Don’t Over-Rely on Calorie Counting

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You’re not a computer, and your body doesn’t deal in absolutes.

There are certain things in life you can keep an absolutely accurate tally of. Personal finances, number of cookies eaten, how many fancy Santa statues you have on the shelves of your living room, and so on. The number of calories you ingest and burn on a regular basis is not one of those things, however.

I don’t know precisely when calorie-counting became a commonplace practice, probably somewhere around the late 90s, early 2000s, but the thing about calories is that your body doesn’t always take in and put out exactly what it says on the nutritional block. You’re not a computer, after all; you can’t just type two minus one and get one. How much energy your body utilizes depends on a myriad of factors, including, but not limited to, dietary habits, organ functionality, rate of physical activity, and so, so much more. It’s literally impossible to know how many calories your body is burning down to a precise digit, which is enough to make you wonder if there’s even a point to counting calories at all.

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Calorie counting is a common practice for those on a particular diet, but oftentimes, just being on a diet is more effective in itself than constantly tracking how many calories your body takes in. Studies have shown that being more cognizant of the food that you eat, such as writing down how often you eat vegetables and fruits, is more helpful from a dieting perspective than being murderously focused on the calories. Besides that, constantly counting calories can be extremely mentally exhausting. Food is meant to be eaten, not analyzed and deconstructed. A dieting journal should read “today I ate some asparagus,” not “today I ate precisely four stalks of asparagus, containing X calories and X vitamins which will be burned off in X minutes of exercise.” That’s crazy talk.

If you’re trying to lose weight, by all means, take a close look at that nutritional block. Just don’t drive yourself bonkers with mathematics.