Counting Calories Doesn’t Work – Here’s Why


woman looking at nutrition label at grocery store

Counting calories in every bite can be a frustrating, if not daunting task. It also may not actually help you meet your health goals. 

You may have heard that 3,500 calories equal one pound of body fat. Drop or burn just 500 calories a day and you should lose a pound a week, right? Well, theoretically – but it may not be as simple as that. Although paying attention to what you eat can help shed extra pounds, counting calories may not.

In fact, this outdated strategy may be sabotaging your long-term weight loss success. Registered Dietician Tara Rybicki, MS, RD, CDE, Munson Healthcare Community Coordinator shares tips on what you can do to meet your goals without tediously counting every bite. 

All calories are not the same

array of meats, seeds, beans, and vegetables Many people believe that a calorie is a calorie no matter its source. But our bodies don’t process all calories the same. For example, calories from refined carbohydrates (think pastries, packaged breakfast cereals, and white bread) are much more likely than protein to be stored as fat. In short: 300 calories of almonds will likely have a very different effect than 300 calories of cake.

Your body is unique

Ever wonder why your friend can eat whatever she wants without gaining weight? Every person burns calories differently. Your resting metabolic rate – how many calories your body requires with no activity – can dramatically impact how many calories you burn throughout the day. And individual hormone levels can impact hunger and fat storage.

What you can do

array of vegetables in lots of colors “When coming up with health-related goals, be sure to think beyond weight,” Tara shares. “Rather than counting calories, consider creating goals around choosing more nourishing foods. Nourishing foods help you care for your body. When your body has the nutrients that it needs, it is better equipped to support your well-being and carry you throughout your day.”

For successful weight loss, rethink your approach. Instead of counting how many calories you’re eating, take a closer look at your food choices:

  • Focus on a diet rich in protein, including eggs, fish, lean meats, poultry, and beans. Protein burns more energy than carbohydrates or fat and it helps keep you full.
  • Eat healthy fats. Avocados and nuts are examples of low-glycemic foods that can help you lose more weight and feel fuller longer
  • Incorporate lots of veggies. Vegetables offer fiber and water. They contain disease-fighting nutrients, are low in calories, and fill you up.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates. Simple, or refined carbs include things like white bread, pizza dough, pastries, white rice, white flour, and many types of cereal. They can greatly increase insulin levels and lead to weight gain.

Create more meaningful goals

Working toward all your goals can feel overwhelming. That’s why we created with the expert help of mental health and wellness staff at Munson Healthcare a tool to help you build personalized goals that will fit into your schedule. 

Download the Wellness RoutineToolkit

Healthy Recipes from Munson Healthcare