How I quit calorie counting.

You know, there was a time I believed that this wasn’t possible. I didn’t believe I could ever completely quit calorie counting and obsessing over numbers, portions and grams. But now that I am here I know I never want to go back – because life is just so much funner without it.

The concept of not keeping track of my calories seemed very unrealistic to me in the early stages of my recovery. I just couldn’t imagine a meal that I could just sit down and eat – without knowing exactly how much of what was going into it. While still deeply engaging in all my anorexic behaviors I would eat the same things – day in and day out. I would hardly ever cook, because measuring and weighing everything would take too much time. So I relied on the nutritional info on the back of the package of everything I ate to tell me weather I was “allowed” to eat it or not.

When I first started on my recovery journey I was at a critical weight so I counted calories just to ensure I was getting the bare minimum I needed to gain. Considering I was to be hospitalized if I didn’t gain a certain amount per week, and I didn’t have a diatitian to consult, it seemed the only option at that point. Needless to say at the beggining stages my food options were very limited – I had no fat in my diet, and I relied on juices to get my calories up. And by up I mean reaching 1200 calories a day, a weight loss amount for most people.

My body gained from even that in the beggining, simply because it was so desperate for food. Then, when my metabolism normalized somewhat, I found myself needing to up my calories again. By that time I had developed food ruts that I stuck to, the only variable being dinner. And still, I rounded off the calories in my head, never allowing them to cross a certain amount.

Around that time I descovered a lot of healthy living blogs, which changed my outlook towards food and healthy eating. I would look at the recipies in awe, wondering how those delicious foods might taste, while still eating the same foods day in and day out. But slowly, ever so slowly I began stepping out of my routines and ruts and challenging myself more in my recovery. I joined a pro-recovery form for people with eating disorders, and became inspired to give up calorie counting and start “intuitively eating”.

It definitely wasn’t easy, and it was a slow process. It started by not measuring all my food, or sometimes adding a little more of this and that if I felt like it. It was so scary at first, but with time things got easier. I started cooking more and experimenting with recipes. I no longer had to rely on store bought foods (with the nutritional info on the back) to snack on when I didn’t have time to measure everything out. And as I made these small steps of progress I was encouraged to try bigger ones.

I have to say cooking more definitely helped in this aspect, because I would make more then single serve poriton sizes, and most recipies did not include nutritional info. I would try to “lighten up” most recipes , but I soon found that they never tasted quite as good as the real thing. I started to eat for enjoyment, not just necessity, and I think that was the turning point in my recovery.

There was a point I had to go back to calorie counting for a time, just so I could continue gaining weight. But after a while I quit once again because it seemed to be hindering my recovery more then it was helping it. I was so bound by those numbers that I couldn’t step out and eat what I actually wanted. It was counter productive because I started obsessing over the perfect balance between carbs, fats, protien and veggies (I obsessed the most about the veggies) and started seeing food only as nutrients, something that had to be perfectly balanced or it was useless.  Once I realized that this was hurting rather then it was helping, I moved on.

Now I’m at a point where I eat basically intutively most of the time. I recently overcame my long-standing fear of healthy fats and am actually enjoying their addition to my diet. I experiment a lot with other’s recipies, and even create some of my own. I eat what I like and what my body craves. Although I try to eat enough of every food group, I’m as focused on the perfect balance as I am on giving my body what makes it feel good. And I’m lovin’ it so far.

I went from eating this:

Plain oats cooked in water anyone? (No, but don't they look soooo appetizing :P... jk)


Or maybe some water soup for dinner?

To enjoying this:


This morning's oat combination - oatmeal with chopped figs (some cooked in) and salted peanuts. Lovely combination I tell you.

A delicious garbanzo bean soup ( recipe taken from Oh She Glows)


My own creation - orange curried tofu and cous cous with broccoli.

Since stopping calorie counting I’ve never looked back. Life is just so much funner without it! There’s no reason getting hung up on a number, when there as so many other factors that come into the equation – such as flavor, how it makes you feel, the way your body reacts to the food and how much you are able to enjoy it. Your body is a wonderful, magical thing and in time everything balances out if you listen and give it what it needs

So if there’s anyone reading this that still struggles with calorie counting I encourage you to slowly take steps to let go. It won’t be an overnight process, and there’s always a bit of worry and anxiety involved –  but I promise you that without it you’ll feel a lot happier and freer. And don’t give up or get discouraged! It takes work and time,but it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Do you (or did you) calorie count?

If you did how were you able to break the habit?



  1. AMEN !!! when i was in recovery it was so hard cuz i WANTED to intuitively eat but i had to gain the weight.. i just had to tough it out and stick to the plan and once i reached my goal weigh ti could intuitively eat and it rocked!

