We see so many fitness and nutrition professionals who encourage their followers and clients to calorie count. IIFYM is crazy popular in the fitness community and professionals give off the impression that this diet is the way to reach your goals, no matter what they are.
Is calorie counting really beneficial though? The answer is not what you think.
The answer: it depends on YOU.
It really is not a straight-forward, black or white type of answer. It truly depends on you and what you prefer.As a nutrition coach, I teach nutrition three different ways: calorie counting, portion counting, and/or mindful eating. I give my clients the information they need about each one and then they can decide which one they want to do depending on what fits their needs and lifestyle best!
Calorie counting could work for you if:
You love structure and routine. Most people who calorie count thrive when they like structure and they don’t have a huge variety in their day-to-day diet. These are the meal preppers who already wake up knowing what they are going to eat.
You love numbers and analysis. Knowing exactly how many calories and macronutrients to consume helps you figure out what you are doing well and what you can improve on.
You find that you binge-eat when you don’t calorie count… simply because you are unaware of how many calories you’re eating. When you are first starting off on this active and healthy lifestyle, it is completely normal to not be totally aware of calorie counts of the food that you eat. This is why sometimes, when I have a client that is brand new to a healthy and balanced lifestyle, we start off counting calories because it is simply a learning experience! Then we move into portion counting or mindful eating once they feel ready.
Calorie counting would not work for you if:
You are a perfectionist and/or are too hard on yourself. This is the trap I feel into back when I was calorie counting! I would feel extremely guilty on the days I went over my daily caloric intake and it simply was not good for my mental health.
You think it is okay to ignore feelings of hunger because you’ve already reached your intake for the day. Sometimes, we are just HUNGRY. The caloric intake number is simply an equation based off of things like your weight, height, gender, and goals. It doesn’t take into account that we are breathing beings who encounter stress, hormonal imbalances, menstrual cycles, and more. If you are truly hungry (and have determined that through mindfulness), then you need to eat no matter how many calories you’ve had that day!
You have a history with disordered eating. Many people who have struggled in the past with eating disorders or a disordered mindset when it comes to food tend to get caught up in the numbers of calorie counting and become obsessed with them. Even if someone is eating healthy, there is such a thing as taking it too far in the name of health.
The bottom line is that whether or not calorie counting is beneficial simply depends on you as a person. If you look at it as a diet and not a lifestyle, then you’re automatically going about it the wrong way. Some people find that mindful eating is much more sustainable and allows them the flexibility to live their life while still being healthy and balanced!
I wear a lot of hats: NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. A writer with a B.A. in English and Professional Writing. A fur mom and a wife. A mental health advocate and a septic shock survivor. An Airman and an athlete. I live in South Florida and am in love with the ocean. People can typically find me either in the gym or at home, writing or reading.