If you’re making the decision to change your body from an aesthetic or performance perspective on your own volition, nutrition is going to play some form of role.
If you’re looking to lose weight, you will need to track calories to ensure you are eating less than you burn. At least momentarily.
If you’re looking to gain weight (or muscle), you will need to track calories to ensure you’re in an appropriate surplus. At least momentarily.
If you’re looking to enhance your performance, you will need to track calories to ensure you’re eating enough for those goals and in some cases, the timing of the calories. At least momentarily.
In the realm of body change, calories do matter, but not everyone needs to count them. I also think the cause and effect of your calorie counting matters.
Why are you doing it?
Does it cause you stress when you’re doing it?
Does it cause you stress when you don’t do it?
Do you need it to feel in control?
I think these are important questions to ask.
Do I do it personally? Occasionally.
On a general basis I do not count calories. Years ago when I was easing into “moderate eating”, I tracked for a few weeks as an educational tool. This helped me gauge how many calories are in the foods I am eating, where I should fall, and how it feels when I am eating around that mark. Eventually I was able to eat more intuitively and moderately because I knew what “full” and “hungry” felt like.
However, I track calories temporarily when I want to make some body changes to ensure I am on the right path.
This helps me continuously be aware of what and how much I am consuming. Because I can be forgetful, it also helps me to continuously be aware of how many calories make up certain foods—boiled eggs, chocolate almonds, chicken or wine for example.
“The debate over counting or not counting is silly. It’s kind of like asking do you need to read the road signs when you are driving? If you don’t know the way, not reading the road signs could get you lost or hurt. However, if you know the way, you probably wont even notice the signs.” - Doctor Jade Teta
When you are just starting out and struggling to reach your goals, you will need to start paying closer attention to the dietary specifics. Intuitive eating – “eating in moderation” is a learned skill.
“To develop intuition requires a lot of practice and real world experience. Intuition is the unconscious integration of multiple senses along with past experiences. It is impossible to be intuitive without first having some experience with the thing you claim to be able to do without thought.” Doctor Teta
Cause and Effect: Issues worth noting
Does counting cause you stress? Then probably don’t do it.
Does counting give you a sense of control? Probably don’t do it, and seek advice from a professional in this area.
Are you doing it as an audit/educational tool? Probably okay.
Does counting not take any mental space from you? You’re probably okay.
Is counting calories good or bad? I don't think it's yes or no. I feel do what feels best for you and if you need more guidance seek the assistance of a Registered Dietician or mental health specialist in this area if you have an unhealthy relationship with calories.