  2. I began to see someone for counseling right before I went to college and she kind of challenged / pissed me off and so I stopped writing down my food count right then and there. I fell back into the habit in college but I gave it up for good for lent last year after reading a post by Kath of It was such a load off of my life after I gave it up because I had much more time to put more effort into things I enjoyed rather than counting and weighing every bit of food I ate.

  3. Wow, you have no idea how I was desperately looking for a post like this recently. Although the reason for my calorie-counting is completely different from what it began with, I was so frustrated at myself that I was so obsessed about numbers. I’ve actually been challenging myself to not use the scale to measure my foods since last week, and I’ll build my way up there eventually. Thank You so much.

    • I’m so happy that you liked the post! I know that as you continue to challenge yourself and take baby steps you will eventually be free from obsessing over those numbers. It takes time, and it’s sometimes a long process, but if you stick to it you’ll never regret it, I promise!

  4. Wow. Thank you for this. I just stopped calorie counting finally, so this really resonated with me. I’d eat my same yogurt mess every weekend for lunch at ballet and look at all the other girls eating soup or salad or Chinese food or sandwiches or pasta (all from the nearby supermarket) and crave that food. But I never allowed myself to have it. This past weekend I finally forced myself to stop the freaking counting. And I do feel better because of it. I went both days of the weekend and bought my lunch in the store like all the other girls, and felt so normal. It was amazing.

    I think the reason I was able to stop counting was this: I would count and control throughout the day, and then right before bed tell myself, “Aw, screw this, I haven’t eaten enough today. ” Then I’d eat a nanner+nutter, nuts, dates, chocolate, or something else. So my controlling during the day was pointless. I said to myself, “If I’m gonna eat so much, I might as well loosen up about it.” So I did, and like you said, I feel so much more free because of it. 🙂

    • I used to do EXACTLY the same thing. I’d count so rigidly during the day and then by the end of it I’d have to cram in a crazy amount of calorie dense food to reach my goal (which would leave me feeling not so great most of the time). So I figured, what the heck – I might as well actually ENJOY the food I eat throughout the day. And I do!

  5. I love this!! (I always say that when reading your blog :P) I used to measure my food like crazy but I hardly counted calories. I was aware of calories that I was eating but I never counted the total amount of calories for a day because I knew that it would lead to yet another obsession that I knew would be difficult to let go of.

    ICK plain oats cooked in water…but the thing is…when we were so ill these things actually tasted GOOD because we were so hungry that anything would have tasted good. Yuck 😛


  6. Thank you so much for this. I just this past week have stopped calorie counting.. My nutritionist doesn’t even know it yet. I’ll go in Wednesday and tell her. I also just recently reached a healthy BMI, so I don’t think she should be too worried about it. I have tried to stop calorie counting before, but my weight has always been too low, and I needed to count to make sure to hit my goal #.
    Anyway, I’m at that stage where I’m stuck in food ruts at breakfast and lunch, but then by dinner I will experiment (usually because I know that I am low on calories for the day). I want to break the cycle! It’s tough, but I’m making strides..
    I also find that I end up bingeing at night when I’ve been restrictive during the day. I’ll think, “Hey, it’s okay to have some peanut butter. You need at least 1000 more calories tonight.” Then it won’t stop.. Because I only let myself have foods like peanut butter and cookies once in a blue moon, when I do get them it seems as if I never want to stop eating them..
    Sorry to ramble!
    Thanks so much for the post. Love your blog.

  7. Pingback: Fear foods. | A new start

  8. I’m actually in the midst of wahat you could call recovery, but it isn’t really. All I am now is the same as I was. (I’m less strict with the types of foods) But it’s basically the same. I just eat 2000 calories instead of 1000 and when I eat over (because I run and I know I have to) 2000 calories so I don’t lose weight and continue to gain. Guilt washes over me, and if it doesn’t then i feel guilty for not feeling guilty. I feel like I’m living a half life. I’m not really living and it freaking sucks because I’m only 17 I turn 18 november 29th, and I wont even be able to eat a piece of my birthday cake because I don’t allow myself cake.

  9. I want to thank you for writing this. I have struggled with many of the sames issues and have now come to realize the same things you have. You helped me to see that I’m not alone. Thank you, thank you, thank you

  10. I made the decision today to stop calorie counting (for the first time in several years). I hope to be able to say in a few days that this decision has proven successful, but — so far — I think this will be the case. Your post has encouraged me, and I hope to be among one of the “success” stories in this department.

    Best of luck to all~

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