Can counting your calories be bad for you?

Hey everyone,


I've already posted something like this on another thread, but it got swallowed up. So I thought I would post it as its own topic.

I've been on and off MyFitnessPal for a few years with ups and downs in weight loss success (naturally). I'm really starting to notice how depressed I get when I count calories eaten/burned. When I use MyFitnessPal and Fitbit, I obsess over numbers. I always think about what I'm going to eat, when I'm going to eat it, what I need to do for exercise, and how much exercise I need to do. I can't go to local restaurants and I can't eat my mother-in-law's cooking because there's no available calorie information for me to enter into the app. I'm always doing math and looking up multiple sources of calorie information. I'm glued to my phone all the time. How many calories are in this? How many ounces is that? Is this the right serving size? Can I trust this unofficial source of restaurant calorie info? What's my TDEE? Should I go lower? Should I go higher? So many numbers...I just can't think about anything else. So when I get so overwhelmed and quit, I of course get depressed again because I quit and I haven't lost any weight. Then the emotional eating begins again.

I know this has to do with a lot of different things, but I just can't do this anymore. Is strict calorie counting absolutely necessary? I feel like it is. But it ruins me. There's got to be a better way for people with this way of thinking. And I know that "changing your attitude" is super necessary, but that's way easier said than done and it's different for everyone.

Help?
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Replies

  • DeguelloTex
    DeguelloTex Posts: 6,658 Member
    What do you propose to do in place of counting calories?
  • ScottH_200
    ScottH_200 Posts: 377 Member
    I can't offer any advice. I've lost 106 lbs in 310 days here on MFP, logging every single day. I just find it's not that difficult of a thing to and it certainly hasn't been "bad" for me.
  • paperpudding
    paperpudding Posts: 7,981 Member
    Calorie counting works well for me.

    But, yes, I Believe it can be bad for some people - if it is making you distressed and fearful, maybe it is not for you.

    Of course, to lose weight you will still need to eat less than you burn but if you can achieve this by another method ( eg following a 'diet' plan or just generally eating less/ moving more ) then that's fine too.
  • Camo_xxx
    Camo_xxx Posts: 1,112 Member
    Obsessing over anything is not a healthy activity.

    Are you actually obsessed with it as in you are addicted to it ? If so then perhaps some professional help is in order.

    If on the other hand you are just worrying about those types of questions because you don't know the answers then work on educating yourself so you can quit fretting over it.

    Being occupied by the thought and process of something can be used as a positive if you use it to keep you motivated. But like everything in life ( food included ) you need to learn to exercise self control over the behavior so it doesn't become an addiction.
  • PhoebeApril
    PhoebeApril Posts: 5 Member
    Hi there!

    I had a very similar problem - I became obsessed with counting calories and lost a LOT of weight, but soon I started binge-eating and piled it all back on, plus some.

    I've been seeing a therapist for over a year now and my eating is no longer something I stress about. The problem was I was using calorie counting or binge eating as ways to distract myself from or to CONTROL my emotions. So you need to ask yourself, is there something you are avoiding that you are using calorie counting to distract yourself from? When you're at that point of obsession, your weight isn't actually the problem. It's a lack of self-love. Try to love and accept yourself exactly as you are - YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE.

    I'm using MFP again, but more from a nutritional point of view. If I miss a day, or can't count something - ie a restaurant dinner - I don't stress out. As long as I have listened to my body and know that I am satisfied I don't worry. But in your case I think you should take a break from MFP/calorie counting and maybe consider some counselling. It's a hard habit to kick but it is necessary to recovery.

    I hope a little of this was helpful for you, good luck xx
  • Kalikel
    Kalikel Posts: 9,626 Member
    Emotional eating is something you should consider discussing with a therapist, especially one who specializes in eating problems. If you feel like you try, but cannot stop yourself from eating, a therapist is probably a really GOOD idea. Can't hurt!

    You don't have to count calories to lose weight. I didn't weigh myself, much less my food, for the first 30-40 pounds. You can just eat less and move more.

