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Eating Healthy without Calorie Counting

Sick of counting calories? It’s understandable! A healthy diet is essential for health and weight management. But a fixation on calorie counting isn’t doing any good if it’s triggering emotional stress, a negative relationship with food, or mindless eating.

There are many alternative ways to eat healthy without this fixation on counting calories. Emphasizing a more positive mindset and an intuitive relationship that prioritizes nutritional needs, these alternatives may hold the key to your happiness and health. After all, a shift in focus can be empowering – not to mention, practical!

Obsessive Calorie Counting Can Lead to Stress

Though calorie counting typically starts with good intentions, it rarely develops into a sustainable option for healthy weight management. Fear of surpassing the daily limit or enforcing strict disciplinary rules can often contribute to the problem.

In many cases, a fixation on calorie counting can lead to elevated levels of stress and anxiety. When that stress affects daily life – say, not attending a social gathering for fear of flocking to the snack table – mental health can be put in jeopardy. The stress and complexity of calorie counting can also cause individuals to abandon health goals altogether.

There’s More to a Healthy Diet than Calorie Intake

Another issue with obsessive calorie counting is that it’s not always effective. One of the reasons for this is that not everyone shares the same nutritional needs. A professional athlete, for example, generally requires a higher caloric intake than someone with a sedentary lifestyle.

There are many other factors that influence dietary needs, too, like age and underlying conditions. That generic range of 2,000-2,500 calories a day just isn’t specific enough.

Better Ways to Manage Weight

Nonetheless, maintaining a healthy diet is key to weight management. But there are better ways to do it! These alternative approaches ditch the calorie focus and emphasize empowerment by encouraging you to consider other factors and listen to your body.

Intuitive Eating – Pay attention when snacking or enjoying a meal. Are you bored? Trying to calm nerves by chomping? Looking for an excuse to get out of the house? Or are you actually hungry? Lots of us enjoy the ritual aspect of eating, but chowing down just for fun is not sustainable.

This concept applies to portion control, too! American restaurants are notorious for piling up the plate with oversized helpings. Get in the habit of listening to your body so you know when you’re actually hungry, and when you’ve had enough. The to-go box was invented for a reason!

Hydration – We’re used to focusing on food, but H2O is key for weight management, digestion, and temperature regulation. Women need about 3 liters of water per day. To avoid an upset tummy, don’t drink large amounts of water all at once. Spread it out!

Focus on Protein + Veggies – Alas, 30 calories of cake is not the same as 30 calories of broccoli. The source of caloric intake is so important, so prioritize protein, veggies, and fruits that provide essential nutrients your body needs to thrive.

Cycle Syncing – For menstruating women, the body has stronger needs at different times of the cycle. Modifying your meal plan to accommodate your body’s cycle is an awesome way to eat intentionally and prioritize your unique needs at different times of the month.

Now that we have a deeper understanding of nutritional health, calorie counting is no longer considered an ideal strategy. Consider these intuitive approaches if you want to develop skills for sustainable weight management.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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