Counting Calories: Why It’s Not Important in Losing Weight

Weight loss is a tough journey for a lot of people. Some look for shortcuts or quick ways to lose weight. So they choose to subscribe to popular fad diets, especially those that social media influencers often promote. Others take a more long-term route and focus on increasing their physical activity and make better food choices.

One popular strategy that many people use is calorie counting. It’s exactly as its name suggests: you count the calories of everything you eat and drink. You can also log how many calories you lose from physical activities. This strategy works on the premise that minimizing one’s calorie intake will help a person lose weight.

For a lot of people, counting their calories does help them achieve their weight loss goal. This strategy allows them to control what they eat. It also promotes meal planning so that a person can consistently hit their calorie count goals throughout the week.

Unfortunately, calorie counting isn’t a sustainable weight loss method in the long run. In fact, it can be quite dangerous and even cause a person to gain weight instead. So if you’re thinking of using calorie counting as a way to lose weight, here are some reasons why you might want to reconsider:

Calorie Misconceptions

Having lower calorie numbers doesn’t always lead to weight loss since not all calories are equal. There are healthy calories and unhealthy calories. For example, say a woman who’s about to get married wanted to lose weight and decided to count their calories. She started counting a week before going to a bridal store to try on gowns. But one day, she craved a plain glazed donut, which has 269 calories. Her friends recommended she eat apples instead, of which 385 grams equate to 200 calories.

The woman’s body would absorb the calories from these foods differently. They will feel fuller by eating 200 calories’ worth of apples instead of a donut. Also, even if a glazed donut has a low number of calories, it has fewer nutrients and can trigger cravings, which can derail the woman’s weight loss goal.

Based on this factor, counting calories may become futile in the end if a person doesn’t watch what they eat and rely on how many calories they consume per day.

woman eating broccoli

Inaccurate Calorie Records

When people record their calories, they usually rely on food labels or the information available on the internet. But not all calorie records are accurate. For example, some food labels lie.

Manufacturers underestimate or overestimate the number of calories of each food item. So you can’t really trust the Nutritional Facts sections of your favorite food items. Meanwhile, the calorie information for some dishes is also inaccurate. For example, even if two people make the same dish, the number of calories may differ due to their ingredients.

The inaccurate numbers may push you to underestimate or overestimate the calories you take. Either way, calorie counting is flawed and is not the best way to lose weight.

Link to Eating Problems

While the premise of calorie counting is positive, it can, unfortunately, lead to eating problems. A 2010 study found that calorie restrictions promote binge eating. Calorie restrictions can cause stress, especially at the beginning of the process. This can result in stress eating, which then leads to weight gain.

Also, as mentioned earlier, not all calories are equal. But if a person doesn’t know this fact, they might take calorie numbers as-is and consume unhealthy foods as long as they stay within their calorie threshold. Even if they follow their calorie limit per day, if a person only eats junk food, they’re still doing a lot of damage to their body and are less likely to lose weight.

Link to Mental Health Illnesses

Calorie counting can be bad for your mental health. For example, if you restrict your calorie intake, you might get stressed when you suddenly feel hungry but, according to your daily log, you’ve had enough calories for the day.

Calorie counting can also lead to obsessive behavior that can affect other aspects of your life. For example, if you always “have to” track all your calories perfectly, you may become anxious when you make some mistakes in your logs or miss a day or two.

Calorie counting can be helpful if done the right way. But in a lot of cases, it can be dangerous and impractical. The wiser thing to do is to consult a nutritionist or dietician for some assistance with weight loss. And at least with their guidance, you’ll be able to succeed in managing your weight the right way.

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