In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about how to stop counting calories, and proven methods to control your food intake. No calculator required.
Counting calories is a popular method to track how much food we eat. But the longer you count calories, the more you become mute to the pleasures of food and start to look at food as either good or bad. Big mistake. So if you want to know how to stop counting calories for good, and still lose weight this list will hit home with you.
How To Stop Counting Calories
There are 7 ways to stop counting calories:
Use Food Journal
A food journal is like a swiss army knife. It can be used to track anything you want. But we not gonna track calories here. Instead, I want you to track your feelings and emotions.
Emotions are what drive us towards food. Of course, in the perfect world, we would eat only to satisfy physical hunger. But the reality is that we use food for multiple reasons.
So first step to stop counting calories is to track your emotions and feelings during the day. It will help you identify the triggers that drive you towards overeating.
For instance, when you write down how you feel during the day, you may notice that every time when you thinking about X, you have a tendency to eat or drink.
Or, you may uncover that the Friday night binges are always triggered by some event that happened at work (or at home) the day before. Or even the week before.
Related article: Why Counting Calories Is Pointless?
Find Your Blind Spots
Once you track your feelings, thoughts, and emotions, now you need to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and try to figure out what triggers are your worst enemies. What are the blind spots that always seem to put you at your worst?
When I say put you at your worst, I mean you basically do things that you normally wouldn’t do, say or think.
Those are the situations that spin your dials, make you frustrated, defensive, jealous, uncertain, worried, or feeling somehow underappreciated.
Those can be anything.
Places where you spend time, social situations and interactions, home or work environment, foods you eat (just because they’re available, not because you’re hungry), or about anything that triggers you to feel uncomfortable or stressed out.
Make a list.
If that sounds too deep, let me explain why it’s important. Those are the feelings that we all have, but not everyone has the same mechanisms to cope with them.
Some people choose to go to the bar to relax, others go for a run, and others choose to engage in mindful activities.
So every human has those feelings.
But we seem to respond differently. And here’s the thing. Typically, for people who struggle to lose weight, the number one stress relief is food.
So doesn’t matter if you’re counting calories or not. If you won’t find the cause of the problem, the problem will continue.
Related article: 21 Ways To Maintain Weight Without Counting Calories
Find Your Superpowers
To stop counting calories we cannot focus only on the bad things here. So while you’re using your journal to stay mindful, and looking for the blind spots, start also to look out for things that you’re already good at. And do more of that.
Make a list of things that not only doesn’t trigger any unwanted behaviors but always seem to put you at your best.
Do you like dancing? Do more of that. Do you like writing? Do more of that. Do you like cooking plant-based desserts? Do more of that. Find what you like, what you feel good at, and do more of that. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
What’s got that to do with counting calories? A lot.
When you are spending your time on the things you like, enjoy, and bring you pleasure, it reduces your stress.
And the less stress you have, the fewer unwanted overeating episodes you have (source). Look at it from the perspective.
Some people like to move around, doing hands-on projects, gardening, DIY, woodworking, or something physical. Others prefer calculating and solve problems. And others like music and rhythms, being close to nature, or writing. See what you like and do more of it.
Related article: How To Stop Worrying About Calories?
Now we are moving towards the actual meal time and behaviors around the dinner table.
Counting calories has its job to do. It’s a cue that we use to know how much food we suppose to eat. However, there are things that will make you eat more, without you even realizing it.
They are distractions around you. Watching YouTube, checking tweets, watching TV, or listening to the radio are all distractions that take your focus away from the food (source). And if you eat without paying attention to what you eat, not only you eat more, but you don’t even know it.
This is called mindless eating. This means eating while doing something else and being cognitively focused on that thing, rather than on the food you eat. The best example is eating while driving, eating at the office while answering the phone, eating on the go, or eating while watching something.
Those are the situations that we don’t pay attention to what we eat and how much we eat.
A fascinating study was done by Brian Wansink Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in Chicago, documented people in the cinema that were given a massive bucket of free popcorn, and eat it all while they were watching the show (source). By the way, this popcorn was 7-days old.
So it shows that people didn’t eat popcorn because they were hungry or because it was tasty.
They eat it simply because it was there, they were distracted, and everyone else around them did the same thing. That’s how much we are influenced by the environment and the distractions.
Related article: Should I Count Calories On Vacation?
Slow Down Your Eating
Once you reduce your distractions, and you pay attention to what you eat, the next step to stop counting calories is to eat slowly. Eating slowly will help you control your overall food intake (source). You can eat less food by eating slowly, without calculator.
How come? Because your satiety signals take approximately 15-20 minutes to register that you eat (source). And when you slow down, you can feel full with just half of the food that you normally eat. Without any numbers.
Slowing down means chew your food longer than usual. It means timing yourself for 20 minutes and stretching your meal. It means smelling and tasting each bite. It means putting the fork down between each bite.
Those are all habits you can work on. Also, slow eating helps you to tune in to your body cues. So you can recognize when you’re hungry, no longer hungry, or full. Because there is a big difference between being full and no longer hungry.
Related article: Should I Weigh A Banana With Or Without Peel?
Stop Eating When No Longer Hungry
To stop counting calories you need to use some type of compass that will let you know when you have enough food. In other words, when you should stop eating. You should be eating until you’re no longer hungry. If you want a bit more precise picture, think of it as eating until you’re 80% full.
This means you are comfortable, satisfied, but not full. And that’s all it takes to eat less (source). Knowing when to stop.
But when you’re distracted and eat mindlessly, it’s hard to tell the difference. So without eating slowly, it’s really hard to sense what your body compass is telling you. That’s why eating with no distractions, eating slowly, and eating till you’re 80% full all interconnect with each other.
You cannot eat slowly while being distracted, and you cannot sense when you’re no longer hungry if you’re not eating slowly.
Related article: Should I Count Calories On My Cheat Day?
Start Eating When You’re Physically Hungry
The last part is the most critical. You can stop counting calories and start losing weight only when you get in touch with your physical hunger (source).
I already told you before that we are for a number of reasons. Stress, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, etc. But what you feel during those moments is not physical hunger. It’s a psychological hunger.
It will take a lot of food to silence the psychological hunger. That’s why the biggest change-maker in your progress will be by making a new habit of start eating when you’re physically hungry. Not when everyone else is eating. Not when you are bored. Not when you feel like food. When you’re physically hungry.
But once you start doing it, it will transform your relationship with food massively and give you a new point of view, beyond weight loss.
Will I gain weight If I stop counting calories?
You won’t gain weight if you stop counting calories as long as you eat mindfully. Paying attention to how you eat is the main focus of intuitive and mindful eating. It can guide you better than calorie counting, and help you get in touch with your body signals.
Is calorie restriction the best way to lose weight?
Calorie restriction is the best way to lose weight because it enables you to get into a caloric deficit. Any diet that works and offers weight loss is driven by caloric restriction. So if you want to lose weight, regardless of which diet you choose, you need to restrict your calorie intake.
Those are the steps that you can start doing today to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself. Remember that this will take time. But anything that is worth doing takes time. So don’t stress about that.
Evaluate your schedule, find out what is holding you back, see what you like to do, and do it often. Prioritize your mealtime and stay away from distractions. Eat when you’re hungry, then eat slowly, and stop eating when you’re no longer hungry.
Ciao for now.