia and you think that counting calories could work for you then the app I recommend is Easy Diet Diary. The app is built on FoodWorks®, a trusted nutrition software used by most nutrition professionals. I personally use this when calculating calories to demonstrate the impact of volume eating on meals.
A NOTE: There are some reasons why calorie counting may not even be that accurate.
- food companies have a +/- 20% margin when it comes to food labels. So a food may contain 20% higher calories than is stated on the packet.
- Your fitness watch is probably lying to you. A recent meta analysis demonstrated that calories burned can be quite inaccurate.
So, what’s my appraoch to counting calories?
Now here’s the curve ball.
You would think after reading the above that I don’t count calories. However, as my nutrition friend, Aidan Muir explains and I totally agree:
“If you think calories are all that matters you are missing the big picture, if you completely ignore calories, you are also missing the big picture.Aidan Muir – ideal nutrition
So I highly recommend, even if you don’t want to embark on calorie counting, a short term period reviewing the calories or counting calories can be helpful to understand the calorie density of foods, in order to guide adjusting portions, for you to lose weight or stay at a healthy weight long term.
Final thoughts and things you could action
So don’t think of it as counting calories or not counting calories but being aware of your calories and getting a good understanding of the calorie density of foods. This is a good place to start to guide you as to which foods can be eaten freely without portion control and which foods you should manage your portions and/or the frequency at which a food is eaten.
After a short period of reviewing the calorie of foods and thinking about their calorie density. you will start to get a feel for which foods have a very low, low, medium and high calorie density and the need to check the calories will reduce.
Understanding the calorie density of foods and adjusting the portions accordingly is the foundation of the volume eating approach.