8 Ways to Stop Calorie Counting Obsessively

Are you stuck allowing an application or allotted calorie number determine how and what you can eat? Keep reading to learn more about the downfalls of calorie counting, and ways to stop calorie counting by allowing your body’s cues to be your guide!

The Downside of Calorie Counting

In society today, we are aggressively targeted with methods to change and limit our intake in search for the “perfect” caloric distribution. There is widespread focus on “calories in versus calories out” as a means for changing our bodies. Calorie counting is one of the quickest and easiest tricks that diet culture encourages us to use to “fix” ourselves and “monitor” what we eat.


The means by which we calculate calories is often unreliable. The number of calories our bodies burn depends on a variety of factors of which cannot be accounted for using a simple formula. These factors include genetics, influences on metabolism (ie. stress or history of under-eating), activity level, current health conditions (current illness, breastfeeding), etc.

To learn more about factors that influence metabolism and weight status, check out this article.

Shifting focus away from nutrition

In addition to the risk for inaccuracy, the focus of calorie counting is solely on the quantity of which we put food in our body rather than the QUALITY of the food we put into our body. The calorie counting method often ignores the importance of fueling our bodies with foods that are nutrient-dense and health promoting.

An all consuming practice

Further, with calorie counting can come feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and shame. It can become more about a need for control than a health promoting measure. Calorie counting can rob us of our joy, connection, time, and negatively impact our relationship with food and our metabolism.

In this post, we will talk about 8 ways to stop calorie counting. In addition, to learn how to form a better relationship with food, as well as your mind and body!

What Can I do Instead of Calorie Counting?

1. Delete those calorie counting apps and get in touch with your inner hunger!

The best way to stop calorie counting is to delete the methods by which you calculate. It’s easy to get hooked on apps now that they are widely available on your phone, smart watch, tablet, and computer. It takes a lot of time to measure and input each individual ingredient of a meal. Deleting these apps will greatly increase your time for other things that you enjoy! Remember, the only way to accurately know how much food is enough for your body is by listening to it! 

Try this: Download the Peace with Food app. If apps are your thing, this one allows you to receive “be present” reminders throughout the day. You can check in with your own hunger and fullness; check in at the beginning and end of each meal to recognize physical satiety; and discover your body’s own unique rhythms.

2. Ditch the scale – the kitchen food scale AND your bathroom scale.

If your goal is freedom from diet culture and body shaming practices, then it is best to stop basing your choices on numbers. This includes quitting tracking the calories within the specific number of pre-measured grams or ounces of your snack, but also the number of pounds on the scale.

How many times have you let the number on the scale determine your mood or worth? When we solely focus on weight as an indicator of moral value, we set ourselves up for failure when that number fluctuates (which is normal and natural!). Overall health is far more complex than the number on the scale. Meanwhile obsessing over this “magic” number can negatively impact your mental and social wellbeing.

Try this: Physically throw out (or donate) your scale and/or hand it over to a support person so you are not tempted to use it. At the doctor’s office, ask either for a blind weight or ask NOT to be weighed at all. Find a weight neutral or HAES (heath at every size) provider that does not use weight as a biomarker for health.

3. Focus on balance in your meals rather than calories.

It’s so easy to get caught up in counting calories that we miss the importance of a well-balanced plate! Instead of fixating on the caloric value, switch your mindset. Research has found shifting value from calorie content to nutritional content is beneficial. Stopping calorie counting allows you to emphasize having a variety of the food groups present at meals and snacks, as well as making sure that there is ample color on your plate.

Try this: Focus on incorporating the three most important food groups daily: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These are what provide our body with the most energy. Also work to add color and variety to your plate. Focus on adding foods that you actually LIKE…and do not eat something if you don’t genuinely enjoy it!

4. Accept that it will take some time to retrain your brain.

If you’ve been counting calories for years, the behavior probably feels automatic. You may be questioning your ability to stop. It is very normal to feel frustrated if the behavior doesn’t change right away. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes at least 2 months for a new behavior to become consistent. Set realistic expectations for reducing/eliminating calorie counting behaviors.

Try this: When you catch yourself thinking about calories on the nutrition label, try and transition that thought to how the food will feel, both physically and mentally. For example, ask yourself “am I feeling physically satisfied by what I am eating?”. A more mindful eating approach will help you better connect with the food itself, in addition to better connecting with your mind, body, and spirit.

5. Learn the concepts of Intuitive Eating to help form a better relationship with food & your body.

Intuitive eating may sound too good to be true, but it is actually a self-care model of eating that empowers you to become the expert of your own body. This concept was developed by two Registered Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch with the focus being on “rejecting the diet mentality” to “discover the satisfaction factor” and “respect your body.” Intuitive eating honors both physical and mental health. It focuses on the relationship around the food you eat rather than on using calorie counts and external factors to determine overall health.

Try This: Educate yourself on the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating and work with a registered dietitian to help you put the principles into practice!

6. Allow movement to bring you joy.

Do you view exercise as a form of punishment, or a way to forcefully change your body to meet society’s standards? Maybe you see exercise as a chore, and struggle with guilt and shame when admitting that you don’t even like it. If this sounds familiar, then you might never have experienced joyful movement. Similar to stopping calorie counting, joyful movement shifts focus away from the number on calories burned. Joyful movement is an approach to physical activity that focuses on pleasure and emphasizes choice. All types of movement are valid. To make joyful movement inclusive, all types of movement must be morally equal, even if they may have different purposes.

Try this: Dedicate some time to reflect on what types of movement make you happy. Figure out what YOU really like to do, and disregard what society tells you is appropriate. Example: Maybe joyful movement for you is a slow stroll around your neighborhood, rather than a mile-long vigorous run. Also, ditch your fitness tracker! Allow how you feel physically and mentally determine the intensity and duration of your exercise regimen.

7. Work on your own mental health.

Mental health is so intertwined with how we view ourselves. Mental health is also a key factor as we work to improve our relationship with food and our body. It’s important to remember that mental health is equally as important as physical health, so don’t let it slip. Seek out a professional, like a therapist or counselor, who can help identify triggers that may be causing negative thoughts or behaviors.

Try this: Working on mindfulness and even meditation can help put you in a better headspace if you are struggling to change your thought patterns and behaviors. Here are some apps we recommend that can help with mindfulness: Headspace, The Mindfulness App, Calm, Insight Timer.

8. Use positive affirmations.

Positive affirmations are statements that you can write, read, or say out loud that can help reduce negative and limiting thoughts. Affirmations may seem silly and hard to believe but remember, it takes at least two months to form a habit…so keep practicing! Positive affirmations can help cultivate a more optimistic, confident, and resilient mindset while helping us control the way we react to certain situations.

Try This: Are you thinking “How do I even write a positive affirmation?”. A quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas! Also consider what kinds of negative thoughts live in your headspace, and how can you change them? Writing down negative thoughts and then formulating specific affirmations in response can slowly but surely change your mindset.

Making the shift: How to put this all into practice?

Are you ready to stop calorie counting and ready to heal your relationship with food and your body? The road can be difficult but Anderson’s Nutrition is here to help! Meet with a Registered Dietitian to get started on your path to health and healing. You will receive an individualized plan to help you feel comfortable, supported and confident in transitioning your relationship with food. If you feel your relationship with food has become disordered and is impacting your quality of life, check out Nourish by Anderson’s Nutrition, our specialized program for eating disorder clients.