Calorie Counting: Eat Real Food and Don’t Worry

Posted on Jan 26 2011 - 3:56am by Mike Lieberman

Last week the Eatocracy section of posted an article titled – Study shows people don’t give a crap how many calories they eat.

The results of a study showed that, “Posting calories on menus has little effect on what customers buy, according to a recent study.”

Besides the fact that it’s slightly awesome that CNN put the word “crap” in their headline, I think that calorie counting in and of itself is a bunch of crap.

If you eat real whole foods, you won’t have to worry about calories. Ok, let me rephrase that because it’s not just about eating real whole foods. It’s about being active as well.

Sitting around in front of your computer or on the couch all day isn’t going to help. So if you eat real food, remain steadily active, then I don’t think that obesity and being overweight should really be that much of an issue.

My girlfriend used to be overweight and she tried nearly every diet out there. She was on Atkins, Weight Watchers, The Zone, Isagenix and the list goes on.

None of them worked. They weren’t sustainable. She cut out the processed foods and began to eat more whole foods. She dropped 30 lbs.

She remains active through yoga and other exercises, but that kind of lifestyle is sustainable. It doesn’t come to an end. It’s part of the journey.

Same thing goes for being active. You don’t need a fancy gym membership. There are plenty of body weight exercises that you can do. Check out my boy Al Kavadlo for some tips on that.

Growing your own helps with that because you are taking care of your mind, body and planet when you are in the garden. You are moving around. You are connecting with the earth.

To conclude – eat real whole foods that you can recognize the ingredients. No ingredients is even better because it’s a whole food. Keep active and you won’t need to count the calories.

You know what else..start growing some of your own food too.

What’s your thoughts on calorie counting?


44 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Becky Striepe January 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm -

    THANK YOU for this. I recently read a blog post by a woman who said something along the lines of “like most women, I’m always on a diet,” and I thought that was so depressing. I’m glad to hear that your girlfriend was able to get off of the diet train. I had the same experience – when I stopped worrying about calories and focused on staying active and eating healthy food, my weight stabilized in a healthy place. I was never super overweight, but I struggled with dieting, almost because it seemed like that’s what I was supposed to do as a woman.

  2. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm -

    Word. That’s what they want us to think and believe. We need to fit this image that is portrayed and can only do it by buying into whatever program they are pushing. Eat real food and being active is sustainable. Diets aren’t. They come to an end.

  3. Jennifer January 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm -

    Great post. Your top picture cracked me up…my husband and I went grocery shopping last night and we have a huge bowl of green apples and oranges (for juicing) on our table. Looks almost identical to your bowl of fruit!

  4. The Crimson Pirate January 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm -

    I agree 100%. I lost about 30 pounds the first year we started gardenning and focusing on cutting out proccesed food. Just cutting out soda I lost 10 pounds. We bought real meat, not proccesed and frozen mystery stuff, and added as many veggies as we afford and grow. We cut out fast food. And if you fall off the wagon during a busy week, then you just get back on as soon as possible.

    Aristotle said “Make your food your medicine, and make your medicine your food.” The ancient Greeks focused on two things. Healthy eating and physical activity. That was several thousand years ago, so people have known this for a long time. But since it isn’t taught in the public indoctrination system, or trumpeted by the media after American Idol we as a nation have forgotten. We have allowed ourselves to be propagandized into dependence.

    This year, in addition to the garden we will be riding bikes on the local Rails To Trails paths. These are converted old railway beds that now provide a convenient place to walk or bike. After we get used to that I’m going to try to drag my wife up to the AT for some day or half day hikes. And of course we’ll be walking a lot to find good fishing spots. It really isn’t that hard. Just turn off the TV and go do something, and eat stuff made by nature not some factory. And for the record I’m still a carnivore, but I love me some raw veggies on the side 😉

  5. Becky Striepe January 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm -

    I totally agree. This whole thing has been on my mind all day since I read your post this morning, so I wrote something up for EDB to get those thoughts out of my head and hopefully spread the word that it’s health that’s important, not our waistlines. I think when folks focus on staying healthy, they look and feel the part naturally.

  6. Anonymous January 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm -

    I’ve been coming to the same conclusions…

    Great article btw.

