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It seemed everyone in my class was really good at it, like they had memorized the calorie content of a bunch of foods. I treated the project as more of an experiment. The funny thing is, the more I counted calories, the less I was paying attention to the food in front of me. It was like looking at a spreadsheet on a plate. All you see is numbers. That should be enough! The calculations said I needed a certain amount of calories per day. If I went under, it was an excuse to eat junk food. I never really enjoyed it and I felt restricted, like I was going to develop disordered eating.

I questioned the accuracy of all the calculations. There are a number of formulas to choose from and they all give you different answers. That means your calorie snack pack could be calories. Or that calorie TV dinner could be nearly calories. That super sweet summer tomato likely has more calories and valuable nutrients than that tasteless, pink one from the dead of winter. Which one would you rather eat? If calorie counting worked long term, America would be the thinnest country in the world. The quality of the calories going in can affect the number of calories being burned off. Ludwig, obesity researcher.

In a study comparing 3 diets: low-fat, low-glycemic, and low-carb, the people on the low carb diet burned calories more than the low-fat diet. JAMA, And yet, our nutrition guidelines recommend a low-calorie, low-fat diet. See the problem? I would speculate that we absorb a lot more calories from highly processed foods. In summary, a calorie is not necessarily a calorie: given the functional differences between edible plants, interfamily and even interspecies differences must be considered when making comparisons between food processing techniques.

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Proc Natl Acad Sci, Amer J Clin Nutr, This especially happens when it comes to fat. We often omit higher fat foods simply because they are higher in calories without taking into consideration what benefits we might get from them, such as staying fuller for longer hangry much? This is crucially important for pregnant women who may become deficient in key brain-building nutrients if they restrict fat. I intentionally choose to fully ignore calorie labels, especially on real foods that are naturally high in fat such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.

And I have satisfied clients and readers to prove it. Counting calories is especially fruitless when you know If I think calorie counting is a such waste of time, what do I do instead?


How do I stay at the same weight, year after year? Just putting this down on paper or rather, in html feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I stopped feeling like a disobedient dietitian when I let go if this whole counting calories obsession. It frees up so much time and energy to spend on things that actually matter to you.

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And in the process, your body will naturally find a healthy weight. It validates all of those signals your body sends you moment to moment, even the urge to eat a little something extra at the end of a meal. Did you like this article? If so, share it with your friends and sign up for email updates, so you never miss a post! Download your FREE chapter from. Real Food for Pregnancy. You'll also receive Lily Nichols' weekly newsletter.

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Privacy Policy. Love this Lily! Now people are always amazed at my metabolism and strength, even after I had twins! Keep the great work coming, love your blog! We have the same food philosophy, Lana. I started teaching Pilates to help people get stronger and reshape their bodies, which it does, but so often it comes back to food. So glad you are enjoying my blog! I never counted calories or carbs grams when my weight was 10 lb over I just time to love at my habits, stopped all sugar, used Xylitol.

I relax more, read more, do yoga, meditation, thirty minutes hit my target zone. Just happier, healthier about life, and love. Hi Judith, So happy to hear you have let go of the calorie-counting tailspin! Pushing myself to do more hours of work, my own workouts I love to work out! Only in the passed 7 months have I finally realized that my body is my best friend and it is HUNGRY after lifting reformer boxes, climbing the Cadillac, doing demos, lecturing and cueing constantly for 7 hours, taking a high intensity interval training class, going to yoga class, hauling heavy bags of groceries up three flights of stairs, doing housework, and taking a walk through the canyon or on the beach…………of course I am hungry!

I know the kinds of foods that make my body happy. I usually crave specific things and try to honor that. I am finally living in a body that has very low body fat, healthy hair and skin, energy to do my high output life and becoming happy. Great question, Olivia. At most, pregnant women need only extra calories per day during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. And that number WILL vary day to day. I would count calories religiously and it did work for me for about 2 years, then I started to gain fat on my stomach and legs and I started to cut more calories to no avail.


Now I eat fats, and I have finally stopped counting calories. I love love love food, but I still freak out after every meal because I ate till I was full. I eat whole foods and lots of fiberous foods like Coconut Flour and Flaxseed Meal, but I have gained 1 pant size and feel like I am working on gaining yet another pant size.

I applaud your progress, Amber. My simple answer is: As your body adjusts to being nourished and no longer believes you are starving, your stress hormones will calm down and your weight will normalize.

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It IS a process and I encourage you to reach out for whatever support you need during this transition. Yea I have counted calories for years now. It helped me shed lbs and basically gain my life back. However, I just have been having trouble sticking to it.

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This article actually inspired me to delete my my fitness pal app on my phone and concentrate on the food in front of me. Thank you. Yes Rolando! When we shift our focus to the food in front of us staying in the moment instead of relying on external cues to guide what and how much to eat, we break the yo-yo dieting cycle.

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I am a woman who is 21 years old, five foot eight inches tall, and used to weigh pounds obese in the BMI chart. After about one year of counting calories every day in an online logging system and working out three to four times a week, I now weigh pounds normal in the BMI chart. I could eat calories and lose up to 2 pounds a week. I felt such a sense of control over my eating that I had never felt before. It became almost like a hobby- I liked trying different filling and healthy meal combinations and learning how I could cut calories but eat more.

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  5. However, towards the end of my weight loss, the website told me that I would need to eat calories to continue to lose weight. I really struggled with feeling full. I began to feel very guilty when I would go over my calories. I started indulging more and more in unhealthy foods. Then, I started to feel obsessive. I few weeks ago, I stopped counting calories completely. I still do it in my head automatically because it is such a part of how I think about food now. It just got unhealthy.

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    I have gained a few pounds but I think I am just adjusting to my new eating patterns. But, I think counting calories should be a temporary lesson on eating, not a lifestyle. Thanks for posting this article! Lily, you hit the nail on the head. Calorie counting works short term but it is unsustainable. Calorie counting has ruined my life… I developed anorexia 14 years ago… then over eating… bulimia and undereating. I struggle and still count. Calorie counting has led many people down a similar path, but luckily there is another way.