Why I almost never count calories anymore. (And what I do instead, to maintain my 100+lbs weight loss).

When I first started my weight loss journey, I used to love counting calories. It gave me a sense of control. I’m a former analytical researcher, so I loved data, numbers and spreadsheets.

But, over time, it started to become an obsession. It started to impede my enjoyment of real life. Food became about numbers, instead of meals with friends and family.

What happened?  And what did I do differently?

When I couldn’t count calories, I would become anxious. If I couldn’t find the right food or the exact number in MyFitnessPal. And through all of it, there was this underlying theme: I DON’T TRUST MYSELF.

Now, let me be clear: I think nearly everyone would benefit from a period of time tracking their food intake, and getting a rough approximation of what they’re actually eating. I like to call it “recalibrating portion distortion”.

But, almost no one I meet or work with, tells me “I want to count calories for the rest of my life”.

I think counting calories for a period of time is a great eye-opener, and a useful intervention, periodically. But it’s almost never an enjoyable, sustainable, long-term strategy, if you want to enjoy food.

Now, intuitive eating sounds great in theory, we love how liberating it sounds … it’s a little bit more than just “eating what I feel like” … Most days, if I ate according to my feelings, would be a train wreck, because eating junk food feels good (temporarily).

So, if you want to transition into a more mindful, intuitive approach to eating, here’s a few strategies that will make it a lot easier to do so successfully:

1. MERF: “Mostly Eat Real Food” … It’s incredibly difficult to intuitively eat junk food. Why? Because it’s engineered specifically to bypass your body’s signals for fullness and satiety, and it’s a lot more difficult to regulate. Not impossible … but a lot more difficult. Just like, you could run a marathon with an anchor around your waist, it’s possible, but you made it a lot harder.
Now I say “Mostly” instead of “Only” (partly because MERF (pronounced “Murph”) sounds better than OERF 😉 …

But, really, because I live in the real world, where sometimes you’re going to eat food purely for pleasure. And that’s ok. (and I plan on writing an article about eating junk food in the near future)

2. STHD: “Slow The HECK Down!” … if you want to tune in, and listen for your body’s signals for fullness and satiety, you need to know, your biology hasn’t caught up to the instant communication era … It can take between 15-20 minutes for your body to start letting you know you’ve eaten enough.

Slowing down has additional benefits, such as increased enjoyment of your food, better digestion, less gas and bloating, and at the end of the day you end up eating less unnecessary food.

This one is pronounced like the “ST” In “Stop”, except with a lisp 😜

3. Drink a glass of water before a meal. It’s a pretty simple trick that can help you feel satiated sooner 🙂
There’s been some concern that this would negatively affect digestion by “diluting the digestive juices” but, when you realize that humans have been eating soup for … millenia … it’s probably not such a big concern. In fact, there’s been research to show the opposite, that a glass of water can help to liquefy meals, which in turn, improves absorption.

4. Take smaller bites. This one ties into #2, when we’re eating like a seagull swallowing a tennis ball, we consume more than we need to, and our body doesn’t get the opportunity to communicate properly. Taking smaller bites helps to extend the time we spend eating, and thus we end up eating less unnecessary food.

5. DEWD: “Don’t Eat While Distracted” (DEWD is pronounced the way my aussie wife would say “Dude” … or maybe a posh Brit … 😀 )

Ever gone to a movie theater and annihilated an industrial-sized tub of popcorn? Demolished a “family pak” of Doritos while bingeing on Netflix?

We’re not that good at multi-tasking, despite what we actually think. It’s pretty hard to tune in to how satisfied you feel, while your brain is being majorly stimulated and distracted by a thrilling episode or movie.

Hand to mouth pretty much goes on autopilot in these situations. We end up in a hypnotic trance, and when we snap out of it, we’re incredulously amazed while simultaneously in disbelief


Anyway, how do you feel about counting calories? Good, bad, ugly?