Counting Calories

In our CBT weight loss coaching session this week, I found out my dieter, Jason, had gone off track. Jason is in my subset of dieters who have chosen to count calories. He told me that although he had had a pretty good week, he started to get off track at a work lunch on Friday and then stopped counting calories for the rest of the day. This is very common. Often when dieters get off track, they don’t want to face how many calories they’re eating so they tell themselves, “I’m already over for the day. I’ll just stop counting and start again tomorrow.”

I discussed with Jason how problematic it is to stop counting when the day isn’t going well, and why it’s so important to keep counting especially when he’s not happy with his eating. The first and most important reason is for accountability. When Jason starts to get off track and allows himself to stop counting calories, he’s sending himself the message that when he doesn’t like the way the day is going, he’s not going to hold himself accountable. That’s a very unhelpful habit for Jason to reinforce because the next time he’s tempted, he’s so much more likely to get off track because he knows there will be no immediate consequences. When Jason forces himself to count even when the day isn’t going well, he proves to himself that he doesn’t let himself stick his head in the sand. The next time he’s tempted to make off-track decisions, he’s less likely to do so if he knows he’s going to have to face it no matter what.

Counting calories

Another reason it’s important to keep counting calories even on a day that’s not going well is because if Jason had continued counting for the day, chances are his overall caloric intake would have been lower. If Jason was seeing the calories continue to add up, it’s likely he would have taken in fewer throughout the day than he did when he had no idea how many he was eating.

A third reason to keep counting calories is to keep the counting habit strong. While Jason was ultimately able to get himself to resume counting calories on Saturday morning, there is never a guarantee that this will happen. For many dieters, one day of not counting calories turns into many more. When dieters get themselves to keep counting calories on an off-track eating day, the next day it’s so much easier to have a good eating day because they’ve kept the tracking habit strong.

Jason told me that he was committed to counting every calorie no matter what, and he was determined to be accountable for his eating so he could continue to make progress towards his goals.

1 reply
  1. Sarah Filene Ladd
    Sarah Filene Ladd says:

    I have found this all to be true. To stop counting is to allow binging for me. Better to log a “oops” of calories and be done with it. I also find I get right back on track within hours if I keep logging so a little mistake doesn’t become a big one.


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