The Pros and Cons of Calorie Counting

October 11, 2011

This is a guest post by Kate Croston.

Calorie counting is one of those things that people either love or hate. It can be a good way to ensure that you’re not eating too many or too little calories or you’re biggest enemy, making you over-focus on what you’re eating day in and day out. It all depends on your approach. So is calorie counting beneficial or detrimental to weight loss?

Pros:

  1. Portion Control

    We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need massive meals and that we are supposed to finish our entire plate, otherwise we’re doing something wrong. But the truth is that our portion sizes are out of control. Restaurants in particular are guilty of serving a meal that has two or three portions rolled into one. And with the mindset that we need to clean our plates, that’s a recipe for disaster – which is where calorie counting can help. Calorie counting gives you a realistic approach to how much food you should be consuming to maintain or lose weight and encourages you to eat only that which satisfies your caloric needs.

  2. Accountability

    When we’re focusing on our food intake, we become much more accountable with what we’re eating. It helps us to think twice about having that fast food burger or that second scoop of ice cream. When you know that you have a specific limit of calories to eat, you’re less likely to over indulge.

  3. Healthy Choices

    When you know the calorie count of a Big Mac versus a homemade grilled chicken sandwich, it becomes easier to pass on a 2,000 calorie meal and instead pick the 500 calorie one. In a nation that glorifies over indulgence, we sometimes need reminding that not everything needs to be smothered in cheese or followed by a dessert.

Cons:

  1. Becoming Obsessive

    It’s easy to get wrapped up in how many calories you’re eating and counting each and every one. The point of calorie counting is to help you to watch what you eat and to help you lose or maintain your weight. It isn’t to make you cringe at the thought of indulging every once in a while because you’re going to overdo your calories for the day.

  2. Time consuming

    Counting calories takes a lot of time, especially when you’re preparing meals at home. It isn’t easy to figure out each and every component of a meal and then add them all together to get a total calorie count and then figure out the calories for each individual serving as well. You have to be committed to calorie counting for it to work.

  3. Disordered Eating

    To a degree, calorie counting can factor in to and encourage disordered eating. Being conscientious of portion size is one thing, being fanatical about it is another. This can become dangerous if you are spending all of your time worrying about eating one too many chips and then feeling guilty if you went outside your limit once or twice.

Like most activities centered on maintaining a healthy weight, there are pros and cons to counting your calories. If done the right way, calorie counting can act as a great tool in aiding with your weight loss. If done the wrong way, however, it can easily spiral into obsession.

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