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Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work for Weight Loss

by Matt Weik

I want to first preface this by saying that counting calories DOES work for a small percentage of people. Now that I got that out of the way, I’m going to tell you that counting calories doesn’t work for weight loss, and I’m going to explain to you why in this article (confused yet?).

Below, you are going to find some of the hurdles associated with counting calories and why so many people fail to use this weight loss technique. If you fall into the category where counting calories has worked, congrats! You’re not the norm for society, and I applaud you for your dedication. But for the many reasons below, most people will crash and burn and find themselves frustrated counting calories.

1. People Are Not Consistent with Tracking

Let’s be real for a minute, life is crazy. That being said, there will be days where people fall off the wagon, and they don’t track their calories. Sure, maybe one day here and there isn’t going to do much, but people are creatures of habit, and when a bad habit is formed, and a new one is trying to be solidified, falling off the wagon can be a big deal.

For many, when they fall off, there’s no getting back on. They’re done. For those who are hanging on for dear life, their inconsistency has their weight fluctuating up and down, which after watching the scale will end up frustrating the person for not seeing the results they want, and they’ll give up.

2. People Don’t Track Accurately

As simple as the MyFitnessPal app is, some people still guesstimate their serving size when entering their data. It may feel good to be at least entering information into the app about what you eat, but the reality is that not being precise will lead to failure. When counting calories, you need to be accurate. To be accurate, you really need to weigh your food, which most people are unwilling to do.

Eyeballing how much of something you’re eating will generally either cause you to be way over or way under. Very seldom will anyone look at something on their plate and nail how much is there.

3. People Don’t Count Nibbles and Sips Here and There

You would be shocked at how many people nibble on and sip things throughout the day and completely forget to count those calories. It may not seem like a big deal as “it’s only one bite of donut or bagel,” or you’re at the office, and someone brings snacks in, and you pick at it throughout the day. Before you know it, you’ve consumed hundreds of calories that you’re not even counting. How about hard candy? A small piece of chocolate? Maybe even gum? All of those calories add up and need to be accounted for.

That coffee you get in the morning, do you add up all the additional calories you put in it? Do you use creamer? Milk? Sugar? Liquid calories can add up fast, and if you’re not accurately counting calories, at the end of the week, you may hop on the scale and have the shock of your life that you’ve gained weight.

You need to hold yourself accountable for everything you put in your mouth, no matter how big or small (there’s probably a joke in there somewhere, don’t act like you’re not immature too) but, unfortunately, most people don’t, and that’s where they fail, and counting calories doesn’t work for them because they don’t see the results they are after.

4. People Eat the Wrong Things

One of the biggest advocates for counting calories is the IIFYM community (If It Fits Your Macros). They tend to be religious when it comes to counting calories and ensuring they hit their daily numbers. However, one of the pitfalls of this mentality is that you can eat whatever you want — as long as it fits within your macros.

I’ve seen people preaching that they eat a massive bowl of ice cream every day because it “fits their macros.” I’ve seen people say they eat fast food every day because it “fits their macros.” Just because something fits within your macros doesn’t mean it’s a good choice.

Even in this case, where they are counting calories, the calories they consume are high in fat and sugar and unhealthy. These types of foods don’t align with a nutrition plan needed to support weight loss.

5. Tracking Calories Isn’t Sustainable Long-Term

For most people, when they start counting calories, it’s something new and fresh, so they adhere to the program. However, as the days and weeks progress, they see how time-consuming tracking everything can be and wind up throwing in the towel. Some people feel awkward when they are around friends and family by having to track everything they eat, and in the long-term, they stop tracking altogether.

Again, does tracking work? Absolutely — when done correctly. However, counting calories for most people simply isn’t sustainable due to busy schedules and the many things that demand our attention.

Should you give counting calories a try? Sure. You may find in a matter of a few weeks, you lose weight. However, I’d love for you to prove me wrong, but most people will stop counting calories after a few weeks. Will it be you? Only you know the answer to that.

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