How to Stop Automatically Counting Calories Every Time You Eat


For example, before opening the menu at The Cheesecake Factory, decide if you want a burger, a salad, a pasta dish, or a meat-and-potatoes-type entree. Once you’ve narrowed it down to one of these categories, head straight to that section of the menu and pick something that sounds good, trying to pay as little attention to calories as possible. By narrowing things down before you see the numbers, you’re giving yourself permission to decide what you really want. Sure, you probably know that certain things tend to have more calories than others, but taking the extra step to avoid looking at that info at first can help you get more in tune with what food choice will actually satisfy you at a given time.

3. Cover the calorie information on food packaging.

There’s no way to avoid nutrition labels completely, but when you’re trying to stop counting calories, keeping them out of sight may keep them out of mind, too. “Cover nutrition facts labels with opaque tape or use a sharpie to black out the information so you can’t see it,” Drusilla Rosales, RD, a family nutrition dietitian in League City, Texas, tells SELF. Of course, you may already know the number of calories in certain packaged foods, but not having this information (or the suggested serving size) in your face every time you cook or snack can help you stop fixating on it. Over time, you’ll probably notice that you don’t think to check the label every time you grab something from the fridge or pantry. Once this becomes the norm, you can probably stop with the tape.

4. If someone else starts talking about calories, change the conversation.

You might be ready to delete MyFitnessPal, but that doesn’t mean everyone around you is on the same page. Listening to people talk about nutrition, diets, or food tracking can be triggering—especially when you’re in the early stages of letting these things go—so your best bet is redirection. “Change the conversation when someone brings up macro counting or the number of calories in a certain food,” Amy Brownstein, RDN, a dietitian in Park City, Utah, tells SELF.

You can ask them about what they’re reading or watching on TV, bring up a hobby you have in common, or say something more direct like, “I’m trying to think less about calories, would you mind if we talk about something else?” When you’re able to keep this kind of talk out of everyday conversations, you’ll naturally start to think less and less about it, Brownstein says.

5. When your brain starts counting calories, distract yourself.

Even if you avoid looking at calories and do your best to make food choices based on your hunger levels and preferences, there will be times when your brain starts adding things up without your permission. The best move in this case? Divert your attention to something else, ASAP.

Rosales recommends using mindful eating exercises to tap into the sensory qualities of whatever you’re eating. For example, you can ask yourself questions like: How does it look, smell, and taste? What’s the temperature and texture of the food? Is it satisfying at this moment? If not, what would you change to increase your satisfaction level? This practice helps you fully experience the food instead of seeing it as a number.

If that doesn’t work for you, or if you get tired of it, you can also try thinking about literally anything else. Go over your workday to-do list, dream about your upcoming vacation, think about an important conversation you need to have, or brainstorm weekend plans—whatever will interrupt the automatic calculation.

Keep in mind that even if you put all of the above advice into practice, you’re probably still going to have thoughts about calories (detoxing from diet culture takes time). Instead of beating yourself up about it though, try to accept that it’s inevitable for a little while—if your tracking habit spanned years, you can’t expect it to disappear in a matter of days or weeks. Just keep pushing away the thoughts when you can, work on paying attention to your body’s cues, and trust that all that nutrition noise in your head will get much quieter over time.




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