Why I stopped counting calories and tracking macros

by Khushboo on June 29, 2015

Hey guys! Hope your Monday’s are off to a good start! I’ve been wanting to post this topic for a while so I’m going to dive right into it: 

Why I stopped counting calories and tracking macros

While I know many people have had success with doing so (as I once did in the past), it’s personally not for me anymore…and hopefully these reasons will give you something to think about if you contemplate counting calories or tracking macros at some stage: 

1) Calories do not measure nutrition: Merely representing a unit of energy, calories provide no indication how your body utilises those calories, the impact the food has on hormonal activity nor its influence on overall health and wellbeing. While a Snickers bar contains around 250 calories and an avocado racks in about 320 calories, the latter packs in far more nutrition per calorie and is more likely to leave you feeling satiated even once you’re done eating. 

A crackin' lunch at Le Pain Quotidien

A crackin’ lunch at Le Pain Quotidien

2) Counting calories takes away the joy of eating: Even though I eat a very healthy diet, I definitely still consider myself a foodie- I appreciate quality ingredients, can talk about food for hours, and love the experience that comes with both cooking at home & eating out. When I counted calories & macros, I noticed myself dreading social situations that focused around food purely because of the uncertainty over what I’d be eating and how it was prepared.  Rather than a source of fulfillment and nourishment, food turned into a ball of numbers: A freshly-baked piece of bread was no longer something to be enjoyed, but instead viewed as 83 calories, 15g carbs, 2.7g protein & 1.1g of fat.

3) I became less in tune with my body & hunger signals:  Hunger is not a straight line & no 2 days are the same.  There were days that I found myself eating more just because I had calories remaining for the day whereas other days, I purposely restricted my eating to ensure I didn’t exceed my daily calorie allowance.  What I didn’t realize is that each day, I was making myself less in tune with my own body & hunger signals.  The thing is that our bodies are a lot smarter than we give them credit.  Once you learn to trust it, your body will tell you when to eat and when to stop and eventually it will all balance out.  If anything, we can look at babies & young children as role models.  Even if there is merely an ounce of milk remaining, babies clamp their mouths shut once they’re satisfied.  They know that eating or drinking too much volume will make them uncomfortable and they choose not to do it. 

Learning from my cutie-pie nephew

Learning from my cutie-pie nephew

4) It made me obsessive & more stressed: Anyone who has ever counted calories or tracked macros  will agree that it eventually turns into a numbers game i.e. trying to figure out how to get the most of your calories and hit your targets most efficiently.  I found myself glued to my iPhone trying to readjust the numbers on the MyFitnessPal app, to the point that I considered buying a different brand of food for the sake of saving 10-15 calories per serving.  The truth it that after a certain point, the build-up of stress & cortisol will start to hinder your progress no matter how on point you are with your numbers.  When your body is stressed out, either mentally or physically, it stores fat as a defense mechanism.

5) Weight management goes far beyond calories in versus calories out: Although eating less calories than you’re expending technically should translate into weight loss, it’s not as black & white.  Foods affect our bodies in different ways and go through various metabolic pathways.  Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat.  Rather than focus on numbers, we’d be better off addressing the kinds of foods eaten, sustainability of our diet, quality of workouts, state of our physical & mental health & our overall lifestyle choices (e.g. sleep & stress levels).

Getti, Marylebone High Street

Getti, Marylebone High Street

That all being said, I do think that counting calories can be beneficial to an extent, especially in terms of understanding portion sizes & ensuring you are eating enough.  Rather than morph into the focus of weight loss or healthy eating, counting calories should simply be a tool to turn to every so often.  I personally still do look at calories & macros as a guideline,  but if I’m counting anything, it’s going to be ingredients. 

Have you ever counted calories or tracked macros?

Even if you haven’t, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Shashi @ RunninSrilankan June 29, 2015 at 2:33 pm

There was a time when I obsessed over calorie counting too, but, I haven’t in awhile – with #3 being the major reason. I couldn’t agree more with you, our bodies are way way smarter than we think – and can and will regulate themselves accordingly. The key is that we really have to listen to them and be able to reduce the “noise”. When I was obsessing over calorie counts, I noticed that I ate more processed foods – I think it was for the main reason that these foods had calories clearly marked – but, definitely was not a good choice for me back then.

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm

So true Shashi! I remember at one point, I wouldn’t eat a food if it didn’t come with a nutritional label or I couldn’t find out its nutritional values on Google…gah how crazy!

