3 Reasons Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work

Woman eats a forkful of food while holding her plate while sitting outside

Imagine I eat a cupcake. And, yes, I do on occasion! Then, my husband, Bill, who is 6’2” and 200 pounds, eats the same kind and size cupcake.

Will that cupcake process in my body just like it will his? How about for a friend of mine? Will their body process that cupcake the same? You already know the answer.

Then why are we all counting calories as if they impact us equally?

What if the three of us eat a bowl of broccoli. Will our bodies respond similarly? Maybe. Will we respond the same way? Doubtful.

Woman holds a cupcake while looking at the camera

Clients often share they are counting calories. They are seriously convinced this is the magic potion… that the right number of calories will lead them from lacking confidence in their arms, legs, whatever, to a blissful existence where they love their bodies.

If I sound slightly skeptical, I am. For over 100 years, we have been counting calories to reach a level of satisfaction with our bodies. I know because I used to do the same. When I was a teenager, I convinced myself that a 500-calorie day would lead me to fitting in my jeans. That’s another story for another day, yet this is just part of the story and the journey to holistic wellness and feeling great about the body we’re blessed to have.

The problem with counting calories as our main approach to reaching our fitness and wellness goals is this: calories don’t account for “the whole story.” Here are three reasons calorie counting doesn’t work:

  1. When we focus solely on calorie counting, we are ignoring a host of other considerations, such as appetite, environmental factors, hormones, psychological factors, and the fact that food processing and absorption are different for every individual. We are all built differently with our own makeup and how our bodies process “calories in.” This is why it is always wise to pause when you hear someone say, “calories in, calories out.” It is not that simple.
  2. Not all calories are the same. For example, are these three daily intake options going to have the same effect inside of our bodies just because they are all the same number of calories? (Of course, you know the answer.)
    • 2,000 calories of candy
    • 2,000 calories of chicken and vegetables
    • 2,000 calories of an alcoholic beverage

    I think we can all agree the options above would result in vastly different results in energy levels, satiation, quality of sleep, cravings, and so much more

  3. The number of calories we need daily fluctuates. If we only allow ourselves a set number of calories each day, what happens when we do a heavy strength training workout and need more calories for energy and recovery? What if I’ve not slept well the night before and am craving a donut? I am craving the donut because I didn’t sleep well, which causes my hunger hormone, ghrelin, to elevate. Sadly, most of us don’t crave a bowl of broccoli when we are tired.
Woman eats a forkful of food while holding her plate while sitting outside

When we restrict our bodies of what they need, it can eventually lead to overindulgence. Inversely, when we have a pesky injury and can’t do as much physical movement as usual or have a long work week where much of our time is spent sitting at a desk, in meetings, or in traffic, our energy needs will be different. It is more important to LISTEN to your body and remain flexible with how you nourish it.

We want to help you (and your team!) take charge of your health and wellness. Here are two ways you can get started today. If you are interested in any of our newest programs, like our latest special for our small group fitness program, email us at alicia@alexandriawellness.com.

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