An active and healthy lifestyle looks different to everyone. For some people, this includes counting calories, whether that’s to lose, gain or maintain their weight. But does everyone need to do this?
Let’s break down why counting calories is so common and who it might be right for.
When is counting calories necessary?
Just as the most tried and true method of losing weight is to eat less, to gain weight you must eat more. While some people are able to eyeball and estimate their intake to increase or decrease their food with great results, this isn’t the case for everyone.
Without tracking calories, it can be easy to eat too much or too little for your specific goals. For example, you might not be eating at enough of a surplus to build the muscle you’ve been working so hard in the gym for.
Or you might think you’re creating enough of a deficit to be losing weight, but you’re actually consuming more calories than you thought.
Even if you aren’t trying to lose or gain weight, tracking calories can be an incredibly useful tool. If you work out regularly, it could be a good idea to track your intake for a week or even just a day to make sure you’re eating enough to fuel your body.
Just as a few calorically dense ingredients to significantly increase your intake for the day, it’s not hard to accidentally undereat. You might think that giant salad or dinner plate piled high with vegetables is a decent meal, but there’s a big difference between volume and calories.
If you’re reaching for a snack soon after lunch or starving too soon after eating breakfast then chances are you’re not eating as much as you should be. Checking in with your calories every now and again can help you to keep your intake at a healthy level.
When counting calories is a bad idea
There is a negative stigma surrounding calorie counting and for good reason. For some people, counting calories isn’t a useful tool at all. Rather, it can become a dangerous and unhealthy habit.
It’s easy to slip into a toxic mindset from counting calories. From seeing food as no more than numbers to falling into the habit of decreasing your intake more and more, sometimes tracking calories can harm more than it helps.
Counting calories is by no means the only way to reach your goals, but it certainly can help. Like many things, counting calories isn’t inherently good or bad, either. It’s just a tool, but one that can be useful or damaging depending on the person and how it’s used.