The Downside Of Calorie Counting For Weight Loss

What if you could lose weight without calorie counting? Uncover the hidden dangers of this popular weight loss method and find out how to eat smarter and healthier instead. Learn the facts about calories, food, energy, nutrition and trackers to find the weight loss solution that works best for you.



During my own weight loss journey, I often cycled between periods of time where I tracked my food religiously and then other times where I would try to eat more intuitively. Calorie counting is a useful tool when it comes to weight loss, it’s really the only way to be certain you are in a calorie deficit, but that doesn’t mean that you have to track to be in a calorie deficit.

I often recommend calorie tracking, at least at the beginning of a weight loss journey. The reason I recommend it is because often people who have struggled with their weight don’t really have a good idea of how many calories are in certain foods (I’m including myself in this!).

That being said, calorie counting isn’t for everyone, it can be extremely triggering to anyone who has or has had an eating disorder and can lead to obsessing over food.

 “Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.”

— Elsa Schiaparelli

So even though I generally recommend calorie counting, I also recognise that it has it’s downsides. So in this post I wanted to cover a few of these, hopefully allowing you to make an informed choice on whether calorie counting is for you, and ways to help make it easier.

Reducing food down to a single number can be misleading, as it doesn’t provide information about all the other essential nutrients that that food offers. A balanced diet should provide a variety of foods that can supply the necessary vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibre, and other micronutrients that are essential not only for general health & well-being but also how that food will affect satiety.

Take an avocado for example, these are often demonised in low-fat diets because they are higher in calories, but they are full of good fats, fibre and several micronutrients including folate, magnesium, B Vitamins & Vitamin C. Half an avocado has 160 calories, and if you compare that to say, a Twix bar (one of my favourite chocolates), which has 120 calories, you may see the Twix bar as a better option to meet your calorie goals. But a Twix is offering basically 0 nutritional value, and due to the sugar in it, will often leave you more hungry shorty after eating it – due to blood sugar spikes.

(I’m not by any means saying don’t eat Twix bars!)

Whether you are counting calories or trying to eat intuitively, I recommend an 80/20 approach to food. Eat nutrient-dense whole foods 80% of the time, and save the ultra processed or sugary goodness for the other 20%.  

It Can Take The Joy Out Of Food

Good food is a pleasure, luxury and a privilege. It can bring so much joy and happiness to life. Whether it is a home-cooked meal or a restaurant experience, the pleasure of eating quality food is undeniable. It can be a luxury to be able to afford to eat out or buy the ingredients for a delicious meal and it is a privilege to have access to healthy, nutritious food that nourishes the body and soul.

Eating should be a pleasurable experience and counting calories can take away from that pleasure. Enjoying the food that you are eating and savoring the flavors is what eating is all about. Eating healthy and making sure you get the right nutrition is important, but it should be balanced with the enjoyment of food.

Taste is often associated with memories of being in a certain location because flavour is linked to the senses. When we experience a flavour, our brain can recall memories from that location, such as the environment, people, and the feelings associated with that place. The flavours of a place can bring back memories of special moments spent in that location, like a family gathering, a vacation, or a special event – so don’t neglect the local foods on holidays because they don’t fit your calorie targets!

It Can negatively affect Your ability To feel hunger and fullness cues

Speaking from personal experience here; when I first started calorie counting and losing weight I would make sure that I ate exactly that amount of calories. Even if I was under the calorie target, I would see I had calories left and would eat something else to make up for it. Whether I was hungry or not.

Similarly, if I was already at my calorie target at the end of the day but was still very hungry, I would simply refuse to eat any more – even ignoring serious fatigue, ignoring my depleting energy levels.

Hunger and satiety hormones are our body’s natural way of regulating appetite and weight. But we often don’t get these cues eating low-nutrient dense ultra processed foods, but also by simply ignoring the cues and pushing past them because we are sticking to a strict calorie controlled diet.

Staying mindful when eating and taking the time to slow down and appreciate the food can help us to better recognize these signals. By doing this, we can ensure that we are eating enough, but not too much, of the right kinds of foods.

In Conclusion

Calorie counting is a great way to stay on top of your weight loss goals, as it lets you know exactly how many calories you are consuming in a day. However, it is not the only way to be in a calorie deficit and does have it’s drawbacks. There are other methods you can use to make sure that you are consuming fewer calories than you are burning, such as focusing on eating healthy and nutritious foods, limiting your portion sizes, and exercising regularly.

Ultimately, the best approach is to combine calorie counting with other healthy lifestyle habits to ensure you reach your goals.

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