Counting calories always turns out to be a heated discussion. Either people freak out and claim that it’s way too obsessive, or the complete opposite.
Well, I know for a fact that there are pros and cons, and what works for one person may not work for another. As with everything, right? Right.
First of all, lets just get this out of the way – making assumptions based on if someone does something you don’t agree with is silly. For example, thinking whoever counts calories and/or macros is super restrictive, has a problem, whatever. That doesn’t help anything either.
Anyway, there are people who swear that you just need to eat clean, paleo, whatever and counting calories is nonsense. This can be true.
There are also people who preach the whole IIFYM thing and that calories and macros are all that matter. This can also be true.
There are people who have tried to count calories and macros and felt way too obsessive, restricted, and it made them crazy. This can be true.
There are also people who have counted calories and macros and felt freedom, being able to eat things they didn’t eat before because it wasn’t “clean” and have felt way less restricted. This can be true.
All of these things can happen, or not, depending on the person.
Pros of Calorie Counting
- It can help people lose weight. If you are starting on a weight loss journey, counting calories is one of the best tools to start with. Many people have NO idea how much they are eating, so tracking and logging food for a couple weeks can be super helpful by showing the person proper serving sizes for meals. This doesn’t mean they have to count forever, just to get the hang of it! Weight loss is all about calories in vs. calories out.
- It can help people gain weight. Some people may need to gain weight and underestimate how much they eat on a daily basis. Especially people who are used to eating very little, they may feel like they are eating a ton, but they actually are under-eating for their activity level.
- It can help you reach fitness goals. If you’re looking to compete in a competition, book a photo shoot, or something along those lines, counting calories and macros are probably the best way to achieve that. Many people have successfully done those things without tracking, but some people really benefit from it.
- It can allow you to eat things that aren’t “clean”. Let me start by saying you do NOT have to count calories just to eat things that aren’t considered clean. No. However, some people have restricted for so long and have had such a one-way mindset that you can ONLY eat clean food. This should NOT be the case. You should be able to eat whatever you want without guilt! Counting and tracking can simply be a way for people to get out of that mindset and can be a step towards a more balanced lifestyle.
Cons of Calorie Counting
- Can make you obsessive. For some, numbers are just too much to handle and make people even more obsessive. If they are still hungry but feel like they can’t eat because they have reached their calorie goals or macro goals can make people crazy. This is not good, because if you are hungry, EAT.
- Can be time consuming. Counting, weighing, logging – all of it can be super tedious, annoying, and just time consuming. Some people don’t go time fo dat!
- It can become an addiction. Similar to obsessing over numbers, some people start tracking their food and just cannot stop. Personally, I don’t think counting calories and macros is necessary for the rest of your life. Hell, I couldn’t do that. I won’t be in a nursing home weighing my food and tracking on my fitness pal hahaha. No but really, some people feel lost without tracking, and like they will gain 2093482093 pounds if they stop. This should not be the case for anyone.
I’m sure there are MANY more pros and cons, but these seem to be the most common.
My personal thoughts: I think counting calories and/or macros do have a time and a place. I think it can help people in many ways (read: pros). However, I also think it can become an obsession for some. I do not think you have to count and track forever. Personally, I would not be able to do that. If you start tracking and feel stressed and anxious, breathe, take a step back, and stop. You will live, I promise. If it helps you, count! Do what you know is best for you.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It knows best. If you are hungry, eat. If you are full, don’t force it. Feed it with nourishing food your gut and body likes, AND food your mind and soul likes. Find balance. Just eat. It’s really that simple.
What are your thoughts?
Have you benefited or not from tracking?