Upon starting to write this blog post, I decided to do a quick google search using the phrase “should I count calories”? As to be expected, the results were all across the board in terms of support versus opposition and everything in between. No wonder why so many people are confused about if counting calories is a helpful strategy for shape change or weight loss.

The intention behind this post isn’t to educate you on the studies that prove that calorie counting is effective, or point out studies that show how calorie counting produces short-term results only, but rather to ask you to think about what you’ve tried in the past related to calorie counting and how effective it may have been. If you were hoping for more of a science-based blog post, this article from Dr. Jade may be more up your alley.

If you’ve been a dieter for a while, or if you’ve been a hard-core dieter for even a brief period of time, chances are you’ve come across some individuals who are pretty set in their ways around what does and doesn’t work for weight loss. In the field of nutrition alone, calorie counting happens to be a camp where you’ll find hardcore believers and strong opposers.

Some experts and professionals in the nutrition space are hard-core endorsers of calorie counting, due to the belief that it is simply “calories in versus calories out” that leads to weight loss. Others are highly opposed due to the opinion that calorie counting is a thing of the past and only leads to a temporary loss of weight with an almost guaranteed rebound of weight regain.

“Anyone that says calories don’t matter has zero credibility. But anyone who claims calories are all that matter has even less credibility.”

~ Dr. Jade Teta

As reinforcement of our beliefs at Metabolic Living, our answer is almost always going to be “do what works for you” and calorie counting is no different. As someone who has specialized in weight management for over 20 years now, I don’t disagree with that. I don’t think calorie counting is a magical solution for weight loss, but it can be a very helpful strategy for someone without much of a foundation in the realm of basic nutrition, including macros or portion sizes. 

Let me be clear that even scientific studies indicate that calorie counting will work for some, while it won’t be effective for others. Our bodies are very complicated machines. If you’ve ever counted calories, maintained a calorie deficit without weight loss, and found yourself frustrated, join the club! There is no “one size fits all” answer to weight loss or shape change, and calorie counting falls into the category for sure.

Some people are drawn to calorie counting because they like to weigh and measure their food, look at macronutrient data (i.e. protein, fat, fiber, carbs), and feel like calorie counting is a way to more closely track their nutritional habits and patterns. There is a sense of healthy control around this system for those individuals who find that knowledge and data lead to better decision making at meal or snack times. If your personal preference or even part of your psychological make-up involves motivation from tracking data and numbers. Dr. Jade would say you are more of a “math type” when it comes to diet design.

Others find that calorie counting leads to more food obsession or the need to be “perfect” with hitting targets, leading to more of an unhealthy preoccupation with numbers or data. Their personal preference or psychological make-up may fall under what Dr. Jade calls “the artist”, or someone who prefers to design their diet around what sounds good while being mindful of portions and frequency but also living in awareness around things like their protein and fiber intake.

In this Instagram video talk from Dr. Jade, he talks about how to know if you are ready to transition away from calorie counting to more of an intuitive eating approach. On the flip side, if you’ve never tried calorie counting before as a strategy to help with your weight loss goals, he’ll present why this could be a very helpful approach for you to test out. Although the video talk is only about 4 minutes long, I think the video packs a punch by empowering you to decide what is best for you. 

The bottom line is this. If you are getting results and feeling good mentally and physically while keeping your SHMEC is in check, by all means, keep doing what you are doing. On the other hand, if you are getting results but are feeling exhausted by your process, maybe it is time to try the opposite approach to what you’ve already been doing.

Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash