Getting eating habits right is tricky. From the paleo diet to the wheat belly diet to a chocolate cleanse (where do we sign up?), there’s literally a new healthy eating approach you could try every week. But what about the old standby: calorie counting? Well, besides being a bit dangerous in terms of building an unhealthy mindset around food, experts now say it just flat out doesn’t work.

Precision Nutrition, a nutrition coaching company, decided to take matters into their own hands, and created a super comprehensive two-part infographic that explains exactly why calorie counting doesn’t work IRL. They break it down into two important things to watch: calories in and calories out.


First off, the nutritionists say the basic principle of counting calories is solid: If you take in fewer calories than you’re burning, you’ll lose weight. BUT, there are a few key reasons why in reality, counting calories isn’t effective. “Counting calories as a way to try to know and control your energy intake is fundamentally — sometimes hopelessly — flawed,” they write.

Why You Should Stop Counting Calories

It’s impossible to know how many calories you’re actually consuming, because information on food packaging isn’t always accurately measurable, particularly when food is cooked, chopped or blended. For example, a large sweet potato can range from 231 calories to 705, and a raw potato can nearly double in calories when it’s cooked. Having to account for such a huge range of possible error makes effective calorie counting nearly impossible. Plus, we all absorb foods differently and are notoriously bad at eyeballing portion sizes.

In terms of calories out (AKA calories burned), there are also a ton of factors that mean each individual person burns calories in different ways and at different rates, including your genes, hours of sleep you get and phase of your cycle (hormones). So, in other words, it’s completely impossible to calculate exactly how many calories you should be taking in and burning. Kinda freeing, right?

Scroll through for the full infographics.

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Are you giving up calorie counting after reading this? Tweet us your thoughts @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty, images via Precision Nutrition)