Does calorie counting really make sense?

Weight loss experts suggest you should count calories every day in order to maintain, lose, or gain weight. My question is, does calorie counting work in the real world? We are always so busy and with so much already on our busy minds does counting calories help or actually hinder us?

Personally, I have tried to track my calories many times in the past with each effort starting and stopping almost in the same 24 hours. I just don’t have the level of diligence required and I suspect I am not alone.

Calorie Counting Pros:

  • Counting calories puts your diet front and center in your life. Recording what you eat makes you more mindful thus you think twice before eating junk.
  • You can maintain a healthy weight by understanding the equation between calorie consumption and calorie burn. If you want to lose weight naturally you tip the balance in favor of burn versus consumption.
  • Can you really have that jelly donut? By being mindful of your calorie consumption you can make smarter decisions about what you can or cannot eat.


  • Unless all you eat is boxed foods it is very hard to accurately judge how many calories you have really consumed. No one walks around with a scale in their purse or bag.
  • Studies have shown that people who do count calories do so incorrectly and worse yet tend to grossly underestimate the calories they actually have eaten (article).
  • Does this effort make losing weight more stressful? “Oh no! I forgot to write down how much string bean casserole I had! How many calories is that anyway? Arrgg!”
  • Finally, who has time for this? Most of us will start counting calories for a few days and then lose interest. We have way too much going on in our lives as it is.

In my mind the Cons outweigh the Pros. Counting calories does NOT make sense. I suggest a compromise.

There are easier methods to tracking your caloric intake without actually writing everything down. Instead of thinking in calories, think in terms of portions. Come up with a simple daily plan like: 1-2 fruits, 3-4 vegetables, 2-3 proteins, 1-2 grains per day depending on what you want to accomplish. Imagine a portion as being the size of an apple. You can easily tick off in your mind what you have eaten as the day goes by.

Another idea is to be proactive. Build a weekly plan and condense your shopping list into these simple portion controlled concepts. The key thing to remember is to not to stress about it. You have enough stress in your life but a little pre-planning will help to ensure you are eating the right foods in the right portions to help meet your goals. This small effort will give you some peace of mind.



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