Stop counting calories

8 Ways to Stop Counting Calories Obsessively

Are you stuck in the vicious cycle of diet culture, counting calories, and obsessing about the number on the scale? In society today, we are aggressively targeted with messages about diets, cleanses, and 30-day transformations. We’re told that efforts toward “self-improvement” should be strictly in the pursuit of a “new” body—one that requires constant vigilance, control, and scrutiny to ensure it doesn’t slip back into a previous year’s iteration. We see and hear these messages everywhere. It’s no wonder we might feel the need to control how much we eat and how our bodies look 24/7.

Calorie counting is one of the quickest and easiest tricks that diet culture encourages us to use, to “fix” ourselves and “monitor” what we eat. It gives us a false sense of control and leads us to focus on outside factors to determine the “right” way to eat, rather than trusting our own bodies.

What we are NOT told: With calorie counting can come feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and shame. Calorie counting can rob us of our joy, connection, and time, and negatively impact our relationship with food and our metabolism. In this post, we will talk about 8 ways to stop counting calories…and how to start forming a better relationship with your mind, body, and spirit!

What Can I do Instead of Counting Calories?

  1. Delete those calorie counting apps and get in touch with your inner hunger!
    You won’t stop obsessively counting calories if you don’t stop logging and tracking them. It’s easy to get hooked on the apps on your phone, smart watch, tablet, and computer. Take some time to delete anything that might trigger you to track your calories. The only way to accurately know how much food is enough for your body is by listening to it! 

    Try this: Download the Peace with Food app. If apps are your thing, this one allows you to receive “be present” reminders throughout the day. You can check in with your own hunger and fullness; check in at the beginning and end of each meal to recognize physical satiety; and discover your body’s own unique rhythms.

  2. Ditch the scale.
    This is controversial according to the health and wellness industry. But how many times have you let the number on the scale determine your mood? When we solely focus on weight as an indicator of moral value, we set ourselves up for failure when that number fluctuates (as it should! That is normal for human bodies). Overall health is far more complex than the number on the scale. Meanwhile obsessing over this “magic” number can negatively impact your mental and social wellbeing.

    Try this: Physically throw out (or donate) your scale and/or hand it over to a support person so you are not tempted to use it; At the doctor’s office, ask either for a blind weight or ask NOT to be weighed at all; Find a weight neutral or HAES (heath at every size) healthcare provider that does not use weight as a biomarker for health.

  3. Focus on balance in your meals rather than calories.
    It’s so easy to get caught up in counting calories that we miss the importance of a well-balanced plate! Instead of fixating on the caloric value, switch your mindset: Focus on ensuring you have all of the food groups present at meals and snacks.

    Try this: Focus on incorporating the three most important food groups daily: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These are what provide our body with the most energy. Also work to add color and variety to your plate. Focus on adding foods that you actually LIKE…and do not eat something if you don’t genuinely enjoy it!

  4. Accept that it will take some time to retrain your brain.
    If you’ve been counting calories for years, the behavior probably feels automatic. You may be questioning your ability to stop. It is very normal to feel frustrated if the behavior doesn’t change right away. But according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes AT LEAST TWO MONTHS for a new behavior to form and become automatic. Set realistic expectations for reducing/eliminating calorie counting behaviors.

    Try this: When you catch yourself thinking about the calories on the nutrition label, try and transition that thought to how the food will feel, both physically and mentally. (Example: Am I feeling physically satisfied by what I am eating?) This will help you better connect with the food itself, and will also help you to better connect with your own mind, body, and spirit.

  5. Learn the concepts of Intuitive Eating to help form a better relationship with your body and food.
    Intuitive eating (IE) may sound too good to be true, but it is actually a self-care model of eating that empowers you to become the expert of your own body. This concept was developed by two Registered Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Their 10 principles of IE range from “reject the diet mentality” to “discover the satisfaction factor” and “respect your body.” IE honors both physical and mental health. It focuses on the relationship around the food you eat rather than on using calorie counts and external factors to determine overall health.

    Try This: Educate yourself on the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating by clicking here. Start incorporating these principles into your daily life.

  6. Engage in joyful movement.
    Do you view exercise as a form of punishment, or a way to forcefully change your body to meet society’s standards? Maybe you see exercise as a chore, and struggle with guilt and shame when admitting that you don’t even like it. If this sounds familiar, then you might never have experienced joyful movement. Joyful movement is an approach to physical activity that focuses on pleasure and emphasizes choice. All types of movement are valid. To make joyful movement inclusive, all types of movement must be morally equal, even if they may have different purposes. There is no shame or guilt surrounding the need to rest or “take a day off.” Joyful movement helps you focus on all the wonderful things your body can do, in a spirit of gratitude.

    Try this: Dedicate some time to reflect on what types of movement make you happy. Figure out what YOU really like to do, and disregard what society tells you is appropriate. Example: Maybe joyful movement for you is a slow stroll around your neighborhood, rather than a mile-long vigorous run.

  7. Work on your own mental health.
    Mental health is so intertwined with how we view ourselves. Mental health is also a key factor as we work to improve our relationship with food and our body. It’s important to remember that mental health is equally as important as physical health, so don’t let it slip. Seek out a professional, like a therapist or counselor, who can help identify triggers that may be causing negative thoughts or behaviors.

    Try this: Working on mindfulness and even meditation can help put you in a better headspace if you are struggling to change your thought patterns and behaviors. Here are some apps we recommend that can help with mindfulness: Headspace, The Mindfulness App, Calm.

  8. Use positive affirmations.
    Positive affirmations are statements that you can write, read, or say out loud that can help reduce negative and limiting thoughts. Affirmations may seem silly and hard to believe but remember, it takes at least two months to form a habit…so keep practicing! Positive affirmations can help cultivate a more optimistic, confident, and resilient mindset while helping us control the way we react to certain situations.

    Try This: Are you thinking “How do I even write a positive affirmation?” A quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas! Another thing to think about: What kinds of negative thoughts live in your headspace, and how can you change them? Writing down negative thoughts and then formulating specific affirmations in response can slowly but surely change your mindset.

Are you ready to stop calorie counting and ready to heal your relationship with food and your body? The road can be difficult but we are here to help! Meet with a Registered Dietitian to get started on your path to health and wellness. You will receive an individualized plan to help you feel comfortable and confident as you grow in self love. And if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, check out Nourish by Anderson’s Nutrition, our specialized program for eating disorder clients.