- You need to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat, but you don’t have to count calories. It isn’t for everyone.
- Instead, consider telling yourself you’ll eat three plates of food and two snacks each day.
- Choose foods that will keep you full and replace energy dense ingredients with lower calorie swaps.
- Don’t neglect your overall health, and ensure you’re keeping active and sleeping enough, advised fitness coach and personal trainer Anjuli Mack.
- Read more Working It Out here.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
How can you lose weight sustainably without getting obsessed with calorie counting? I previously lost three stone (42 pounds) on a mixture of diets and, whilst I’ve kept about 1.5 stone (21 pounds) off permanently, I still struggle with maintaining my weight and have crept back up to being borderline obese again.
Calorie counting destroyed my mental health and worsened my already established OCD so I don’t want to get obsessed again. But at the same time, I can’t keep gaining weight!
— At a Loss
Dear At a Loss,
Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you for being self-aware enough to have realized that calorie-counting is not a wise move for you. You tried it, and that’s good because that experience taught you something.
But let me make one thing clear: You absolutely do not need to count your calories to lose weight.
Weight loss comes down to being in an energy deficit, and energy is measured in calories.
So yes, you need to be in a calorie deficit, burning off more energy than you’re taking in, to lose fat, but that doesn’t mean you have to count calories.
Calorie counting isn’t for everyone
For some people, calorie-counting doesn’t work because they just can’t stick to it or they hate the effort of having to log their food intake.
For others, it isn’t sensible because, well, they like it too much and get obsessed.
As an organized person who loves plans, lists, and spreadsheets, I am someone who’s drawn to calorie-counting — to me, it provides a comfort to know I can hit certain numbers and I will achieve my goals. It’s science.
However, I also know that I, like you, have a tendency to become obsessive. And this can lead you down a dangerous path, as you have found yourself.
When I first tried counting calories, around 10 years ago, it became an unhealthy obsession.
A couple of years ago, when I decided I wanted to lose some weight and was tired of fad diets, I tentatively tried it again, but ensured I would only do it loosely and would stop if I ever felt myself obsessing. It worked. And it helped me build a healthier relationship with food.
But that may not be the case for you and that’s OK.
“If calorie-counting exacerbates disordered eating or disordered behaviors, then you want to stay away from it,” personal trainer and fat loss coach Jordan Syatt told Insider.
“There’s no reason to try and do it if…