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Suzi Fisher – Improve Your Relationship with Food

September 11, 2023

How calorie counting can lead to rigidity and rules

Posted In: Wellness Posted By: Suzi Fisher

Calorie counting, although a popular method for weight management and nutrition tracking, can often lead to rigidity and a strict set of rules that may not be sustainable or healthy in the long term. Here’s why calorie counting can lead to such rigidity and rules:

  1. Obsession with Numbers: Calorie counting involves meticulously tracking every calorie consumed and expended. This numeric focus can lead to an obsession with the exact figures, causing individuals to fixate on numbers rather than listening to their body’s hunger and fullness cues. It becomes easy to prioritize hitting a specific calorie target over overall health.
  2. Labeling Foods as “Good” or “Bad”: Calorie counting often categorizes foods solely based on their calorie content. This can result in labeling foods as either “good” (low-calorie) or “bad” (high-calorie), which oversimplifies the complexity of nutrition. This binary thinking can lead to guilt and anxiety when indulging in foods deemed “bad.”
  3. Restrictive Eating: To meet a calorie goal, individuals may resort to restrictive eating, cutting out entire food groups or avoiding foods they enjoy. This can lead to nutritional imbalances and deficiencies and an unsatisfying and joyless eating experience.
  4. Disordered Eating: For some, calorie counting can trigger or exacerbate disordered eating patterns, such as orthorexia (an obsession with healthy eating) or binge eating. Constantly tracking calories and adhering to strict rules can disrupt natural eating patterns and lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.
  5. Social Isolation: Calorie counting can be isolating in social settings. Participating in social gatherings or enjoying meals with friends and family can be challenging when strict calorie-counting rules dominate one’s eating habits. This isolation can affect relationships and overall well-being.
  6. Stress and Anxiety: Constantly worrying about calorie intake can increase stress and anxiety around food. This stress can trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that can impact weight and overall health negatively.
  7. Inflexibility: Calorie counting often leaves little room for flexibility. When faced with unexpected situations or cravings, individuals relying heavily on calorie counting may struggle to adapt and resort to extreme measures, such as skipping meals or overexercising.
It is essential to be aware of the potential pitfalls of calorie counting, including rigidity, strict rules, and negative psychological and social consequences. For many individuals, adopting a more balanced and flexible approach to nutrition, focusing on overall food quality and intuitive eating, can promote better long-term health and well-being without the rigidity and rules associated with calorie counting.