Home It's All Mental The Calorie Counting vs. Intuitive Eating Debate

The Calorie Counting vs. Intuitive Eating Debate

by Erika Nicole Kendall

A restaurant lists the calorie counts for its patrons… I love it!

Every so often, I get into this debate with people who reject the concept of “calorie counting” outright. And while I’m the type of person who believes in understanding someone’s viewpoint before I make a decision about it either way (because there is a difference between understanding someone and accepting their opinion as right), I’m not going to make it easy, either.

The very first series I wrote on this site was about my experiences with calorie counting, and it’s a process that’s very near and dear to my heart. Before I explain my experiences with calorie counting and my own personal stance, I think it’s fair to explain the concept of intuitive eating. I think, as you read along, you’ll discover what my real thoughts about intuitive eating actually are.

I know, I know… no one loves wikipedia. I’m quoting it anyway:

Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body’s natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight; rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods. It’s a process that is intended to create a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body. Intuitive Eating, just like the many books available today, goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, wisdom eating, conscious eating and more.

I think that’s a pretty solid definition.

I think I’ve said enough on this site that implies that I am anti-dieting. I don’t believe in restrictive rules that I can’t abide by, thus resulting in my incessant need to “cheat.” I don’t believe in the “health obsessed, yet still unhealthy culture” in our country today.. that takes advantage of people’s confusion about weight loss and wellness. I don’t believe in society’s need to idolize sickly looking women (and by sickly looking, I mean not fit, just thin-for-the-sake-of-being-thin). I don’t believe in perpetuating the idea that you have to buy every book or every trendy fad fitness toy to be healthy… especially when all it’s gonna do is collect dust until you donate it to Goodwill. I just… I reject most of what popular culture tells me about wellness, food and weight loss. That part of the intuitive eating philosophy, I accept and advocate.

I’m also big about developing healthy relationships with food. I support conscious consuming. I don’t support using food to self-medicate. Or hiding food. Or using food for any reason other than fueling the body and enjoying the experience. A lot of us don’t even realize that we have unhealthy relationships with food because we’re not even conscious of what we’re doing when we do it. We just.. consume.. feel better.. and move on to the next issue. Wash, rinse, repeat.

However, people who support intuitive eating also have this tendency to reject calorie counting as a faction of that “health obsessed, yet still unhealthy” culture that we have. Weight loss programs abound, that restrict you to a certain amount of calories, as if calories are the key indicator of weight loss success or failure. (Countless posts here will tell you.. they’re not.) Without proper focus, it can absolutely become obsessive. Supporters also believe it puts too high of a priority on calories… as if a calorie is a calories is a calorie, and it doesn’t matter where they come from so long as you’re under X number.

I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that. I think they are great philosophies. I also think they’re thoughtless, slightly privileged and a little disconnected from the reality that calorie counting can provide… because while I am an intuitive eater now, I got here through calorie counting. And because of that, because these people want to pit the two against one another, instead of using calorie counting as a means of maturing into intuitive eating, calorie counting wins out for me.

When I first realized that my problem was not only how much I was eating but what I was eating, I struggled a bit and had to start from scratch. For me, this meant that I completely dropped processed foods and – because I was missing the processed dishes I was eating – had to learn how to cook. Some people take the insulting stance of “you should know that eating a cupcake is not healthy,” but it’s not that you should know it is unhealthy.. it’s about knowing just how unhealthy it is.

I developed a love of cooking, because I realized just how much fun it could be to experiment and actually succeed with a well-put-together dish. And with every dish, I learned what each ingredient contributed to the dish. It taught me to be mindful of just how much fat I was adding to a dish (by way of oil, butter, cream, avocado, nuts, whatever) while still seeking to create a flavorful dish. I learned that I needed to be mindful of a “tipping point” in my dishes: sure, I can recreate the flavors in my favorite restaurant pasta dish… but did I really want the size? Did I really need the size?

I calorie counted everything in my baking, and learned where I could pare down the sugar and excess fat while still enjoying myself. And in baked goods where I learned just how calorie-heavy they were… I learned that I couldn’t eat them often – or at all, for that matter.

