7 Reasons Why Counting Calories is a Waste of Time (do this instead!)

Attention reader: I’m unapologetic for all my grammatical errors. but if you want to help me you can proof read my spelling mistakes

Did you know most food labels are inaccurate?

I’m talking about buying a six pack of beer and coming home to find out that there is only 3 cans!

That’s a 50% difference.

Okay, look, I’m not here to get all scientific and tell all the bodybuilding competitors, physique athletes and guru nutrition sci-fi pros that they’re wasting their time.

I’m here specifically for the people out there (hopefully you) that’s looking for a way to cut unwanted belly fat, look good for the summer but not have to pull out a digital scale and weigh bread slices.

Seriously people do that (because I use to).

Why? Because each bread slice is different.  It doesn’t make sense that all of them are equal.

Okay, let’s get back on topic.

If you’re a trainer, coach or have some sort of nutrition geekiness in you (like it’s a serious hard-core hobby), this article is not for you – so Mr. Trainer stop reading.

It’s for the normal person that isn’t crazy about macros.

If you don’t know what macros means, this article is for you!

My goal of this article is to help you make an improvement in your health using uncomplicated ways that you can consider in your daily life.

Notice I said “consider.”

Actually, you shouldn’t follow any of the advice all.

Take the information in, translate it in a way that make sense to you and form your own opinion for what you do with the information.

Then give yourself advice.

Why Counting Calories is a Waste of Time – And what to do instead

  1. Food Labels are inaccurate

Does this really have  150 calories per serving?

That’s the question I asked myself one day.  Then low and behold, there’s a vast amount of information in the interwebs about how labels are misrepresented. Now let me put on record that food companies aren’t out to trick you into eating more calories than you think, however you have to exercise some degree of skepticism.


Because it’s healthy to be aware of the motives of food companies.  Their primary financial incentive is to get you to consume their product and eventually buy more.  Often what they will do is push the limits of what is said on the label.

There’s a degree of human error that you must consider.  Also combine that with the financial motivation for selling their tasty products – it’s no wonder why they put “low fat” or “low carb.”

Speaking for myself (a consumer and recovering junk food addict), they’re trying to make you feel good about what you’re buying.

So what’s that mean? Action steps and what to do instead and consider

Because the accuracy of packaged processed food is probably higher than what’s displayed on the label, assume already that you’ll overeat it.

And Probably absorb more of it.

This doesn’t mean not to have it,

But it simply means to be aware of the high likelihood of overconsumption.

Processed Food is created in a way to make you want more of it and create cravings for it.

  1. Most foods sold is designed to be eaten in copious amounts

I was going write something here, but #1 nails my point.

  1. Fake food equals fake results

From whole grain bread to whole wheat pasta, remember that it’s still processed. The more convenient the food the more likely you’ll unconsciously lie to yourself.

To make matters worse, if you’re overweight there’s a good chance you’ll underreport even more!  I know it’s kind of depressing, but now you know. *here’s  a study about that*

In other words, the more overweight and higher body fat you have, the more likely that the 500 calorie meal you think you’re having is really 750 calories.  A 50% difference. By the end of your 2,000 calorie day you will have probably eaten 3,000 calories.

What to do instead –

Don’t be that person:  neurotic crazy, borderline eating disorder person that weighs and measures everything (trust me I was that guy).  Just increase your awareness of convenient food.

The paleo community like to call it “fake food,” otherwise known as processed food.  It’s somewhat hard to believe that oatmeal and brown rice are fake and unhealthy – but certain subcultures of the fitness community will use strong words to nail a point home.

Having some ice cream, chips and soda every now again is not going to cause any negative healthy effect s(assuming you’re already healthy).

However, consider this – the more fake foods you eat the more fake results you’ll get.  Don’t count calories, just keep these so-called fake foods to a minimum.

And in the event you’re kicking your heels up and watching football with friends or having a dinner date – know that you’re going to have to work a bit harder to work it off or eat a less on other days.

Don’t turn yourself into a lab experiment (unless you want to), just know that you know better now. Consumption of fake foods mean fake results.

1600 calories of highly processed food is probably 1800-2500 calories, whereas whole foods with little to no processing is probably 1600 calories or even less.

