Five Things to do Instead of Counting Calories

One hundred days of counting calories was more than enough to convince me that enough is enough. Counting calories made me feel like such a failure! I love food and I love to cook. Counting calories took all the joy out of my meals.

When I learned (in last week’s blog post) that “Foods we eat with pleasure yield greater nutrition than those we eat unhappily,” I deleted My Fitness Pal from my iPhone. Sorry, Under Armor, I know you meant well, but it just didn’t work for me.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. according to Jonathan Bailor, author of The Calorie Myth, in his Prevention interview, “counting calories leads to failure 95.4% of the time—and often leaves people fatter.” The article goes on to say that, If you starve yourself, your body slows down your metabolism and burns muscle rather than fat. Start eating normally again after a restrictive diet, and you’ll gain more weight because you have a pokey metabolism that can’t do its job.” (

OK. Don’t count calories. Now what? Here are five healthy (and some might even argue, fun) things your can do instead of counting calories that are likely to yield better long-term results:

You knew that exercise would be part of this answer! WebMD calls exercise the number one way to burn calories. Exercise increases metabolism, the mechanism in charge of burning calories. Exercise also builds muscles. Muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat – even when the body is at rest. (

Slow Down
Eat more slowly. Better digestion, greater hydration, improved enjoyment are wonderful benefits of slow eating. We tend to take in fewer calories when we eat more slowly. When we slowly savor our food we realize better nutrient absorption. Eating slowly is great for weight maintenance and can sometimes assist with weight loss.

Get Small
Yes, you say, that’s the whole point! Eat (and drink) smaller portions. To facilitate your move to Small, use smaller plates and bowls. Eat with smaller utensils. Try chopsticks!

Make it Beautiful
I recently bought really cool square white plates from Ikea. They were not at all expensive, but now every meal is beautiful! I take time to place the food beautifully on the plate. I take time to enjoy the aesthetics of my food (even a PB&J looks amazing on these plates). The food not only looks better, it tastes better, I enjoy it more, and I eat less of it.

Be Mindful
While you are taking your time eating, you’ll have more time to notice what is actually happening in your body. Recognize what you are eating. (Have you ever been so hungry that you mindlessly grab something handy? Without really knowing its ingredients, you chomp it down. You miss its flavor, its texture…) Recognize why you are eating. Are you hungry? Are you nervous or anxious? offers the following ideas for more mindful eating:

  • Chew each bite of food 25 times.
  • Eat with your non-dominant hand.
  • Eat every thing with chopsticks for a week.
  • Put your fork down between each bite.
  • Take your first bite with your eyes closed. You’ll focus more “on the experience of eating, without the distraction of vision.”
  • Try to identify every ingredient in your meal.
  • Put your food on a plate, don’t eat out of a bag. By putting food on a plate, you’ll get a better idea how much you are actually eating.
  • Sit at a table. “Formalizing your dining experience can help draw your attention to your food and your eating habits.” (

So much more enjoyable than counting calories!