While I was doing all of this calorie counting, something was happening to me that I didn’t recognize at first, but I’m eternally grateful for after the fact. All of this experimenting with real ingredients as opposed to processed foods allowed me to redevelop my own sense of being full. That’s right – a lifestyle that relied on food that originated from dust and, within my insides, turned back into dust and failed to fill me… thus compelling me to eat more and consume more calories… altered my ability to eat intuitively. It worked against my intuition, and caused me to disconnect from it. It caused me to lose my ability to connect to myself and my body. I suspect I’m not the only person that has ever had that problem.

Being a calorie counter – as well as an amateur cook – allowed me to learn how different foods make me feel inside. I learned how foods with a lot of fat are much higher in calories and are supposed to fill you up quicker. I learned why there’s a difference in how I feel after eating my cheesecake vs someone else’s cheesecake… which taught me to stop eating someone else’s cheesecake. I learned.. I learned… I learned so much from my experience with counting calories that, if I had just bypassed it for the sake of “trying to become an intuitive eater,” I wholeheartedly believe I’d still be flailing about and clueless, almost 110lbs ago.

Why can’t we have both? Is the risk associated with calorie counting soooooo great that we cannot instead focus our energies on developing a healthy program that nurtures calorie counters into people who become more conscious of the contents of their dishes and better able to listen to their bodies? Why is wellness always all or nothing, especially when overlooking the middle usually results in a lot of people being left in the dust? And, let’s face it – some people want to lose weight. Is there something so wrong with that? They should be allowed to understand their bodies and how to better control the weight those bodies carry. (Or do we fear that allowing healthful discussion about “how to lose weight” implies that people need to lose weight? Isn’t it easier to just work to fix that mentality?)

In closing, I offer up a polite suggestion. Instead of railing against calorie counting… take the stance that, for those of us who don’t come from some grand understanding of “you’re an idiot if you don’t know that a cupcake isn’t healthy,” it is a way to learn just how unhealthy some things are. Understand that it helps us quantify just how bad our decisions are and can be if we aren’t conscious and careful. Understand that it helps us realize that each food we put into our bodies should serve multiple purposes – not just “be yummy” – because our bodies have needs… and our bodies try to tell us what they need, if we’re able to listen. You can’t make it from the first floor to the second without walking up a few steps… and for me, calorie counting was those steps.

So.. if I have to choose? Calorie counting. All day.

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Reecie October 4, 2010 - 11:38 AM

great post. After reading your earlier posts I did try calorie counting for a week. And I figured out that I consumed as much as I thought I did on average, but it was very helpful in knowing for sure. I just recently started doing so again because I seem to have gained weight overnight! (like that really happens) but in addition to like you said being mindful of WHAT you eat and where the calories come from is equally important as knowing what perhaps I may need to cut back on.

Erika October 4, 2010 - 12:43 PM

Agreed – I frequently go back to counting just because the level of awareness you have to use regarding when you’re eating (sneaking snacks or “taste tests” frequently) and what you’re eating is so high.. it tends to get me back to being more conscious when I’m slippin’!

Jubilance October 4, 2010 - 12:19 PM

For the most part I agree with this post. Calorie counting & intuitive eating go hand in hand.

This year I’ve embraced a Primal/Paleo lifestyle, which has worked great for me for a variety of reasons. I started focusing on the calorie & carb contents for various foods & was amazed at what I was putting into my body. Being aware of what I was eating helped me be more intuitive, and also listen to my body to see if I was really hungry, vs. eating cause I was bored, or because it was there, etc.

Erika October 4, 2010 - 1:05 PM

Hmm, I’m interested in what parts you might disagree with!

I’m partially paleo now – more like a raw fooder, but only at around 70% – so I get where you’re coming from, I just know that what solidified paleo philosophy for me was the fact that it rectified the concerns that calorie counting highlighted in my life. I honestly have too much to credit to calorie counting to turn my back on it, lol.

Ladi Ohm October 4, 2010 - 4:43 PM

I’ve recently gone back to calorie counting as well… I thought I had a pretty inituitive sense of what to eat, but the current stress of trying to apply to law school (lsat this saturday…boo), has really pushed me to some unhealthy food choices (cupcakes, lots & lots of cupcakes). I know this cycle really well, especially after gaining a gazillion pounds in grad school, and I really don’t want to go that route again.