  7. Gleamer January 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm -

    Your knees are distracting 🙂 Totally agree and am with you!

  8. Dave January 26, 2011 at 8:54 pm -

    Great article, couldn’t agree more. In school for sports medicine, it is amazing how much misinformation is out there regarding weight loss and healthy living. Whenever someone asks about how I stay fit, the answer is always lifestyle habits. Make exercise part of your life, make eating healthy whole foods a part of who you are.

    It doesn’t take a nutritionist to figure out that a bowl of oatmeal or an egg for breakfast is better than a bagel or muffin. On that note, the old adage “calories in calories out” is just that… old!! This saying is continually found to be false in todays research.

    It is not about the quantity of foods that you eat but the QUALITY.

  9. chris@getrealchris January 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm -

    Great post Mike. I finally gave up calorie counting after a lifetime of dieting. Now, when I’m hungry I eat mainly whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods and when I’m full… I put down the fork.

  10. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm -

    My fruit bowl totally looks better than your fruit bowl. It was just filled up from the farmers market and topped with my new favorite fruit – the cherimoya. Therefore my fruit bowl is better ; -)

  11. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm -

    Putting down the fork is definitely a good strategy. When you eat real foods it’s more difficult to overeat. Possible, but difficult.

  12. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm -

    It’s totally about quality, but we are a society based on quantity.

  13. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm -

    I’ll do my best to control my knees. Hahaha.

  14. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm -

    Thanks. Strip away the BS and it makes sense.

  15. Mike Lieberman January 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm -

    Ain’t nothing wrong with sustainably raised beef. I just don’t eat, but I won’t hate on it.

    Have you read the book A Walk in the Woods. It’s a diary of a dude that attempted to hike the App Trail end to end. Pretty funny.

    Two years ago, I hiked Mt. Katahdin, which is the northern most part of the trail. Pretty dope.

  16. Susy Morris January 26, 2011 at 11:15 pm -

    So true, 5-6 years ago Mr Chiots and I transitions from a “healthy” processed diet (low-fat, lots o veg, etc). To a real food diet filled with lots of pastured local butter, whole raw milk, local pastured meats & eggs, homegrown veggies and fruits. We make everything from scratch (including grinding our own grain we get from a local farmer). I also quite running miles and miles and started growing more of my own food for exercise (gardening is great exercise) and in the winter yoga. We both lost weight without trying, feel much better, rarely get headaches, haven’t have colds/flu in 2-3 years. Not only that we’re actually spending much less on food because we’re not hungry all the time, no snacking needed when your body is getting nourished instead of just fed.

    Not only does eating this way make you much healthier but it makes you appreciate food more. Growing your own food and cooking from scratch really makes you appreciate what goes into food. You eat slowly, savor and eating is truly an enjoyable experience. Everyone that comes to our home is amazed at how great the food it, truth is, good local real fresh ingredients make good food.

    Cheers, happy eating!

  17. Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions January 27, 2011 at 12:20 am -

    Great post! I just stumbled across your blog today, but I’m already bookmarking it as a fave!

  18. Leesie a/k/a seaslife January 27, 2011 at 12:26 am -

    Excellent candid post, Mike, and so awesome to hear that your girl lost the weight by eating better and becoming more active which is the part that I am working on. I recently started beginner spinning class, and am totally loving it. Starting off slow and hope to be riding miles and miles real soon — and taking it outside when the weather gets better here in your old home state! 🙂

  19. Mike Lieberman January 27, 2011 at 1:59 am -

    That’s an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it with me. You’re a good role model for others.

  20. ChickiePeaPod January 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm -

    Yep. I lost 40 lbs/1 yr by cutting out processed foods, gluten, corn, and white sugar. It’s not a low-carb “fad” for me- I think I had undiagnosed issues with gluten and food sensitivities, and when you are eating processed “crap” then you have NO idea what it is causing the problem from those 800 ingredients you are consuming each day. Now I have a very short list of whole foods (that varies each day) and I can pinpoint when something is not agreeing with my body, and I don’t eat it anymore, and thus feel better.

    ( for my blog on eating for autoimmune health)

  21. Mike Lieberman January 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm -

    It’s great taking control of your body again. Isn’t it?