    I remain blissfully ignorant of my TDEE or even what a TDEE is (in my head, I pronounce it "tuh-dee".). Don't know, don't want to know.

    The world don't move to the beat of just one drum. :)
  • baleighcakes
    baleighcakes Posts: 28 Member
    I think what I'm trying to get at is: calorie counting is the most accurate thing you can do...but maybe it's not right for everyone? I've been educating myself on weight loss stuff for years now. I sound like a nutritionist when I offer advice to anyone. I know all the logistics. But the psyche behind it is something else entirely.

    I know it's potentially problematic for me because my feelings are very close to fear sometimes...my mother-in-law could cook me the healthiest meal in the world, but unless I myself scrutinize every ingredient and break down the recipe into calories - I can't eat it. I can't. Estimating would gnaw at me. I could give a good guess and eat it, but then I'd feel scared/guilty and compensate by eating less calories than planned for the day JUST IN CASE. You know?

    I was just wondering if anyone was going through the same thing and how they have maybe conquered it. Can you honestly lose weight by eying portions, eating good foods, and listening to your body? That's what I want to do, but I'm not sure where to start.

    Even though psychology is obviously related to this, I'm not necessarily looking for advice strictly in that area. I've already got that degree. I'd appreciate any personal stories.
  • countscalories
    countscalories Posts: 418 Member

    The world don't move to the beat of just one drum. :)

    Perfect!
  • baleighcakes
    baleighcakes Posts: 28 Member
    By the way, I hope I don't sound condescending in these posts when it comes to the psychology of this all. I understand it and have experience with it. I was just trying to prove the point and ask for actual nutrition advice.

    But the stories of recovering are always wonderful and appreciated, of course.
  • baleighcakes
    baleighcakes Posts: 28 Member
    Emotional eating is something you should consider discussing with a therapist, especially one who specializes in eating problems. If you feel like you try, but cannot stop yourself from eating, a therapist is probably a really GOOD idea. Can't hurt!

    You don't have to count calories to lose weight. I didn't weigh myself, much less my food, for the first 30-40 pounds. You can just eat less and move more.

    I remain blissfully ignorant of my TDEE or even what a TDEE is (in my head, I pronounce it "tuh-dee".). Don't know, don't want to know.

    The world don't move to the beat of just one drum. :)





    Thank you for this. =)
  • Kalikel
    Kalikel Posts: 9,626 Member

    The world don't move to the beat of just one drum. :)

    Perfect!
    Thanks.

    Hilarious name & pic. :)
  • Camo_xxx
    Camo_xxx Posts: 1,112 Member
    Having my fair share of life long battles with addiction I will say that it is incredibly brave for you to admit your problem. That is always the first step. short of the general advise I offered, I do not think it is wise for me to go any further other then to encourage you to seek qualified help to address the issue.

    Be brave, be strong and do what you need to do to take care of the issue.
  • shireeniebeanie
    shireeniebeanie Posts: 293 Member
    Many times, I do have to give it a best guess. But I look at many entries and choose a high estimate, or use the recipe builder.

    For goodness sake, don't give up eating out! Food made by other people is delicious. :-)
  • katrinadulce
    katrinadulce Posts: 61 Member
    Have you tried to focus instead on the macro ratios? Maybe increasing your daily calorie goal so you are not so stressed about making a specific number or under a specific number and focus on making sure you eat a balanced diet, and calories be damned for a few weeks?
    You could also track every food you eat and then set the serving size to zero.
    People tend to eat less and have better weight loss success if they simply write down what they eat whether or not they involve math.
    Maybe if you can go a whole week just getting your ratios as close as you can, or a whole week of not knowing or looking at ANY of your calories, you won't stress so much about each individual ingredient of every single meal.

    You need to be OK with not knowing the exact value of a specific item of food or meal. If you can train yourself to do that, or if you can train yourself to focus on other things, you might do better in the ling run.
    Do your best with the information you DO have and treat MFP food diary as a guideline-based learning experience, not as a rule-based straight jacket.
  • Roaringgael
    Roaringgael Posts: 339 Member
    My problem with food is was and always will be that I want to eat more than I need to survive.
    I'm 55, I'm losing weight now because I realised that my health was more important than oral gratification.