I really hope to maintain control over my eating habits because that was the major tool in helping me lose the weight I’d previously gained. I’m finally at a point where I feel great about my weight, and health, and I don’t want to lose that.

Streetz October 4, 2010 - 5:19 PM

Good post!

I never used to Calorie count because I figured that as long as I got results that I desired, there was no need. It wasn’t until I researched nutrition deeper, that I realized that a comprehensive view of weight loss, and fitness, was necessary for accuracy, trial and error corrections, and empirical data analysis.

I keep a food journal where I document what I eat, its calories, etc. It helps me so much because my weight loss/gain and other bodily changes can be directly plotted to how you eat and work out.

I agree that it never has to be all of nothing. The people who succeed the best know how to do it all and use what works.

aisha October 4, 2010 - 7:15 PM

I also went from calorie counting, to intutitive, and now i’m back to calorie counting. I only count calories when I working on a weightloss goal. Instead of disappointing myself when I’m not in the mental space to count caloriesI work more on intuitive eating and it has helped me maintain. Now that my life isn’t as hectic I am back to focusing on counting calories and I’m losing again.

It really happened when I gave up “quick weightloss” as a goal.I refuse to beat myself up during those times when my life takes over. I’ve changed my life enough to know how to maintain any thing I lose.

Rita October 4, 2010 - 9:35 PM

For me calorie counting didn’t quite work…it felt to much like restrictions and dieting…I think I just never got the hang of calorie counting and I never wanted to be that person yelling “stop, do you know how many calories are in that chip?”…even though I am not a fan of calorie counting I do subscribe to reading my labels and staying away from as many processed foods as much as possible

Erika October 5, 2010 - 10:23 AM

I think I’m most interested in your opinion because I’m wondering what’s so wrong with saying “Do you know how many calories are in that?” Especially since, if the answer is “no” or “too many,” you don’t eat it.

I think THAT is the key to addressing what the issue is that “intuitive eaters” have against calorie counting. Being the person that “Do you know how many calories is in that?” implies. It’s really interesting to me.

Eunice October 4, 2010 - 9:59 PM

Like you, I rely mostly on intuitive eating nowadays, but they definitely go hand in hand. In order to get to a point where you know, for example, that a giant cupcake is bad for you (mmm cupcake) first you have to know why (by knowing calories/fat/etc). When I first became aware of nutrition/fitness, I did calorie count and I still go back to it from time to time. I agree that this is the best way for most people to learn portions, moderation and to get started on a path towards a healthy weight.

Not everyone reads health blogs. Hell, some people don’t even know what what a calorie is. You have to start with the basics and work your way up!

Randi October 5, 2010 - 9:50 AM

I fully agree with everything in this post.

I love when I tell people that I eat what I want but I just calorie count. They always say “don’t you feel restricted?”, “You are probably obsessed with calories” etc

I am a calorie counter. I am proud of it. It has allowed me to lose 49 lbs relatively easy. Half way through my current weightloss I decided to try “intuitive eating” (although I didn’t know it was called that at that moment). It worked out well for me since I was able to maintain my weightloss. What I wasn’t able to do is lose weight with intuitive eating. So I am back on calorie counting and watching the scale move steadily down. I am fully confident that when I get to my goal weight I will return to intuitive eating and be successful.

Kanguru October 5, 2010 - 10:17 AM

I agree calorie counting has helped me in loosing 30 pounds this year, and when I went to “intuitive eating” I stopped loosing, however I did maintain my weight. I still have about 30-40 pounds until I reach my goal so calorie counting is the way for me.

Madame: The Journey October 5, 2010 - 11:09 AM

I do believe both concepts can mesh successfully. Mine is more of transitional experience. I count, but still long for the day when I no longer have to. In my ‘healthy lifestyle’ quest, I look forward to craving nourishing (clean) items and consuming such in appropriate proportions – without a calculator or a food scale on my kitchen counter. The day I begin to trust myself/my body and it’s signals, is when I’ll know I’ve “made it.” I suppose that’s where my fascination with the ‘intuitive eating’ philosophy comes in.

