Why You Don’t Have to Count Calories (and can still lose weight)

To me, eating real food means NOT having to count calories, fat grams, Weight Watchers points or the like. And this doesn’t mean giving up a healthy weight. Most people can still be the size they want (or even lose weight) without doing any of these unpleasant tracking activities! I am not saying that counting calories doesn’t help some with the control they’re seeking – I’m just saying a healthy weight can be maintained without this mundane task. And, in my opinion, simply eating real food is a much more sustainable way to live in the long term.
Why I don't count calories on 100 Days of #RealFood

The Reasoning Behind This Simple Philosophy

  1. It takes the fun out of eating.
    It’s hard to argue with this one. There’s no better way to strip the enjoyment out of your next meal than to count out a specific number of crackers, check the weight on your piece of salmon, or get out a food journal to make sure you don’t exceed a certain number of points.
  2. We are one of the only countries who counts calories, and we are also one of the most overweight.
    In fact, according to some sources, America is actually the most obese country in the world. Yet, other countries like France – with an obesity rate three times lower than the US – hardly read nutrition labels much less scrutinize the calorie content like Americans do. Now that’s what I call food for thought!
  3. Not all calories (or fat grams) are created equal.
    I wrote a post on this very topic last year that goes into more detail, but the bottom line is this – 100 calories in say a banana or broccoli or scrambled eggs is quite different than 100 calories in a highly refined “snack pack” processed in a factory somewhere. This comes down to quality versus quantity.
  4. If you simply eat a variety of REAL food while being careful not to overeat (that part is important) the rest should – and will – fall into place.
    This means enjoying your meals while trusting your internal instincts. This does not mean eating until you are completely stuffed every night. Just remember it takes a little time for your food to digest so start off with smaller portions, don’t rush, and once you feel satisfied – you are good! I think it’s also helpful to know the French supposedly don’t believe in eating “seconds” and, according to Michael Pollan, the healthiest and longest-living population in the world (the people of Okinawa) practice a principle of eating until they are only 80 percent full. I think figuring out where to draw this line is easier said than done, but it’s certainly something to work towards!

Real Foodies Who’ve Lost Weight

We ask those who take our “10 Days of Real Food” pledge (i.e. follow our same real food rules for a shorter period of time) to share their feedback with us when they’re done. If these comments don’t drive home my point – I don’t know what does!

  • From Stephanie in CA: “I had such a great experience doing this! I lost 5 pounds and had so much energy! This will definitely be a lifestyle commitment I can stick to!”
  • From Marie in PA: “The biggest thing I learned was that so many foods contain chemicals, preservatives, and sugar (corn syrup, etc). Even some organic foods seemed to have questionable ingredients, from a 100 Days of Real Food perspective. I have learned to look for ingredients on labels and not just nutritional information. I was following Weight Watchers and 100 DoRF simultaneously, and I learned that things with higher point values often have a lot of junk in them. Also, by following 100 DoRF, I don’t feel I need to track WW points.
    In my 100 Days (yes, I did 100), I lost 27 pounds. I haven’t measured, but I know I’ve lost inches. My skin and hair seemed healthier. From the beginning I felt more energetic, and because of that, I have been motivated to start some long overdue physical therapy for my knees so that I can exercise for even better health and additional weight loss.”
  • From Galaxy in OK: “My digestive system was a lot happier eating real food. If I was more proactive about planning my food, than I’m able to eat healthier. My energy levels seemed higher the longer I ate real food. And finally, I was pleasantly surprised that I lost 5 lbs over the 10 days!”
  • From Sunny in NJ: “Since I discovered Lisa’s site 8 months ago, I drastically changed my way of eating. I also lost a ton of weight (from a size 10/12 to a 4!). When I first discovered the site, I thought I would be unable to ever complete a 10 day pledge but thought most of the mini pledges were manageable. I started the first pledge, incorporating 2 fruits/veggies in my diet and boy was that an eye opener! Until that point I was hardly eating fruits and veggies. Now produce is a main part of my diet. I also used to eat a lot more meat and I have since reduced my consumption (again something I never thought I would be able to do- the not too much meat mini pledge was a hard one for me!). I also slashed my consumptions of added sugars and I am much more careful reading ingredient labels.”
  • From Nicole in CA: “I have learned how to eat healthy, really eat healthy, instead of fad diets that yo yo my weight up and down.  Not only do I feel better and have more energy, but I lost 8lbs without exercising at all!”
  • From Melanie in OK: “During these 10 days, I lost 4 pounds. I didn’t set out to lose weight on this pledge because I’m at a weight that is healthy for my age and body type, plus I exercise regularly. Still, those 4 pounds are convincing that processed foods really do impact me negatively.”

Do you count calories? Why or why not? And I’d love to hear YOUR weight loss stories in the comments!

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90 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Have to Count Calories (and can still lose weight)”

  1. I have to disagree. Some people are food addicts and have no conception of how many calories they are eating. I have to count calories even in healthy food. I eat no processed foods at all due to food allergies. I like your site even though you use sugar. I only bake muffins due to the lower sugar content when I need treats.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi. She has made her own but you can find organic whole fruit spreads without added ingredients. Crofters is one.

  2. Christine Kellet

    I agree with on most of what you wrote. But the problem these days is I and others don’t know portion control therefore we do need to track what we eat. I am currently on Weight Watchers, eating real food, and have found it is helping me learn portion control and to know when I truly don’t need to eat any more food.
    Thank you for your always informative and honest posts.

  3. Lindsay Untherbergus

    I have a very different problem than most people… but I am actually underweight. After a couple months of sickness (during which I had no appetite and barely ate anything), I dropped down to a very unhealthy weight. Now I have to get my weight back up, which is hard because my appetite isn’t what it used to be before I was sick. However, I’m still taking a real food approach to this. I’m drinking protein smoothies with whole milk Greek yogurt instead of protein powders with fifty ingredients in them. I’m eating lots of almonds/almond butter, homemade granola, and plant-based protein (beans, lentils, chickpeas). I know that eating real food will help me stay healthy while I gain weight. I could just load up on fried food instead, but that is doing the wrong thing for my body.

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