Calorie trackers are gadgets or apps that allow you to track/log your nutritional intake. They are just one of many mindful tools to that can help you learn and understand food composition and energy. However, if and when they start to dictate your “fullness” or stop you from choosing foods based on your instincts (and you are solely choosing them based on caloric density instead), I become very concerned.
While speaking all things Mindful & Instinctive Eating with hotel employees last month, more than a handful of female employees told me their calorie trackers restrict them to 1200 calories per day. They were shocked when I explained that the average woman actually needs MORE than 1200 calories/day just to survive (not accounting for any kind of movement, thought process, stress, menstrual period, or anything in between). Further, all of these women were of different ages, sizes, and stages in their lives, yet their calorie trackers were giving them the exact same amount of energy to consume each day.
When speaking to each woman about why they were using a calorie tracker, the majority said for weight loss. There is nothing wrong with pursuing weight loss or using a tool to help you reach your goals or understand nutrient composition. However, when a tool is making you believe that 1200 calories per day is adequate and sustainable, and keeps you feeling hungry, it is probably not a tool for you.
Nourishment provides us with energy and health and satiety, and is meant to be enjoyed. If your calorie tracker is restricting you from living your life, enjoy the foods you love, and prescribing the same [extremely limited] energy requirement for everyone around you, I would analyze and reconsider what the tool is actual doing for you. Further, remember that nutrition is never a one-size-fits-all approach. Your calorie tracker will never know or understand your individual needs, specific health goals, your work life, social life, personal life, budget, food accessibility, and the list goes on and on.
If and when your calorie tracker starts to become more of a stressor (and keeps you feeling hungry) instead of positive and mindful tool, I’d recommend letting go of that tool and finding other tools much more suitable for you. That’s mindful. That’s instinctive.