Janelle October 6, 2010 - 5:52 PM

Great post and I appreciate your view, though I do not count calories. πŸ™‚ I used to. I don’t care if others do it, I just don’t. I think that’s what is frustrating with our society. Everyone wants to sell “their way” as “THE” way. Calorie counting does NOT work for me. It frustrates me. It keeps me focusing on deprivation instead of pleasure. I do go for the middle ground… moderation. It works for me anyway! Enjoy the journey!

Chase October 10, 2010 - 8:26 AM

This is a great post. I agree with a lot of what you said so I’ll just throw my 2 cents in real quick. I have done every diet out there and the only one that has proven sustainable is eating natural foods intuitively. That being said, I don’t think I could have arrive at this place without having counted calories once upon a time. Now that I’m aware of how different foods are made up, my eating is for health, not weightloss, but I’m armed with an intrinsic knowledge of how foods fall on the calorie scale.

Once I started eating “clean” i.e. natural, everything in my body started to work better. And I’m on board with that. πŸ™‚

Erika October 10, 2010 - 8:49 AM

YES! Emphasis on the “eating natural foods intuitively!”

This is EXACTLY how I feel!

Traci R. December 8, 2010 - 11:19 PM

Counting calories is just a sneak way of educating yourself about the content of foods that you wouldn’t know otherwise. I think everyone should go through a period of doing it and returning back to it when they need a reality check!

Tiffany December 22, 2010 - 5:50 PM

I have not calorie counted. Though I plan to start a food journal and write down what I am eating along with the calories. I have just recently embarked on a new healthy lifestyle journey. What I have done is count points on Weight Watchers, but it really isn’t focused on the details you can eat something with a lot of fat in it but if it has a lot of fiber also the fat is kind of cancelled out. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to make better choices in what I put in my body this is what will pay off in the end. I do currently do intuitive eating it is a help to me because I want to be more in tune with my body, but also understanding that sometimes my body is craving something that I shouldn’t be eating just because. Not because of real hunger and I think this is where your body can lead you astray.

Kim January 4, 2011 - 1:10 PM

Well-stated opinion. I think the public has to be very careful with generalizing and be of the understanding that different things work for different people’s bodies. Calorie counting was one of the first things I started doing when adjusting to healthier food intake and it helped me tremendously as well. It helped me to not just look at the numbers, but to look at WHAT I was eating that contained these extreme amounts of calories–it provided an accurate picture of what I was eating, as well as how much, which was the catalyst for me to reach a turning point in my eating habits.

Rebecca March 22, 2011 - 10:10 AM

Another interesting point — and controversial point — is that for some people calorie counting works better than for others. If someone’s weight issues are hormonally based, then managing insulin and eating foods that do not aggrivate the issue can do more for weight management and recalibrating the body’s satiety signals than counting calories. Sincerely–a woman with PCOS.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 22, 2011 - 10:55 AM

Maybe because calorie counting – for me – also made me aware of the fact that the same foods that aggravate insulin sensitivity and alter satiety signals, I can’t understand how you can do one without the other.

Everyone’s experiences are different, so I suppose YMMV.

Keelah May 27, 2011 - 4:37 PM

I have been counting calories for five days now. And because of the awareness that it offers me, I am sure that my days of random food choices are OVER. It’s like watching the health and caloric intake of foods is literally CHANGING me (all on its own). I am able to make better choices easily. Not out of desperation, but because numbers dont lie. Some things are just not worth it. I will not feel guilty for indulgences anymore either. Because indulgences will simply not be as gluttonous as they used to be. I am a fan. Maybe I will evolve out of this, but right now…I’m absolutely singing the praises! Counting Calories FO LIEEEFFFFEE!

