Counting calories has been the oldest technique in the diet culture world. A simple,
formulaic technique that makes weight loss simple. It was proposed several times that calories
out must exceed calories in, and this was the simplest and only way to achieve weight loss. In
this blog post today, I am going to debunk this simplistic theory for weight loss and consider
why this calorie counting may be problematic and promote disordered eating.
Why a calorie is not a calorie
A calorie is simply defined as a source of fuel in food to provide energy in the form of
heat. Calories are crucial in food to provide the essential part of food which is energy. While this
information does prove crucial to ensure we are eating enough to regulate our daily bodily
processes, calories can be slightly more complex than the simple number listed on the box. I will
explain this idea in the given figure. Imagine you are given a whole banana that is roughly 100
calories. Then imagine a 90-calorie snack pack of muffins. If calories were the only thing taken
into consideration, one may gravitate towards the 90-calorie pack of muffins for weight loss
because they contain fewer calories.
However, with this example, I am exemplifying how important it is to consider all of the nutrients besides calories. Within the banana, with the 100 calories, you are also consuming the great fiber content and micronutrients that are packed into that one banana, as with the muffins you are consuming fewer calories but are missing out on those essential nutrients. When considering calories, it is so important to read beyond the calorie
content to see the ingredients in the food you are consuming and the macro and micronutrients
you are taking in. Eating whole, real foods that serve your body proper energy and essential
nutrients is a way better way to prioritize what you are consuming.
Why calorie counting apps promote disordered eating
We have all seen and most likely used the weight loss apps that circulate all throughout
social medial and are promoted through our current diet culture. These apps provide a formula
for the specific number of calories and macronutrients to be consumed every day based on the
consumers’ goals, promoting that counting calories is a seemingly easy way to lose weight effectively.
However, I want to try to steer you away from these apps, as they can heavily promote disordered eating and unhealthy weight loss.No formula exists for weight loss, so it is important to not trust these apps when they tell
you simply “stay under this number of calories per day and you will lose weight”. Some of
these calorie or ‘weight loss’ apps promote crazy caloric restrictions to help people lose weight,
such as telling an adult female to eat under 1000 calories per day, leading to disordered eating
This can be dangerous for some woman who strives to reach this number every day,
leading to undereating and unhealthy weight loss as they become fixated on the numbers listed
under these apps. These apps fail to recognize the specific metabolic type of the patient, previous
tendencies of disordered eating, hormonal imbalances, and so many more factors that go into
determining a proper meal regime for a patient. Counting calories alone is no indicator of health!!!
You can find hope and help here!
If you have been counting calories and restricting for a long time and don’t know where to start to repair your metabolism and your relationship with food – then look no further! We have many resources on this page as well as trained therapists and dietitians who can nurture you back into a meal plan that will rebuild your metabolism.