    I wanted to stop the consequences of over-eating all my life - RATHER THAN STOP THE OVER-EATING.

    I have a very poor understanding of how much is too much and can kid myself.
    MFP works for me because I (and this is just about me) know that if I write it all down it gets added up and I know where I truly am.
    Believe me, you can still kid about portion size and calories if you want I guess.

    Everyone is different. This works for me otherwise I return to over-eating, not tomorrow or a week later but somewhere in the future I'll go back to junk food, poor food choices and a lot of it. Its been my track record so far!

    I also know this is about my emotional and spiritual well being and I work on that from different angles. I lost a lot of weight and kept it off for a couple of years in my 30s and I know how I consciously returned to over-eating because it seemed easier than not.
    That's just my story.:smile:

    If you want to try intuitive eating, there is a whole mob out there giving it ago. Thing is there is too much food around us these days, a lot more than we need to survive. So I don't know how intuitive thats going to be.
  • Artionis
    Artionis Posts: 105 Member
    I know this has to do with a lot of different things, but I just can't do this anymore. Is strict calorie counting absolutely necessary? I feel like it is. But it ruins me. There's got to be a better way for people with this way of thinking. And I know that "changing your attitude" is super necessary, but that's way easier said than done and it's different for everyone.

    If you "can't", then don't. Find another way. I do take issue with the "it's easier said than done" approach. Everything of value in life is easier "said" than "done." So what? Learning calculus, swimming, chess, parenting, making a marriage work, hamstring stretches, baking a layer cake and virtually every human activity is easier "said" than "done." I've never been proud of doing easy things.

    Later this year I'll be boarding an all-inclusive cruise ship for several weeks. No extra charge for specialty restaurants or alcohol. No practical way to count every calorie. I'll make smart choices, use the gym regularly, and come home at break even plus or minus a pound. Then I'll start counting again.

    Find a way. There's no magic. Try the Weight Watchers point system, try something else. Do you really have a degree in psychology? Was it easier said than done?
  • essa78
    essa78 Posts: 44 Member
    I have very good days during the week when i take my lunch to work and plan out my calorie intake the day before hand. The weekends however can get kinda messy. Because I want that restaurant or home cooked meal. And you know what? Life is too short to say no to your mother in laws cooking. It's ok, it's just a day or two, come Monday, I'm back in the saddle, with my little lunch bag full of pre-counted calories. My weight loss may be slow, but it's REALISTIC. It's not an all or nothing kinda thing, it's simply being conscience of the choices I'm making with my food intake. It's creating a standard, a kind of scorecard for my health. Most days I do well, but there are some days that I don't, and on those days I take notice~ how do I feel? Sluggish? Gassy? Bloated? Grumpy? Thirsty? Do I really want that second helping? Maybe I should have a big glass of water before I decide.

    Look at it like a bank, you have a little money and you spend it on the necessities. But every once in while, you run into a little extra cash, and you get to treat yourself. And that's nice, right? But you can't do that all the time~ you have to live within your means. But that doesn't mean you NEVER get to have fun.

    Enjoy your life, by being healthy and living well and every once in a while saying "yes, please" to riches you don't always have.
  • DenDweller
    DenDweller Posts: 1,438 Member
    MFP is a tool. You choose how to wield it most effectively.

    Some people it seems, get lost in the minutia of the accounting of every last calorie. This is a bit ridiculous. I can go into a technical discussion of different types of error, but I won't. Let's just say at a certain point the difference you make putting additional effort into your estimates amounts to a fart in a hurricane. You are then wasting time.

    What you should be taking away from MFP is a history of information you need to make good judgments for future decisions.

    Record truthfully. Estimate reasonably. Measure results. Make adjustments with an eye on your history. Repeat until you succeed.

    Oh, and allow for the vagaries of life to interfere. Because, they will.

    It's a simple process. Given time you will be successful. Good luck.