Denise June 10, 2011 - 11:03 PM

I so love all the things that you post. Most of them, are right on time I tell you!! I’ve been on this journey since about April. I had a bad dream about having a health condition and I made an appointment with the dr, then went and got a gym membership! I’ve been working out since then. Just recently, probably in June, I decided to give calorie counting a try. At first, I had the idea that I could eat, in moderation or being conscious of what I was eating. Doing that, I did lose weight. 15 pounds actually. However, I would eat a blizzard from DQ, being conscious that I ate it, but not quite sure how it was affecting me. I have a long journey ahead of me, and I know that method would not be effective for long. So, just for this month, I’ve been counting calories. I come from a family where healthy eating is non existent. I don’t know much about what fruits and veggies I like, I just try random ones and make my decision that way. However, calorie counting is making me, at least, a more conscious consumer. I’m still in the beginning, and haven’t weighed myself or anything, but I think that this is the makings of a healthy relationship with food. A knowledgeable relationship. And off topic, but I also believe (unless I’m trippin’) that its starting to require less food to fill me up. I used to just portion food based on what my eyes thought, and I had this strong notion that the “suggested” serving size would not fill me up. Because it “looked” like it wasn’t much food. After only a few days, I’m counting calories and I’m getting full off one serving of food. Rather than making up in my mind that I’ll need another serving to be full, I eat and I feel full.

Khaleeqa at Paparoxi August 9, 2011 - 2:35 PM

Really good thought provoking post. I have lost 70lbs myself and I agree with you it is a mix of calorie counting and intuition. However the way I lost most of my weight was through intuition. This was not random intuition it was well researched learned intuition. I cooked more and focused on a plant based diet read followed many vegan and vegetarian recipes and became super healthy and fit. I agree that calorie counting is a good start but for me it was very tedious and made me frustrated. I think before people dive into calorie counting, or turn toward intuitive eating they need to learn about what Healthy food really is. I still look at calories from time to time, when I am shopping for bread or choosing which rice or pasta to buy, but I dont live and die by the calorie, it is actually very liberating.Good Post! Check this article from the NY times about it: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/health/19brody.html?_r=3&ref=science

Erika Nicole Kendall August 9, 2011 - 2:51 PM

Very familiar with that article. Even blogged about it.

Ruth June 26, 2012 - 8:48 PM

I know calorie counting has worked for me, and somewhere along the line, I started really caring what I “spent” those calories on. I started wanting the best bang for my buck, so to speak. I want those calories to help my body. I think once you are aware of what you at eating and start getting more involved in choosing the foods going into you, it evolves into so much more. I still don’t seem to have the best intuitive eating, it’s too easy for me to get out of hand and miss the full signals, so tracking, portion control and calorie counting are still my fave tools.

Jame July 1, 2012 - 5:36 PM

I need to count calories to lose weight. Intuitive eatings works for me to maintain, but I wouldn’t lose a pound if I ate that way now that I am trying to lose weight.

I have been eating the “right” foods for a while, and it had no impact on my weight!

KareBareStare July 31, 2012 - 2:11 PM

Great post, as always! I don’t calorie count regularly but I appreciate it. I totally agree, forces me to see what’s really in the products that I’m consuming. I’m trying to move more towards clean eating, which is really difficult for me, and when I pick up a package that lists 10 items I’ve never heard of in the natural world AND it’s 500 calories a serving I get a little closer. I get intuitive eating, but you can eat a pop tart (400 cals) or an apple (50 cals) and get just as full. Counting those calories really forces you to make better choices.

Janine January 8, 2013 - 8:00 AM

I used to haaaaate calorie counting. I think it was a reaction to living with a close friend who had legit, diagnosed eating disorders. She was (is) recovering, and at the time was a major influence in me learning to love to cook. I took the knowledge that was helpful to me, but rejected her calorie-counting habits because I saw them as unhealthy. Later on, when I gained some weight because of working in a bakery I started to use calorie counting and found it really helped to restore my conscious awareness of hunger and food. Calorie counting is great, especially if you are in an environment that is disconnecting you from the usual cues you use to maintain weight.

Tracy February 1, 2013 - 5:10 PM

In January with the assistance of this blog I began “clean eating”…cold turkey. I thought that it would be difficult but it becomes easier every day. I eat out a lot because of my work (I’m in sales) so there entertaining to be done but I’ve even managed to navigate the dangers there. Thank you for the inspiration you give.

