Calorie Counting is Dumb

If you’re here, then you know that here at Ladle by Ladle we (and by we I mean me) are pretty anti-diet.  One weight loss method above all is something that needs to be looked at under a bigger microscope. Calorie counting.

There is a dogma that exists in diet culture that claims, “less calories in, more calories out = weight loss!” I’m not here to say that isn’t true. Technically it is… but the bigger picture is so much more nuanced and problematic than that one catchy slogan would lead you to believe.

Let’s begin with the biggest problems with weight loss via calorie counting:tumblr_maky8h0Lm51rbyzo6o1_400.jpg

  1. You lose track of natural hunger cues – when you abandon listening to your body’s needs in exchange for eating to numbers, you begin to lose all sense of what your body craves naturally. Soon enough, you lose the connection altogether.
  2. It makes you obsess about food – constantly calculating how much you’ve eaten, how much you still can eat, how many calories are in a specific food or dish. It’s WAY too much focus on food in an unnatural way and not enough focusing on things that actually matter.
  3. It’s not sustainable – like any fad diet or lose weight quick scheme, unless you develop an eating disorder, you will yo-yo up and down with your weight on this method just like any other method out there.
  4. It treats your body and your food like a math equation – too many times I’ve done this, “If my BMR is X and my activity level is Y then I need Z calories to lose weight because one pound is 3500 calories and if I cut that many out over a week then I’ll lose a pound!” Right? Wrong. Your body does not run on math equations, your body is a living breathing biological set of systems that doesn’t adhere to these arbitrary numbers. Your body works to attempt to keep you at your set point. The metabolism which controls your BMR is not something you can calculate based on height and weight because there are so many other unique variables in the equation such as hormones, genetics, and digestion. The math will always be fuzzy so while you can equate your caloric needs over and over again nothing will be able to account for the actual physiology of your body and its unique needs.

Now, you might snap back at me with, “I dieted by counting calories and I DID lose weight!” Girl, same. Let me guess, you then either you got caught in an obsessive and continuously restrictive lifestyle or eating disorder, or you gained it all back, or you eventually stopped losing weight and started gaining weight despite not stopping the counting! I know it’s crazy, you can read more about that last one here.


Your metabolism works on a sliding scale to keep you at your set point weight. So if you“overeat” from your bodies signals your metabolism will rev up to compensate and vice versa if you under eat. However, if you happen to get the drive to overpower your body’s attempts to keep you at a stable weight, then you will be met by a lowered metabolism and be hungrier and hungrier and more and more miserable until you just eat!

Then there’s me. I counted calories like it was my damn job for years and years and years. I was so good at it, but it also completely controlled my life. As I counted my way into an eating disorder I knew that counting was not the answer. Eventually I decided to recover and ate thousands and thousands of calories a day. Yes, I gained weight – but I didn’t gain weight forever. Eventually my body plateaued right where it wanted me without me changing my caloric intake at all (with a little overshoot, because my body did not trust me). My hunger cues evened out so that now I can sit comfortably at my set point without counting calories or dieting or stressing and just living instead.tumblr_mviamjOVu71sdxwyno1_500.jpg

You think you’re controlling your food with calorie counting but really, it’s your food that is controlling you. Take back your life and wake up to the fact that calorie counting is just another diet culture lie, and we know better than that now.

Posted by

Rachel, 25, Badass feminist, Kitchen mess maker, Spanish speaking television buff, Bikram yoga junkie, Buffy Summers wannabe, ED Recovery warrior.

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