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Calorie Counting vs. Intuitive Eating: What works for you?

Posted Apr 26 2012 8:00am

This post was sparked by talking to some clients about their eating habits AND by Jillian Michaels podcasts . I’ve basically been raving about the JM podcasts since I started listening to them. I find them to be very informative, inspirational and give nice insight to Jillian Michaels. Jillian is a HUGE advocate for calorie counting. She stands by the notion that everyone can lose weight by calorie counting and paying attention to calories in verses calories burned.

I have been a calorie counter before… when I did weight watchers after my freshman 20 in 2007. It wasn’t so much calorie counting but point counting. And those points stayed with me for awhile. I was able to point count almost anything for awhile. Eventually I stopped counting points/calories and fell into a place of intuitive eating. Eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full. Eat basically what I want (although what I want is generally healthy!)

So what’s the difference and where do you fit in?

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Calorie Counting: You keep track of calories in (food intake) verse calories out (calories burned in a day). If you burn more than you eat, you will lose weight.


  • Can help you lose weight by tracking calories you take in.
  • There are many different websites and apps to help you, like My Fitness Pal.
  • Keeps you accountable.
  • You can make choices based on calories and make substitutions (IE: one less bag of chips, more veggies)
  • You can see exactly what and where your eating too much, or falling short by tracking.


  • It can be hard to calculate calories if you go out to eat a lot or if you don’t portion out your foods. You may be seriously underestimating your food intake.
  • It can get addictive. Don’t ever, ever, ever go below 1,200 calories (which is already low.)
  • You have to take it upon yourself to balance out your meals, eating enough veggies, protein, etc.


  • Make sure your meals are balanced and you’re eating enough of the good stuff! Don’t worry so much about counting greens.
  • When you go out to eat, order smart. Order foods that are grilled, baked or steamed.
  • Portion your food out so you know how much you are eating.
  • Move daily. Go for a walk, take a lap around the office, ride a bike. It’s getting warm, keep it moving!
  • Use a website like My Fitness Pal or get a Fit Bit!

Intuitive Eating: “Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom. ” ( source )


  • You learn about your body and it’s emotional and physical needs.
  • No more “dieting”.
  • You can eat what you want and not feel guilty about it. Eat what you want, when you want. Stop when your full.
  • Helps you honor your health and your body.
  • The better you eat, the better you’ll want to eat.


  • It’s a very loose system (or not a system at all). It takes time to adjust to this and figure out what’s hunger and what’s emotion.
  • There is little accountability.
  • Although you can eat what you want, you have to find a healthy balance.

In my opinion (which clearly this ALL is my opinion) if you are trying to lose weight, it’s probably best to do a combination of both of these things (in the sense that if you want a certain food, go for it, but stay accountable as well). I find calorie counting to be helpful to do at least for a little while to help you realize what is actually going into your body.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to eat WHOLE foods that are not processed, no matter what diet system you are using. Get rid of the Weight Watchers bread and focus on whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa), veggies, healthy fats and lean proteins. Eating those types of foods will help you lose weight. Then find a mix of what works for you. You can still intuitively eat and keep yourself accountable.  And remember, those drinks have calories too!

This was just my two sense after a week of reflecting on my experiences. Get to know your body and what it really wants. After you start to make the switch to REAL, WHOLE foods, you’ll be surprised how much you crave those REAL foods. 

What are your thoughts? What works for you?  Please share your experiences! 

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