Annette February 17, 2013 - 4:18 PM

Hmm I have an issue with emotional eating or overeating when I am anxious. For me if I am not writing it down or keeping track of it I can consume a lot of calories. I do a little of both. Intuitive eating especially when I feel I am nutritionally off. I will find myself craving cashews once my body has it’s fill of the nutrient I was missing I don’t want it. Same with banana’s I use to get it a lot yet when I did grocery shopping this week it wasn’t necessary. I do think we know instinctively what our body needs when we listen, yet I am mindful of consuming too many calories. If I feel anxious I need to take a break and figure out a solution to what has got me so upset.

So I use both and watch my starches.

Patrice February 17, 2013 - 11:34 PM

This is long after the OP but I haven’t seen many intuitive eaters comment so I want to add my POV. I haaaate calorie counting. I am an intuitive eater. I’ll admit that I went on my first diet 12 years ago, and at first I was into calorie counting. As a result of all that dieting, I know offhand the counts of all the foods I eat. However, I spent 10 years in a diet-binge-repeat cycle that ended with me 40lbs heavier than when I started, and I think that was partially because I wasn’t getting enough calories on my diets. I decided I would do anything to get out of that rat race so I started intuitive eating, and I never looked back. As someone who has done both, I can say that they both restrict you in a way. To me calorie counting only works when you are willing to ignore your hunger signals at times and stick to the numbers. I don’t do hunger well, because it triggers binges for me, and I have never been able to fool my body into thinking carrot sticks should fill it up. It knows exactly how much calories I take in, no matter how much water-, fiber- and protein-rich foods I include. So it catches up. With intuitive eating, I have to pay close attention to food quality. This means choosing nutrient dense foods, and strictly avoiding processed foods (anything in a box), sugar, refined starch and MSG. I also have to ensure I get sufficient sleep, manage stress, and get regular moderate (not excessive) exercise. Doing these things allow me to trust my hunger signals. I eat to satisfaction when I am hungry, and the weight comes off seemingly effortlessly. It sounds like a lot but I consider all these things important for a healthy lifestyle anyway. But most importantly, I’m neither hungry nor binging. I think that intuitive eating works best for those committed to learning to trust their bodies, and will experiment to see how different foods and activities affect them. It’s slower, but all the positive changes I’ve made are permanent fixtures, because I’m more in tune with my body.

Keesha February 18, 2013 - 1:37 AM

Love this post! I’d love to count calories but have no clue how many I’m supposed to eat per day to help with weightloss….. Tips anyone? πŸ™‚

Erika Nicole Kendall February 18, 2013 - 8:43 AM

Yep. Start here. πŸ™‚

Keesha April 4, 2013 - 5:12 PM

I have been losing weight for about one year. Not a lot – 22lbs since last May. Everytime I stop counting, I gain. I lose track of my eating so quickly. I presume that there will come a time when I will not have to journal every lousy morsel of food that enters my mouth but I am not there yet. I remind myself that my eating patterns are a result of decades of bad choices and they are not going to be magically fixed in a few months.

Hanging in there and counting every step of the way.

Yvette Alcivar April 17, 2013 - 12:02 PM

I think either of these weight loss methods are capable of giving the desired results, but only if you know yourself and allow yourself to go through the process. I have tried both and calorie counting always leads me to gain weight because I cannot live with the restrictions. Yet, because I have learned about the nutritional content of foods, I feel our bodies indicate to us the foods to eat, but only after we make peace with our bodies, food and our appetites. All of my life I had craved sweets ALL the time. After practicing intuitive eating for more than three years the cravings are down to only a day or two per month and a bite or two are more than sufficient. The remainder of the time I pretty much crave the really good stuff! Salads, some fruit, few grains, good proteins and water, lots and lots of water. Truly, eating this way simply makes me feel free!

