Every food package has a number listed on the label for the number of calories included in the serving. Some foods have too many calories, others have too little. These are the thoughts that cross the minds of many people who obsessively count calories as a means of regulating weight loss. However, it should be known that having that mindset can manifest into something very dangerous.
Calories are a unit of energy that people typically count to regulate weight loss and how much food they consume a day. The necessary amount of calories a person should consume is different for everyone, but on average, women should consume 1,600-2,000 and men should consume 2,000-3,000 calories a day.
Counting calories does way more harm than good mainly because people tend to avoid certain foods, just because of the number written on the label. It is an unhealthy mindset to ignore the nutritional value of foods just because they are high in calories. Setting a certain amount of calories a day, even if it is within the average number of calories to consume per day, can actually be harmful to a person’s health. For example, people that obsessively count calories may avoid eating red meat because of its calorie content and end up lacking the protein levels they need. This leads to people not getting the nutrition they need and eating low-calorie foods with little to no health value.
Along with losing nutritional value, counting calories can help people lose weight but it is not a sustainable way to stay in good health. It is a difficult thing to stick to and only works when people do it 365 days a year without deferring.
“This idea of ‘a calorie in and a calorie out’ when it comes to weight loss is not only antiquated, it’s just wrong,” Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity specialist and assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School said.
When people obsessively count and restrict calories for a period of time, they will lose weight. However, when they inevitably return to their normal habits, they will gain all the weight back. In restrictive diets, the body’s metabolism slows down which causes weight gain. Moreover, almost nobody can track their calories indefinitely since life has many unexpected circumstances, so people should avoid it altogether.
Another very dangerous, and arguably the scariest, thing that counting calories can lead to is developing an eating disorder. Dieting in general can lead to poor eating habits and of course eating disorders, specifically using fitness apps to count calories. 75% of people use fitness apps to track calories, and 35% reported that it strongly contributed to their eating disorders. Counting calories can easily lead to bad eating habits and even much worse conditions. This is an incredibly scary thing that is not worth the very few benefits that counting calories has.
Though there are risks, sometimes tracking and counting calories is unavoidable. Athletes may be required to track their calorie intake for various reasons, and in some cases there are benefits to counting calories. It can be an effective way to regulate your diet and stay at a healthy weight or also for sports that require maintaining a certain weight. But even though it works in some cases does not mean it is something everybody should do. In the long run, it is not healthy or sustainable and the risks outweigh the benefits.
People should focus on the nutritional value of the food they eat and not the numbers listed on the label. For what it’s worth when it comes to health and weight maintenance, counting calories does not work in the long run. Calories do matter, but they are certainly not everything. Don’t let it control your life, especially when it doesn’t have to.