Home Conscious Consumerism Why Am I Calorie Counting?

Why Am I Calorie Counting?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Calorie counting helped me see... that this one pot pie is two servings. Yes. TWO.

I get so annoyed by people who say things like, “Oh, I don’t believe in calorie counting.” or “Calorie counting is silly.” I always ask them, “Well, why?” It’s almost always some dumb answer like, “Well, I don’t want to know how many calories my favorite foods are.” or “I’m not going to prevent myself from enjoying my favorite foods because of a few calories,” or even “I just think it’s stupid.”

Um, so that’s supposed to be enough to convince me – ME – to give up what I’m doing? Because you don’t like it?

Let me explain to you the reason why calorie counting is a practice that I believe in. I can sum it up in one word.


When I first started my journey, I believed that my eating habits were wholly unrelated to my exercise. I was told “Exercise, and the weight will come off.” I wasn’t told “Exercise and consciously limit your intake to reasonable levels appropriate for what your body needs, and the weight will come off.” I got incomplete advice, and that was to my detriment.

It wasn’t until months later that I realized that regardless of my exercise habits, if I wasn’t putting crap in my mouth on such a regular basis, my body couldn’t possibly keep putting on the weight that I was as quickly as I was. If I wasn’t eating as poorly as I was, I wouldn’t be overeating in search of that “belly full” feeling. If I wasn’t clinging to such poorly made foods, I couldn’t possibly overeat the way I was, and consume the amount of calries I was consuming.

That’s not the message you get every day.

And I’m not gonna lie – there are some people who don’t come from that kind of meager understanding of food. There might be people out there who understand that concept of “It’s ok to indulge, but you do it moderately.” There might be people who understand that the “true” definition of “moderately” means “a couple of bites, then push it away.” Someone like me, who had never understood the concept of “moderately” or never really embraced the concept of “limiting myself,” “clean eating” or even “conscious eating”… don’t take away the one thing I cling to – calorie counting – because you think it “sounds silly.”

Calorie counting empowered me. It taught me the true understanding of what each plate, each dish, each serving and each bite did to my body – this body, this temple that, although over the years has collected a few piercings and a tattoo or two, I have grown to love and appreciate and admire. It taught me that a handful of my favorite snack food was the calorie equivalent of a hearty lunch. It taught me that my favorite juice drink had the caloric equivalent of what I eat for breakfast. It taught me that it’s probably not a good idea to get a giant jug of said favorite juice drink and drink it throughout the day.

Calorie counting taught me to understand the relationship between how much I eat in a day, and how much my body burns in that day.

Calorie counting taught me the patterns for identifying “harmful” dishes (dishes harmful to my daily calorie count) when I have to dine out.

Calorie counting taught me, in a roundabout way, that the fastest way to fill myself without slaughtering my calorie count was to indulge on vegetables. Calorie counting taught me to come up with creative ways to cook those vegetables, lest I be bored to death by my 365th serving of broccoli.

Calorie counting gave me a basic foundation that I could use to develop my own understanding of food… a foundation that I could build from and one day not need to cling to calorie counting anymore.

There are people in this world who have healthy relationships with food. There are people who were born into families who helped teach them that. Considering the number of Americans who are currently overweight, and the number of us who have eating disorders on either extreme of the continuum… I’m not sure there are more people with healthier relationships than there are people without.

So, as this challenge draws to a close, I say this:

If you truly participated in the challenge, I hope you re-read this post, take the numbers you collected and really evaluate your eating habits and start trying to identify your patterns. If you started, became discouraged and stopped… I implore you to start again, because it may be you who needs to develop this kind of understanding more than anything. If you chose to not participate at all, and find the things I’ve written even remotely intriguing, perhaps giving it a shot for a few days may get you what you desire.

The awareness that I received from calorie counting is invaluable. It’s not about nitpicky numbers – it’s about the ability to know and identify. It’s about an awakening and understanding that I never had before. And someone who doesn’t understand that or just has that “naturally healthy” understanding of food will never get that. But I know my needs, and I know my weaknesses. Calorie counting helped me cure that, and I hope it could do the same for you.

