Home » How to Stop Calorie Counting 5 Steps

How to Stop Calorie Counting 5 Steps

by Dana Bean, RD

Do you find yourself obsessively counting calories? Is it interfering with your daily life? Stealing your time and energy? Learn how to stop calorie counting with these 5 helpful steps.

How to Stop Calorie Counting

Calorie counting and calorie awareness has been promoted as a generally “healthy” behavior, when really for many it can be the opposite. Though focusing on calories can begin as an innocent to gain control over health (or some other aspect of life) it can turn into an obsessive, time consuming activity and lead a dangerous and exhausting eating disorder. Counting calories teaches us to neglect our body’s cues and promotes continued restriction. This behavior can sacrifice health in the pursuit of it (ironic, isn’t it?)

Allowing calories dictate our food choices can also make us think differently about nourishment. Calorie counting encourages us to choose foods lower in energy. This can then affect our nutrition status, ability to focus mentally, emotional state, strength, ability to regulate hunger (and avoid binging) and so many other elements of our health.

Focusing on calories with hopes of intentional weight loss can create a negative relationship with our bodies. Willing your body to change with meticulously counted calories can create the idea that your current body isn’t good enough and can be changed easily if we just micromanage it enough. This isn’t the case though as there are so many factors affecting our needs which can’t be anticipated by a tracking app (or anywhere else you may find an arbitrary number for your calorie needs).

Blog Quote: Willing your body to change with meticulously counted calories can create the idea that your current body isn't good enough and can be changed easily if we just micromanage it enough. with green and white background on a blue transparent box.

So, if you’ve gone down the road of calorie counting and it has taken over your life and made you think differently about food and yourself, how do you stop? We have 5 steps for you to consider to stop calorie counting. Please note that finding professional help can be crucial and so helpful with this!

The first step to moving away from calorie counting is to stop looking at labels! If you’ve found yourself in a place where calorie counting has been detrimental, than it will be more helpful to your health to NOT look at the label. Move boxed items into kitchen organizing containers, put tape over labels, and keep reminding yourself that you don’t look at labels. Avoid looking on online menus for nutrition facts.

Just because you’re not seeing the calories on a nutrition label, doesn’t mean the counting stops immediately. Changing the habit of previously adding up what you ate is the next step.

This step can actually be broken into 2 steps of

  1. Avoid physical calculations (using a calculator, tracking app, writing down what you eat, etc…)
  2. Avoid calculations in your mind (adding up calories in your mind, restriction based on perceived or known content of food)

If you want to move away from calorie counting because it has been detrimental and taken over your life, you will also want to work on your relationship with food. Some things that you may want to address are:

  • Avoiding an “all or nothing” mentality with food
  • Working on neutralizing food and avoiding a moral attachment to different foods
  • Listening to body cues to help determine food choices

The list could really go on! It can be crucial to have a professional guide/team to help you with this.

Alongside healing your relationship with food, it’s likely that your relationship with your body could use some attention if calorie counting has been harmful to you. Again, getting professional help with this can be an important step.

In general, we want to move away from using numbers relating to food unnecessarily when learning how to stop calorie counting. This a big reason why I started creating recipes without nutrition facts! It helps to avoid the unwarranted nutrition fact information and any portions (that really vary widely depending on the individual anyway). I still let you know what to pair the food with to create a meal with balance if that’s what you’re looking for, but we don’t really need to look at all the numbers to create satisfaction in a meal.

Maybe avoiding calorie counting is the first step you’re taking to improving your relationship with food and body, or maybe you’ve been working on it for a while. Either way, the freedom that can come with putting it in the past is incredibly rewarding and allows you to have more brain energy to do anything else in life!

There may be more to your journey with leaving calorie counting behind than these 5 steps. For example working on your relationship with food can take time (and can include many other steps). Everyone’s journey looks a little different! But following these 5 steps for how to stop calorie counting (stop looking at calories on nutrition labels, stop calculating, heal your relationship with food, heal your relationship with your body, and using recipes without calories listed) will set you in the right direction to reach your goals.

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