Recently I read an article entitled “Stop Counting Calories to Lose Weight.” I was intrigued because I lost 100 pounds by counting my calories and I’ve kept the weight off now for 5 years by continuing to count my calories. (You can read more here: How to Count Calories.)
I went into the article expecting to hate it and rip it apart. Not because I think MY WAY is the best way, but because I’ve read a lot of articles criticizing calorie counting and it rubs me the wrong way when they discredit something that works. It may not work for everyone, but it works for a lot of people (I mean really, Weight Watchers is essentially calorie counting, just in a different format–points).
Let’s talk about calorie counting for a minute. One question I get asked a lot is how I counted my calories. I’ve written a plethora of posts on the topic but the question that stands out is that people want to know if I tracked fat, carbs, etc. All those micro-nutrients and saturated fats, blah blah blah. Sure those things are probably important but I didn’t track that. I didn’t care. All I cared about was the calorie count because it was SIMPLE. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with all of those other things. Seriously, I couldn’t fathom tracking all of those things because I was overwhelmed as it was and I was also hand writing everything! Now things are easier. There’s websites and apps that do all that stuff for you.
“… not everyone has to count calories to lose weight. In fact, for some OCD people or people with eating disorders, it could be counterproductive. “
This is an excellent point about counting calories. If you struggle with restriction and have a history of eating disorders, it’s probably not a good idea. Instead, discuss your options with a doctor or RD. I’m sure they have some alternatives that can help you succeed without triggering disordered thinking.
Intuitive Eating is a popular thing these days. There are a lot of bloggers out there that swear by it and there’s a ton of books on the topic. I tried it once. It did not work for me. The reason it didn’t work for me was because I’m a REFORMED BINGE EATER who used to be obese. “Intuitively” I want to binge eat. I have to practice self-control and willpower in order to not do this. While binge eating isn’t something I have to worry about most days, there are still times in my life where I do want to revert back to the old habits I had. (Read these posts: Psychology of Weight Loss and Stop Dieting!)
When you spent half your life with bad habits and the desire to overeat, it’s difficult to trust your mind and your body to eat only what it NEEDS to survive and not what it CRAVES. For me, there needs to be a happy medium between intuitive eating and calorie counting. I address it in more detail here: Why All or Nothing Doesn’t Work For Me.
“…it is not necessary. Many people have gotten down to single digit body fat without ever counting a single calorie. They practiced portion control.”
This is entirely possible. I know several people that practice portion control instead of calorie counting. I believe that portion control is a crucial element of weight loss and maintenance. Once you achieve goal weight, it’s not like you can go back to eating an entire pizza in one sitting. You have to continue the healthy practices you did to lose the weight in the first place. But can you JUST measure portions out and still lose weight? You bet. I don’t see why not.
“You need to focus on the quality of the food that’s going into your mouth. Until your diet is 80-90 percent whole foods, you’re wasting your time counting calories.”
This has been an evolution for me. When I was first losing my weight I ate a TON of processed foods because they were portion controlled and I knew exactly how many calories I was eating (which made calorie tracking so much easier). Over the last few years that I’ve been maintaining 110 pounds lost, I’ve moved more toward eating natural, whole foods. The article recommends adding whole foods and remove processed foods from your diet. I agree whole-heartily. I love my veggie garden! 🙂
The bottom line is this: All Calories Are Not Equal. You cannot sustain a healthy body and lifestyle eating only 1500 calories of Twinkies in a day. It is true that there are much healthier calories we can be eating!
So while I went into the article expecting to hate it, I did agree with a lot of their points and suggestions. Counting calories works for me. I lost my weight and I’ve kept it off for years. Because it works so well, I’ve continued it.
What’s your take on the article?
About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and Glamour.com.