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Rita July 2, 2010 - 1:21 PM

I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of calorie counting and am guilty of using all the phrases you mentioned in the beginning of this entry. That being said, I jumped head first into this challenge not knowing what to expect. I seriously wasn’t expecting to get anything out of it. However, it’s been a serious eye opener! I learned that I avoid the bad stuff as long as I dont have access to them. However I havent quite kicked my sugar habit and I’m still a slave to pizza but I managed to practice more self control then anything else which is something I always thought I was lacking. On days where I knew I’d eaten badly it served as my motivation to workout a little longer and harder. Now here it is 10 days in and I’m ending this challenge alot more aware of everything I eat then I’ve ever been.

cjbrownsc July 3, 2010 - 9:07 AM

I really enjoyed this challenge for a few reasons:
1) I always thought counting calories was difficult to do, but this challenge has negated that thought and also helped me de-program myself from years of counting WW points
2) it helped me realize the amount of ‘damage’ I do on the weekends when my little structured weekly routine is not there. I exercise hard all week and then eat away all of my progress on the weekends!
3) it helped me become more aware of portion sizes and portion control. 6 of my favorite cookies is 6 servings, not 1!! LOL

Debbi Estelle February 15, 2011 - 11:41 AM

I am starting to calorie count this week… Sheesh! 🙂

This isn’t (well rather hasn’t been) my strong point! In FACT it is the weakest point for me. In general I am not a “numbers” person… I also have a hard time keeping track of minute details when I don’t find them fun…

And I have started (baby steps) eating clean… I was SO excited when Tosca said I didn’t have to calorie count! LOL! Whoohooo!

But… I realize that I have a tendency to overeat, under budget (calories) and am NOT a natural when it comes to measuring things like salt and extras…

Just in monitoring my eating (under a month) I realize that I am WAY prone to eat too little fruit/veggies, too MUCH ‘whole grains’ (complex carbs but in this form) and who knows about the protein. (I say too little).

I over add salt and this could be counterproductive to my weight loss and overall health in general… Plus my body isn’t reacting very well to it!

So… I just ordered this book: DietMinder Personal Food & Fitness Journal (A Food and Exercise Diary)
(For people like me this is easier!)

… and also ordered a food scale and calorie counting book. The hardest part for me is measuring foods that don’t have ‘labels’… Any advise?

I look forward to learning more and more balanced portions.

Sara February 28, 2011 - 5:50 PM

Erika..i’m on day 7 of calorie counting and i’m so happy i started it. It’s nothing like seeing with your very own eyes. I feel so much better and just doing this for 7days i see a change. I almost died when i added up 2 days worth of calories and just almost died when i think of how that amount would have been a trip to McDonalds…LOL 2 days worth of eating equals to one trip to the drive thru…smdh!!! Tks for breaking it down like you do sis…..so very helpful!!


JenG April 12, 2011 - 8:37 AM

Thank you! I always wanted to know more about calorie counting.

Quaneshia Holden May 26, 2011 - 8:40 PM

Awesome post. I try to watch the calories, I don’t do it with every single thing, but I do check the majority of the time. I don’t really count but if the calories are too high then I wont eat it.

icwatudid June 17, 2011 - 10:45 PM

Why I think calorie counting is [somewhat stupid]: If you eat the right foods in proper portions, calories won’t be an issue. Of course, if we could do it that easily, then we wouldn’t be worrying about losing weight… so, calorie counting DOES help you in the awareness department. Also, I read one of your other articles about a calorie not being a calorie; this leads to calorie-counting abuse. People who have that cookie every day feel just fine because they are well under their calorie limit. Also, there’s no calories in sodium, but calorie-counters tend to avoid that part of the package. Some don’t care about pesticides or MSG… I guess my issue isn’t with calorie counting, but how that system is abused. Burning 2000 calories a day and eating 1500 calories worth of junk food will get you nowhere fast.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 17, 2011 - 10:50 PM

Yeah, I think you may have more of an issue with the way the system is taken advantage of – which is similar to how other systems are also taken advantage of – than the actual system, itself. I didn’t use calorie counting in the same way that a lot of people do, and I’m generally creeped out by it, to be honest. Even though I agree with you, I’m still going to say that this line was the crux of calorie counting for me: “calorie counting DOES help you in the awareness department.”

Lex June 19, 2011 - 7:38 PM

Calorie in my book is definitely the way to go! And this is coming from someone who has lost 50 lbs (and counting) twice. This time around being more conscious of my food has helped me lose weight faster and easier than just exercising. Just the other day my male co-worker asked me if I was counting my calories, since I was using the food scale at work, and told me “Yall need to just eat.” Mmh yeah just eating is what caused my weight to balloon to well over 230 lbs. No thanks! Good article!

Lex June 19, 2011 - 7:39 PM

BTW thats calorie counting is the way to go in my book! *** I was so excited when I started I didn’t spellcheck.

Keelah June 23, 2011 - 4:59 PM

Calorie counting is EVERY.SINGLE.THING to me at this point. I measure and weigh everything, pack them in single serve dishes and check out the caloric intake of everything take out that I have prior to even going to the establishment. With this new Awareness and proper planning, I am easily creating desired results. This has resulted in a steady weight loss that I will continue until my goal is reached. Its time consuming and sometimes I feel like I’m annoying those around me who still don’t care what they put in their mouths, but its WORKING!! So… I will do it until there is no longer a need for it. Nice post!

