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Counting Calories: To Track Or Not To Track

These are my two cents on calorie/nutrient trackers and their pros and cons.

With the advent of smartphone apps, calorie tracking has never been easier, but it might come with a cost. There’s been much debate over whether or not people should be using nutrition trackers to see how their dietary habits measure up against guidelines and recommendations. Some people track calories and macronutrients to facilitate weight loss, while others track micronutrients for health. Although trackers can be awesome tools that help paint a clear picture of your nutrition, we know that it can also trigger disordered eating. What does the science say about tracking food intake.

First of all, most people start tracking with the best intentions in mind. They embark on a health journey looking to improve their quality of life and want to know where they stand so they can figure out where to improve. Knowledge is power, right? What if I told you that trackers can be great tools that can assist in improving health, but could potentially be double edged swords for certain people. Although they’re scientifically engineered to promote self-regulation, and notifications and positive reinforcement can definitely help users stay on track, they do have the power to trigger abnormal eating behaviours. A specific study showed that up to 35% of dieters ending up developing disordered eating. Have you ever skipped a meal, or ignored hunger cues because your tracker said your calorie intake was too close to your daily requirements? When you think about food, do you see the nourishment it offers, or do you see calories. Do you count macros or micros? Are you concerned with the actual health promoting benefits of what you eat, or more worried about its energy density?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, disordered eating is used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviors that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Signs and symptoms of disordered eating may include, but are not limited to:

  • Frequent dieting, anxiety associated with specific foods or meal skipping

  • Chronic weight fluctuations

  • Rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise

  • Feeling