Why I Don't Count Calories / by Alexandra Pullen

I don’t count calories. This is mainly because I’m lazy, but it’s also because I don’t see the point. Your body doesn’t understand an arbitrary numerical value that you select as an acceptable amount to feed your body, nor is there a magic number that is going to make your body say, “I don’t need these five extra pounds.” There was a period of time in which I was really strict and aware of how many calories I was putting in my body, but I was also CRAZY during that time. Since then, I've also become a lot more in tune with my body. Once you can learn how to eat intuitively, you will be able to gauge exactly how much you need and when you have truly had enough. This is the same reason why I don't weigh myself. I want to go off how I feel, not by a number. It's a very evolved way of thinking and being in a calorie/media-obsessed culture that we live in, but I promise that you will be so much happier without the scales and numbers!

The basic principle of weight loss is energy expenditure vs. energy intake.  You can technically lose weight on a diet of only McDonalds if you burn more energy than you are taking in. However, that type of diet is not sustainable, nor will it help your overall health in the long run. For people that have no prior knowledge about health and nutrition, counting calories at the beginning of their own fitness journey can definitely be helpful. It makes people aware of exactly how much they are consuming, as one of the main obstacles to living healthier is that many people have warped perceptions of what a proper portion looks like. That being said, I think being aware of the nutritional content of the foods you eat is of a higher priority than exact calorie counting. Counting calories also has the potential to cause way more harm than good because it can easily foster a negative relationship with food as well as promote obsessive behavior.

In my opinion, there is a ballpark number of daily calories that is unique to every individual, and this range is based on various factors such as height, weight, activity level, etc. However, your body is not a bank or a computer. Regardless of activity level, sometimes your body needs more or less energy. This can be due to variance in stress levels, or even hormones. Some days I’m not incredibly hungry, and some days I can’t seem to eat enough in order to feel full and satisfied. I think the most important thing is to listen to your body, and then everything will balance out. You shouldn’t over-stuff yourself to reach an arbitrarily selected goal number of calories. It won’t hinder your athletic goals if you don’t eat enough for one day. Contrarily, if you hit your caloric goal for the day, I don’t think you should ignore your body’s hunger cues.

By all means, count calories if it works for you. I know enough about nutrition that I know how much energy my body needs to run most efficiently, so I don’t feel the need to. For many, tracking calories may be a helpful tool to merely steer them in the right direction until they settle in to a healthier lifestyle. If you're feeding your body the nutrient-dense foods that it craves, you will feel full and satisfied. Just remember, your body is an intricate and intelligent system. Just as your body sends pain signals to your brain when you are hurt, your body also sends messages like hunger pangs for a specific purpose- you’re probably hungry!