Karen@WaistingTime July 6, 2011 - 2:00 PM

I do agree with that awareness part. I have been tracking what I eat online since I won a MyTrak not long ago and it is very interesting to see the calorie count. (And the carbs/protein/fat breakdown too.) BUT, for me, the math is not something that adds up and I find that frustrating and know that I am not alone. I can be in a calorie deficit and still not see anything reflected on the scale. For me, calories are one part, but there is something more to it and I don’t think all calories are created equal. That said, I do pay attention to them, I’m very aware, I just know for me they are not the one puzzle piece for weight loss or maintaining.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 6, 2011 - 2:12 PM

Nope, calories definitely are not created equal, and there’s a difference between calorie counting and calorie cutting/creating a deficit… at least, there is to me.

Vicki M. July 9, 2011 - 4:11 PM

All I can say to that is AMEN! I have had people tell me I shouldn’t be journaling food, I shouldn’t be counting calories, even that all my calculations were just me trying to control the flesh in the power of the flesh. Your post says exactly what I’ve wanted to say, but haven’t had time to write yet.

Sister Mary March 20, 2012 - 2:00 AM

Girl, puh-reach that gospel!! I’m an over-eater and calorie counting helped me lose over 70 pounds. 99 percent of the times, I don’t eat anything without knowing the calories and serving size. I also measure and weigh everything. I’m pretty anal about it.

Jame March 20, 2012 - 1:11 PM

I’ve been counting calories all this year as part of my weight loss journey. I skipped a couple of days when I was on a weekend vacation, but picked right back up when I returned. I have missed a few bites here and there but I am pretty consistent.

I haven’t really counted before, but when I added a 3 mile walking commute to my daily activity and gained 10 pounds, I realized the only way I would lose weight is if I counted the calories. I exercise for the other benefits, not weight loss.

I don’t want to do it forever, but it is good to do for now. And I know the only reason I have lost 25 pounds this year is because I am counting (not because I am exercising).

Nikita March 21, 2012 - 10:09 AM

I am counting calories using My Fitness Pal on my computer and as an app on my smartphone. I use it because it makes me aware of what I am putting in my mouth and the effort that I am making to burn food off. It is also a reminder to drink water, eat veggies and fruit and incorporate grains etc. The people on this site are supportive and friendly as well. I would sugget that everyone, even if it is only for the first year of your weight loss journey, count their calories. I also learned doing this that I can eat less food and still be full and satisfied.

Vonnie March 22, 2012 - 9:46 AM

I recently picked up the same app. It was suggested by one of the trainers at my gym. I will say that it makes counting so much easier and it definitely brings some awareness. For example, I’ve been eating unsalted peanuts as a snack for quite some time, but never thought to really look into the calories. And I’ll be doggone when I found that a cup of them was darn near 700 calories!!! That’s crazy. It was these kinds of habits that was sabatoging all my efforts at the gym, when I THOUGHT that I was eating right. Now I keep a personal journal that I’m actually writing in with what I eat and what I’m doing as exercise. And throughout the day, I use that app to put it in electronically. I’m bringing my lunch to work, despite co-workers/friends begging me to go out to eat somewhere. And I’m weighing and/or measuring my foods. I just realized that if I truly want to see something different, I need to make some darn changes.

Hehe August 2, 2012 - 1:13 AM

I love My fitness Pal! It’s amazing! It makes calorie counting so much easier. I lost 15lbs using it. The support aspect of it is also great too. I sound like a commercial but I love it.

BlkQueen March 24, 2012 - 4:06 AM

I agree with the poster above. Calorie counting isnt big with me because everything has calories. Fruits and veggies and juiced juices from fruits and veggies have calories, and since all calories are not necessarily bad, the whole calories in vs calories out doesnt apply for me, its definitely a portion control thing and exactly what Im eating. 1200 calories of junk food vs 2000 cals of fruits, veggies, and fish

Somerset August 1, 2012 - 7:55 PM

Timely topic! Just today the New York Times published an article that cites a new study that it’s not exercising to rev up our metabolism but the amount of calories that one intakes that can help a person lose weight.


Christina August 3, 2012 - 7:20 PM

It is true calorie counting is awesome. It makes me aware of the foods I am taking in. For example, at the store today I wanted some crunchy, a bag of chips or the only ones the store has was well over 300 calories. I thought to myself that’s an entire meal for me. Do I really want to waste calories? No way. Its a eye opener to calorie count.

YahMoorah November 9, 2012 - 9:19 AM

I fully believe in calorie counting. It has taught me awareness and trade-off. I now know how much I have to work out to earn that cheeseburge I may be craving. It’s taught me how to be satisfied with regular portion sizes. To date, I’ve lost 110 pounds by counting my calories and working out. It is totally worth it.

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