5 Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Count Calories Ever Again

Counting Calories

If you think that a calorie is a calorie – and it doesn’t matter if it comes from kale or cookies, then it’s time to rethink what you think you know about calories. Contrary to what your Momma, track coach or even Doctor led you to believe, all calories are NOT created equal, and thinking you’ll lose weight simply by counting them or cutting them will likely leave you hungry, irritable, malnourished and not much lighter than you were when you started. So instead of slashing and burning the caloric field, let’s level it with the following food for thought:

1. All Calories Are Not Created Equal

Thinking that all calories are the same is an antiquated notion. Granted, by definition calories represent units of energy provided by a particular food, but thinking they’re all alike is like saying a diamond and a rhinestone are the same because they both glitter. With calories, as with diamonds, it’s the quality that matters most and enhances their value. 

2. Crap is Crap, No Matter How Many Calories are Involved

Calories from nutrient rich foods vs. nutritionally-bankrupt ones from processed or refined carbs will have different effects on the body.  Healthy, nutrient rich foods will keep hunger at bay, help maintain stable blood sugar levels, minimize cravings and enable your brain to signal your belly that it’s full. Nutrient poor foods will have the opposite effect, wreaking hormonal havoc, spiking insulin, setting off cravings, dulling satiety signals and encouraging overeating. In other words, nutrient dense foods help keep weight in check naturally, no calculator required. 

3. Think of Counting Calories as Nutritional Navel-gazing

Tracking every scrap that goes in your mouth may give you a feeling of control over your food but it doesn’t mean you’re getting enough of the nutrients your body needs. Take for example those who diet on processed, portion-controlled, “diet” microwaveable meals (you know who you are). Aside from being loaded with chemicals, GMOs, allergenic and inflammatory ingredients, these crappy excuses for food don’t deliver enough protein, fiber, good fats or even volume to make you feel full, much less healthy and vibrant. The result is that you’re hungry, mentally foggy, and malnourished, possibly setting the stage for a host of health problems down the line – but you do know how many calories you ate getting there. For what that’s worth.

4. But Jared Lost All That Weight Eating Subway Sandwiches!

No disrespect, but if you’ve seen the “before and after” photos, you have to ask, just what was Jared living on before he went on his infamous crash sandwich diet? Call it what you will, but all he did was classic caloric restriction, and yes, while it does work for a time, it’s not recommended. It’s hard to sustain in the long-term, and it won’t make you feel energetic or vibrant in the short-term, again because you’re not supporting your body with enough essential nutrients. Worse, these crash diets actually slow down metabolism, lowering your food burning furnace, an adjustment your body makes, to conserve energy and prevent starvation. So what’s the work-around? Trade hunger, calorie-counting and denial, for filling, nutrient-dense, organic or local produce, poultry, pasture-raised meats and wild fish. Eat them until you are full, not until you’ve hit some abstract, virtually meaningless magic number. By eating these kinds of foods, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough. Refined carbs like wheat, grains and sugar – the crystal meth of the supermarket aisle – never will.

5. Put Away the Abacus and Fill Up on the Right Stuff

To curb appetite, feed your body with foods that fill your belly, send the message of satiety to the brain and supply the body with health-enhancing nutrients. There is abundant evidence to show that low-carb diets generally satisfy far more effectively than high-carb ones. At the top of the satiety superstar list are the “good” fats like coconut oil, avocados, nuts, wild fish and grass fed, organic meats, which help balance hormonal and metabolic responses, in addition to being delicious additions to any plate. Next up: non starchy vegetables, which are nutrient dense, while adding belly-filling bulk. And last but not least, is protein, which is extremely helpful in creating feelings of satiety and takes more energy for the body to metabolize. Bottom line, all three will help reduce appetite with little effort, blood sugar spikes and no counting. All you need to do is enjoy them.

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  • jcbrbr

    This is a GREAT article! I’ve done the “microwave” diets that are sent to you in a package-and you are right-not satisfying and a short term answer to weight loss. This is a long term solution-eat better calories, and you’ll have a much longer success rate while feeling a lot better energy wise!