  1. Do you drink water?

You know this, but it’s worth highlighting.  Most of the time we’re hungry is really that we are thirsty or mildly dehydrated.   So the next time you find yourself getting hungry for a snack, drink some water and find out if it’s “true hunger.”

When you stop eating junk food, start a traditional exercise regimen and start drinking more water – you end up eating less food.  Less food equals less calories and we all know what means, weight loss!

Also, when people go on so-called “detoxes” or go on highly restrictive plans, salt content goes down affecting all sorts of chemical processes in the body.  Low blood sugar to low blood pressure leading to weakness and dizziness.

The body is a delicate system at the same it’s very robust and anti-fragile.  If you try to lose weight too quickly, it will tell you.

However, understand the body will adapt and find ways to deal with the new stress placed upon it – eating fewer calories is a stressor.

It can adapt in positive ways and negative ways.

Do this instead –

Be aware of how much water you drink.  Do you drink water?  The common advice is to drink half your body weight in ounces.  Or in the case of 180lbs person, they should drink about 90 ounces of water.

If you want to be a cliché bodybuilder, go ahead and carry a 1 gallon jug (128oz), but if not, the next time you’re hungry, ask yourself – how much water have I had today?

drink a gallon of water

  1. Why are you hungry?

Okay, like I just said, you could be thirsty.  But consider this, are you hungry because you’ve eaten at 12pm for the past 10 years?  Time and location play a big role into our habits for eating.  Think of them as eating cues. If you don’t eat when you’re used to eating, you will have a desire to eat almost weather you’re hungry or not.

  1. All calories are not equal

Some foods burn more calories than others. The calories from processed foods will typically be absorbed more vs raw foods.

The composition of carbs, protein and fat will affect the work of your metabolism.

Consider the thermic effect of food.  Meals that have more protein and fiber will require more energy than a meal that’s comprised of more fat and sugar.

But cooking matters too!

The chemical make-up of the food changes in cooking.  In a way, cooking is a way of processing.  Smaller chunks of meat will digest easier than bigger chunks (like ground beef vs a slab of steak).

The nutrition rabbit hole is deep.

Raw vs cooked

Processed vs unprocessed

Fake sugar vs natural sugar

Glucose, fructose, sucrose, oh my!

Artificial sweetener…. Don’t even get me started.

We can go on for days if you like this kind of stuff 🙂

Look, everything matters and sometimes striving for “perfect” nutrition leads to a lot of diet failure due to skewed viewpoints.

What to do instead –

Protein is the most metabolically expensive food.  Take the most jaw chewing power and digestion.  There’s a reason why, when I went to eat breakfast with my wife at Mimi’s Café that I was full after eating the egg, but could absolutely crush the rest of my pancakes and French fries .

Yes, I asked for fries.

Meat, vegetables and low processed starches will always lead to getting full faster.

A baked Potato are more filling than French fries and potatoes chips.

Fibrous green leafy vegetables make you more full.

Carbs are yummy in almost all forms, and if you are not self-aware, it lead to overeating.

  1. Those calorie calculators for metabolism are inaccurate anyway

I was having a conversation with some fellow trainers about the Harris Benedict formula.  It’s the formula that’s used to determine how many calories you burn in a day and help you figure out how much you should eat to lose weight.

I have a calculator on my blog if you want, but if one simple way that I use to estimate is to multiply your weight by x10 and then and another 40-60% depending on your physical activity.

If you still want to learn macros here’s an article.

Another simple method is to make it a one-step approach and multiply by 15 or 16.  It’s a rough estimate that’s close to the Harris Benedict .. but..

Wait I got a fit bit, can’t I just use that to figure out my calories..

Or the old school body bugg

Or vivofit, iphone, andoird..[insert some other tech tracker]  ..

Those things are terribly inaccurate.

Once you have a good general idea, it almost doesn’t matter.  Seriously it doesn’t because it will lead to unhealthy neurotic behavior.

I mean it can be good initially, but having an overall balanced philosophy about food is important not just physical health but mental health.

Again, that’s my opinion.

And it’s something that you must consider.

But then again, I’ll sign off by suggesting what the Hodge twins would say.

And if you know who the Hodge twins are, this article wasn’t meant for you.


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