Erika Nicole Kendall April 17, 2013 - 4:46 PM

Restriction isn’t an inherent part of calorie counting; you CAN, in fact, incorporate indulgences in your caloric intake. Making “restriction” a component of your counting was something YOU did, not something that naturally comes with the territory.

tabbitha1968 August 26, 2013 - 8:38 AM

i used to look at calorie counting as a boring, nerve wrecking process. I wanted to lose weight but not have to think about what I ate. The truth of it is I didn’t want to be CONSCIOUS of what I was eating. I realized the reason I gained so much weight over the years was because I was UNconcious, I didn’t know what was in the food I was eating nor did I realize how the foods affected my body. When I began my weight loss journey I started out calorie counting and it ended up becoming a natural progression into clean eating. by calorie counting I realized that I could consume healthy foods that gave me better results for the same amount of calories. For the person who wants to lose weight calorie counting is an excellent tool for analyzing what and how much you consume on a daily basis. Calorie counting isn’t the end all be all of eating but if kept in perspective it is a excellent TOOL that well help you focus and once mastered will help you reach and maintain your goal.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 26, 2013 - 10:15 AM

“I wanted to lose weight but not have to think about what I ate. The truth of it is I didn’t want to be CONSCIOUS of what I was eating.”

I really think this is central to it for many people* – nothing makes it more obvious to you that you might possibly shouldn’t be eating “that” than seeing how high it is in calories, and how little of the beneficial stuff it has. That becomes the proverbial nail in the coffin, and most people just don’t want to be held accountable for that.

*Just want to be sure to acknowledge that, for some people, calorie counting becomes obsessive and disordered, so let me be sure to exclude them.

Candace Best February 17, 2014 - 12:36 PM

Thanks for this because I am definitely a person who turns her nose up at calorie counting. Particularly because it is so triggering for me. After reading this and the comments I accept that we are all different and there is no better way. Different tactics work for different people. I will be sure to be sensitive from now on to people who calorie count as opposed to being defensive πŸ™‚

Alexander Benesch February 22, 2014 - 6:09 PM

For me, calorie counting is an important tool to weightloss. Because my food jpurnal not only makes it possible to see, what kind of c**p goes into my mouth, but also helps me identify, what makes me make the bad choices in the first place. Example: One day, For various reasons, I am a bit stressed out, I have to go on the road, end up skipping breakfast, eat not so good stuff while on the road either (probably related to the fact that I skipped breakfast). I end up with a big calorie deficit that particular day, but lo and behold! The next 2 days I am on a serious binge.

The food journal helps me identify these gaps and thus gives me the opportunity to reflect on it and in this way, hopefully one day become an intuitive eater. So yes, the two go hand in hand.

Lorrie September 1, 2014 - 1:39 AM

I totally agree with you. I lost 100 lbs by counting calories. I admit that I let myself get obsessive over it after the weight loss. But that was just because I did not have a plan after that for Mancunian so instead of researching goals to set for maintenance I got obsessed over the scale and calories. I have been reading Intuitive Eating books and watching youtube videos. It bothers me how they lump calorie counting into “dieting”. I thought that intuitive eating was going to be my solution to my emotional eating. Then I realized that I will most likely never stop having emotions toward food. I’m not a robot! There are parts of the book I like but some parts I disagree with. Like how they talk about guilt should not be associated with food. I don’t think that you should beat yourself up for eating unhealthy foods all day. But I also think it is unrealistic to talk as if guilt is a bad thing. Guilt is an emotion that can let us know if we have done something wrong. If we us compassion and realistic expectations we can then be more mindful and learn from our mistakes. I think that we need a little guilt in order to learn and grow. I like you had to figure out healthy portions and educate myself about nutrition. I have maintained my weight now for 2 years. I think it was because of all the small goals, research, positive mindset, and relating others in the blogging community. For me calorie counting and nutrition education led to me being able to be more of a mindful eater. I still eat emotionally but now I know too much to let myself go back to my old binge eating ways. I would tell anyone who has an eating disorder or needs to lose weight for health reasons to calorie count first. Again I will repeat it takes years to get to the point where I am now to be self aware enough to stop myself from fully binge eating. When I was deep into my binge eating I did not have enough self control for any “Intuitive Eating”. I’ve learned that there is not magical pill or replacement for hard work. This will not happen over night it can and will take years. But that is a good thing anything that happens over night is more than likely too good to be true.

Calorie count, nutrition education, moderation, realistic small goals, meal planning, workout planning, compassion to learn from your mistakes, positive mindset, and determination.

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