Don’t count calories. Do THIS instead.

You might notice that I talk about calories a lot on this blog.
In particular creating a calorie deficit for weight loss.

Creating a calorie deficit is how all weight loss works, no matter what protocol you choose to achieve it.

**Also read – There is only one way to lose weight

You might be surprised to hear that I don’t count calories.

I don’t wear an activity tracker, or a heart rate monitor. I don’t do apps like my fitness pal or the like. I don’t strictly count calories IN or OUT.

Never have, pretty sure I never will. It’s quite simply not in my personality type. It would drive me nuts.

I am however,  CALORIE AWARE.

What’s the difference? I hear you ask….

Before I answer, I would like to clear a few things up..

1) A calorie deficit does NOT automatically mean 1200 calories.

If you burn 2500 calories per day, consuming 2000 calories brings you to a deficit and will result in weight loss.
The amount of calories someone burns each day varies greatly depending on their size, health and level of activity.

  • 110kg Bob the Brickie burns approx 4000 calories per day. If Bob consumes anything less than 4000 calories he will lose weight.
  • 68kg Corporate Cathy burns approx 1900 calories per day. If Cathy consumes anything less than 1900 calories she will lose weight.

**Get an estimate of how many calories you burn each day – HERE

2) We are guessing how many calories we are eating and drinking (Calories IN)

The nutritional labels on foods are estimates not exact. They are usually within a 10% difference range, but estimates none the less.

3) We are guessing how many calories we burn up each day (Calories OUT).

Calorie calculators, activity trackers, HR monitors all give us an estimate, not an exact number

4) Calorie counting is about QUANTITY only

Looking at the calorie content alone tells you about the QUANTITY of a food or drink. It doesn’t tell you anything about the QUALITY of the item.

A strict “calorie counter” might choose the 150 calorie muesli bar or rice crackers over the 300 cal chicken and salad sandwich

With little regard to the following…

  • a) how full it will keep you
  • b) how many nutrients it contains, particularly protein, fibre and healthy fats
  • c) how will it affect your blood sugar levels

Personally I would choose the 300 cal chicken sandwich any day, I know it would keep me full for hours compared to the low cal snack. 


On the other hand, choosing an exercise session based on the number of calories it burns is also only about QUANTITY.

A “calorie counter” might choose a long run that burns 550 cals,  compared the shorter circuit training session that burns 450 cals

With little regard to the following..

  • Does the exercise session also use and overload your muscle groups?
  • Will it improve your fitness level (working outside your comfort zone)
  • Or will it simply maintain your current level of fitness?
  • Do you enjoy it?
  • Does it drain you of energy, or does it light you up and GIVE you energy?

Personally I would choose the circuit training session because it ticks all my boxes. .

Both QUALITY and QUANTITY are important.

5) We don’t burn the same number of calories every day.

You might burn a very different number of calories on a working Tuesday compared to a Social Saturday.

However, we are all creatures of habit. You will probably find that each week is similar unless you have consciously made an effort to change.

6) Strict calorie counting might lead to negative emotional consequences (for some people)

  • Attempting to burn off foods with excessive exercise
  • (Mentally) doing deals with yourself
  • Restricting now only to binge later (or vice versa)
  • Choosing foods based on calorie content (QUANTITY) with little regard to the amount of nutrients contained (QUALITY), or how full it will keep you.
  • Way too much emotional energy being used up on the whole counting process.
  • Eating only by calculations and rules, therefore ignoring your natural hunger and fullness signals
  • Worst case scenario? Calorie counting could lead to an eating disorder in a certain type of person

7) Calorie counting = bad?

The negative consequences and bad reputation of calorie counting can lead some people to completely rebel against it.

“Calorie counting = bad, they say.  Therefore I am going to completely ignore anything even remotely related to it”.

Hang on a minute… not so fast.

Things don’t have to be so black and white. There are more choices than either…

  • A) Count every single calorie IN and OUT
  • or
  • B) Completely ignore every piece of information that relates to calories

There is a middle ground.

Becoming calorie aware, whilst also listening to and trusting your body is that middle ground.

Becoming calorie aware (and view through the lens of “how full will this keep me?”)

  • Calorie awareness might stop you from eating a Big Mac meal with fries and large coke (1000 calories)
  • Calorie awareness might stop you from eating the whole packet of potato chips (1000 calories)
  • Calorie awareness might lead you know not all calories keep you as full as others. Compare 300 calories of honey, butter on white bread to 300 calories of tuna, salad on grainy bread.
  • Calorie awareness might educate you that a large Boost Juice low fat banana smoothie (500 calories) might not help your weight loss goal even though its considered healthy.
  • Calorie awareness might result in you comparing different meals that are similar in calorie content and choosing the meal that will keep you fuller for longer.
  • Calorie awareness might teach you that you do NOT need to label any food or food group as evil or off limits, maybe you simply need to reduce the amount of it that you consume.
  • Calorie awareness might lead us to know that we can achieve health and weight loss results with a few tweaks and improvements instead of completely overhauling your current routine.

Knowledge is power.

This post is NOT to say that you should never count calories. If counting works for you then by all means DO YOU.
I am simply trying to highlight that there is another way.

A middle ground.

Some of my clients will start out counting, with the view that its a short term learning strategy they will eventually wean themselves off. Not have to rely on forever.

My wish for you is that most of your weight loss results come from changing your habits, becoming calorie aware and listening and trusting your body, not strictly counting every single calorie IN and OUT.

If you like the sound of this middle ground approach..

then you are going to love my latest fat loss coaching program…

Check out how I can help you reach your health, fitness and weight management goals HERE 

Further reading