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  • Writer's pictureKristin Leeper

Why Calories Don't Count for Much

Updated: May 17, 2023

RIP burnt brownies.

All joking aside though - I’m not a big fan of calorie-counting because of how easily it can become toxic and fuel both food anxieties and disordered eating. All calories really tell you is how much energy you get from a food - not which nutrients it contains, or whether the fibre content will help keep your blood sugar balanced, or whether it contains essential fats that provide the building blocks for different hormones we need.

400 calories of movie theatre popcorn is certainly not the same as 400 calories of steamed veggies, but more importantly - if fixating on calories is making you feel guilty for enjoying a snack at the movies or pressuring you into going hungry in order not to exceed some caloric limit, there’s a problem here.

There’s a lot of talk about calories when it comes to weight loss, but if (and only if) you and your doctor both agree that safe weight loss will be truly beneficial to your mental and physical health, then there’s a better way to go about it. Eating a diet that’s generally rich in vitamins and minerals so that your body isn’t constantly craving missing nutrients, keeping your metabolism happy with exercise in whatever capacity you enjoy, and supporting hormonal systems like the thyroid and adrenals (which can promote slow metabolism and weight gain when out of whack) all offer a healthier solution that doesn’t run the risk of promoting a numbers obsession.

And - this goes for everyone - eating until we’re satisfied (or just because you made brownies and you’re excited to try one) is crucial because 1) our bodies deserve nourishment so that they can perform their incredible task of keeping us alive, 2) food is meant to be enjoyed and you deserve to enjoy it! and 3) constantly going hungry sends our bodies the message that food is scarce, which means they’ll slow metabolism to start conserving energy. This is a one-way ticket to hormonal imbalances and can make us feel tired, depressed, and result in weight gain - and that's why food deprivation as a means of weight loss, in addition to just generally feeling terrible and promoting disordered eating, isn’t really a viable solution.

All that aside, there are times when calories can provide us with helpful information - like whether a protein shake we made will be enough to fill us up for breakfast (if it’s only 150 calories, we’ll likely need more in it, like berries or hemp seeds, to keep us going until lunch or our mid-morning snack!). Calories can also help us estimate the number of servings we’ll get when doing meal prep - this can be especially helpful if you’re trying higher-fat recipes (like keto), since the high calories make the food super filling and tend to yield more servings than other recipes.

But in general? Calories are just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to a healthy diet, and there’s too much to enjoy in life (and brownies to make) to waste time and energy counting them. Just remember to set an alarm if you plan on taking a nap next time you’re baking.


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My Fitness Pal Calorie Tracker Use in the Eating Disorders

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