  • Victoria

    I read this on mindbodygreen.com first :)

  • Anonymous

    Jared was also around 24 years old, if I remember correctly. At that age, any diet will knock off the weight.

  • August Pamplona

    «No disrespect, but if you’ve seen the “before and after” photos, you
    have to ask, just what was Jared living on before he went on his
    infamous crash sandwich diet? Call it what you will, but all he did was
    classic caloric restriction, and yes, while it does work for a time,
    it’s not recommended.»

    No disrespect, but “classic caloric restriction” as opposed to what? Do you seriously think that, no matter what the caloric intake, the inclusion of organic, grass fed beef will magically summon legions of fat fairies to keep you trim?

  • I am so happy that you wrote this post! When I was in cancer treatment my docs told me to eat anything. I knew that didn’t sound right. So the Internet became my online doctor/nutritionist. Eating healthy, organic fresh foods is why I remain cancer free. Eating good foods helped me recover faster from the nasty (but necessary) cancer treatments. I am sharing you post.

  • SMM

    I agree… While its true that not all calories are created equal, we can’t have this all or nothing mindset when it comes to health and science. People do lose weight eating junk food, and they do gain weight eating 100% “healthy”/organic. Why not eat nutrient rich foods AND count calories?

  • August Pamplona

    Whether something is organic or not is a (not terribly meaningful) characteristic which is orthogonal to whether something is “healthy” or nutrient rich*. Whatever the quality of Jared’s infamous Subway diet was, it would likely have been made no better (and no worse) by ensuring that everything going into it was organic.

    * Grass fed, on the other hand, at least could make a small difference in FA composition –though I would not hazard a guess as to whether it is a significant difference.

  • Kat ACMilanista

    I lost 70 pounds five years ago by only eating correct foods and never counted a single calorie. Once I cleaned out the processed, fake food from my system, I listened to my body’s cravings to tell me what I needed and how much. Craving doesn’t just feel like when you want chocolate. It’s also paying attention to your mood. Now I notice when my mood is poor it’s because I haven’t been getting enough carbs. A headache means I didn’t eat enough vegetables. It’s not about weight it’s about making your body function at its best. My head feels foggy when I slip and eat bad foods. Nothing is worth 30 seconds on the tongue if it equals brain fog and achy joints!

  • Yooperman10 .

    After going on my umpteenth diet right after Christmas of 2014, in 5 weeks I lost ten pounds, so in late January of 2015 I still weighed 320 pounds, and I’m six feet tall. I had a 50 inch waist. I went to see a bariatric surgeon with the intention of having a gastric sleeve procedure. My insurance company would cover the surgery at 100 percent after out of pocket was met, but they mandated I see a nutritional counselor for six months first. The bariatric doctor has a counselor on staff, and she put me on a low carb regimen where i avoid sugar, potatoes, breads, etc,and substitute higher protein foods like cheese, meats, green vegetables, nuts and so on. Within three months I lost 30 pounds and disqualified myself from the insurance paying for it. Now, here in early November, I’ve lost 80 pounds and 8 inches from my waist since the beginning of February without surgery. I’ve found lots of things I can still eat in the past 9 months to boot. I snack on string cheese, low salt dry roasted peanuts, cashews, and beef jerkey between meals. I eat salads with whatever dressing I want, as long as it’s low in carbs, chicken Caesar salad being a favorite, with diced roasted chicken breast, grated fresh parmesan or Asiago cheese and organic green or red leaf lettuce and some sliced up roma tomatoes too. Broccoli with melted cheese is one of my favorite side dishes. I don’t count calories, but I don’t go nuts either. I drink lots of water throughout the day. I buy low carb whole wheat tortillas if I want to make some fajitas. I try to keep my carb intake around 50-60 carbs a day. I found some chocolate ice cream in the natural foods section of the grocery store sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar; it has only 50 carbs in a whole pint, so I’ll have half a cup of that when I want a sweet treat a couple times a week. I love how much better I feel, and I’m striving to lose another 20 to 30 pounds. Don’t give up folks, you can lose the weight. I was over 300 for almost 20 years. I’m 57 years old. Good luck.