Intuition is the whisper of the soul.
I recently got a question about calorie counting and tracking macros, and since I get this question quite often, I thought I would post my answer here.
In cases of non-disordered eating, I don’t recommend calorie or macro counting, and here’s why: calorie counts on foods are approximations. They are imperfect. This is true for packaged foods and is DEFINITELY true for any time your order food out at a restaurant.
On the other hand, calorie expenditure (from fitbits or workout machines or online calculations) are imperfect too. They are approximations. They are imperfect.
So if you’re tracking calories in and calories out, both are measured with a bunch of error! In addition: each day is different. One day maybe you jiggled your leg a little more, or had more restless sleep, or it was hotter outside, so you burned calories at a different rate than usual, and your “calorie needs” for weight maintenance, loss, or gain will be different.
All together, using calorie counts to track your eating is putting trust in imperfect numbers over trust in your body and how you feel.
I find that there’s use in calorie counting for a few weeks or months to get the hang of what’s in specific foods (it can give you great awareness for hidden fats and sugars in foods, plus great sources of protein), but that over time, it becomes a crutch that can lead you to over or under eat based on numbers, rather than how you feel. (Maybe you’ve been in the situation where you’re not hungry, but your calorie counter tells you that you have some extra calories so you go for that cookie or dessert. It happens so often.)
One special case where calorie counting can be useful long-term: for some people with a history of disordered eating, calorie counting can be an important way to help them stay on track before their normal hunger/satiety signals have come back on track. It’s important that this is done with the guidance of trained professionals and therapists to ensure that this tracking doesn’t exacerbate the disordered eating, but helps the path to recovery.
As always, I ask you to inquire about your experience. What’s your relationships to calorie counting and do you feel like it’s a positive or negative force in your eating path? Dig in deep and see if calorie counting is empowering you or disempowering you, and know that your answer might change over time.