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Erin@BeetsPerMinute June 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm

I totally agree with this. I have heard enough of the IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS conversations. I know it works for people, but I find it to be the same as anything else: obsessive. You’re very right, a calorie is not just a calorie. And when it comes to eating for wellness and health, focusing on counting numbers in that way forces us to lose out on antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids our bodies need to absorb the nutrients we feed them. That being said, I do support programs that help people become healthier, but too many times these are too rigid and cause stress, anxiety, and unhealthier end results down the road. Great post!

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Love your views here, Erin! Any program can be healthy so long as it doesn’t affect mental health!

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Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli June 29, 2015 at 5:47 pm

I’ve never fully committed to the whole calorie counting thing, primarily because a) I know I’d take it too far and b) it’s honestly too much effort to log every dang thing in an app. I love your insights here, Khushboo!

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Thanks, Jen..and thank you for linking back to my post :)!

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Lucie@FitSwissChick June 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Yes!! I just nodded throughout the whole post 🙂
Been there, done that – it took so long to DARE to trust my body – I always thought I could never let go off that control and religiously entered my macros into MyFitnessPal. I think the turning point was on my trip this Spring, when I simply didn’t have a choice as to just go with the flow as I was on the road the majority of time. Nothing horrible happened, on the contrary, I felt so much more in tune with my body and balanced cause I really listened to it for the first time!

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Everything happens for a reason & clearly your trip in Spring did wonders in liberating you from eating according to numbers :)!

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dixya | food, pleasure, and health June 30, 2015 at 9:59 pm

i have not obsessively counted every calories but there was a time i looked at numbers way too much. but over the years, i have learned to enjoy food, exercise because #5 like you said, its not black and white. its also about mental/emotional health when it comes to weight loss. great insight K. You need to come here for a visit!!

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Physical health is only one aspect & I feel like so many of us initially put emotional & mental health at the backburner!

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Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets June 30, 2015 at 11:28 pm

You know me. I’ve never been a calorie counter, and I wouldn’t even know where to start when it comes to macros. I have no idea how many grams of protein or carbs are in anything I eat, and I’m good with that. I try to feed my body nourishing food with great ingredients that I love. At the end of the day, it’s about being healthy, not a number on the scale.

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Arman @ thebigmansworld July 1, 2015 at 4:42 am

I can attest to this. 😀

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:03 pm

🙂

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:04 pm

You know I fully concur with your approach- couldn’t think of a healthier outlook towards food!

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Honey, What's Cooking? July 1, 2015 at 8:46 am

OMG.. your nephew is sooooooooo cute. So cute! Yes, I don’t really count calories, but for a while I was tracking them on fitness pal cuz i needed to gain some weight. I guess I wasn’t eating enough. 🙁

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Gaining weight is actually one instance when I find calorie counting helpful- eating more calories isn’t as easy as it sounds!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig July 2, 2015 at 3:19 pm

I love this post! It’s exactly how I view food. The only time I ever track macros is when I’m trying to make weight for a competition, so I’m thankful that I won’t have to do that again for a very long time!

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Ah can you imagine counting your macros in Italy- eeks!!

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Louise Letsome July 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm

I agree with this, I have lost a lot of weight in the past with counting macros – but I still had cheat meals and didn’t track anything I would eat. I’m on a food plan at the moment, as I would like to lose a bit of weight but after this I want to just eat when I feel like it (of course making sure I’m eating enough protein etc). I work in an office all day – so I guess I would just take food with me and eat when I feel like I need to? It would be weird to get used to!

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Khushboo July 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm

So long as counting is working for you, I think you should continue doing so..and once you are at a comfortable weight, you can transition into a more intuitive approach.

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Louise Letsome July 15, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Thanks, I will do! 🙂

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Adam Trainor July 5, 2015 at 2:07 am

I counted calories for a while and got off to a great start doing it just to drop a few pounds, then I stopped for a while and I started again and wasn’t seeing the results I was like the first time. Just like the points you have said in this post it has its pros and cons, but you have focused more on the cons in this post. Counting calories does take away the joy of eating, I know when I did it I worried when going out with friends to social events if I was going to go over my calorie intake for the day and I was looking at the menu what to have. It does take over your life. I was glued to MyFitnessPal when I was doing it, scanning all food and salad dressings all the little things. If you know your eating healthy foods and exercising regularly theres no need for the tracking to take over your life.

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Khushboo July 5, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience, Adam! You nailed it with your last line- so long as you’re making healthy choices most of the time and exercising regularly, you will see results!

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