  22. Mike Lieberman January 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm -

    Thanks Jessica. Likewise.

  23. Mike Lieberman January 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm -

    That’s awesome Leesie. Got find what works for you and stick with it.

  24. Christina Pearson February 18, 2011 at 3:12 am -

    I’m a calorie counter. Actually, I’m a weight watchers (so points) person, and I consider myself to do pretty well eating real food. I gained a bunch of weight in high school thanks to a not so great attitude about nutrition and graduated at about 250 pounds. As soon as I moved out I dropped the first 30 doing just like you said, eating real food and staying relatively active. After I started college a year later I hit a plateau despite eating predominantly real food. The problem for me was at the end of the day, you can still take in too many calories eating wholesome natural and nutritious food if you’re not careful about it, and as a student the opportunity to get as much exercise as I would like was not always there. Three years later, I’ve done the counting thing on and off and I’m about 15 pounds away from my goal weight (150) thanks to keeping track of what I eat (albeit on and off). I will say, for me when I wasn’t tracking my food I never gained any weight back, thanks to a combination of having learned better habits as far as how much to eat and the fact that I value natural/wholesome foods very highly.

    So yes, eating whole foods can be a big part of maintaining a healthy weight. But if you have some ways to go before you hit that healthy weight, watching calories, even of the healthy stuff, can be a useful tool as well.

  25. Mike Lieberman February 18, 2011 at 4:37 am -

    Christina. Thanks for sharing your experience with me. It’s always good to hear what others have gone through and how they’ve dealt with their life situations.

    That balance of being active and eating real food is a difficult one to maintain. You certainly can eat a lot of food and gain weight, but that’s because you aren’t burning it off.

    Our bodies know what to do and how to maintain themselves if we listen to them.

    Counting calories is a tool like you said, but a tool that, personally, I don’t find useful. It is a tool that others might find useful.

    Gotta find what works best for you and go with that. Only you know what that is.

  26. Cody March 3, 2011 at 11:04 pm -

    Sounds like celiac disease (gluten intolerance).

  27. Leisurely_libran March 5, 2011 at 6:27 am -

    I stopped eating processed foods and started eating whole foods… and put on 25 pounds 🙁

    I also quit smoking and started tasting food for the first time in 13 years. I think that’s what did it. I actually enjoyed eating, and went a little overboard. Add a few injuries (knee, neck) which forced several long sedentary periods on me, and there you go.

    I used to say counting calories was unnecessary, but I think I need to do it, just for a little while, just to remind myself what a normal meal should look like and what a healthy appetite feels like. I am a few pounds shy of being “overweight” and feeling a bit desperate. Having been under-to-normal weight the majority of my life, I am clueless. Never thought I would be saying the words, “I need to go on a diet.” Fortunately, I know that “diets” are not sustainable, but real food (and exercise!) is. I enjoyed your blog and will revisit it when I’m at that phase.

  28. Mike Lieberman March 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm -

    Exercise and mental state of health are just as important as the food. Best of luck!

  29. Erin @ The Impatient Gardener May 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm -

     I have to say, this is so the point of view of a man. I hate to be sexist about it, but it is proven that women and men metabolize food differently and to just throw out a blanket statement such as “Eat real food and don’t be sendentary and your weight will take care of itself” is ridiculous, and I suspect you know that. I know many, many women who do not eat processed foods, do not overeat and do not sit on the couch all day long who have weight problems. This might be the case for some lucky people, but it is not for many, and I would hazard to say, most, women.

  30. Mike Lieberman May 24, 2011 at 1:18 am -

    I disagree Erin. Health is a combination of food, exercise and overall mental and  emotional state. People can store negative emotions and feelings in their bodies in the form of fat cells. We can all come up with the excuses that we want, but that will just keep us in the physical and mental states that we are in.

  31. Luna111 May 24, 2011 at 4:12 am -

    I agree with you Erin.  Women’s bodies are “designed” to store fat.  When a woman  exercises, for example, her bodies lowers its metabolism for a while in order to hang onto that fat.  To say that men don’t lose weight and fat easier than women is to ignore mountains evidence. 

    Sorry Mike, but, storing negative emotions in fat cells?  Please show me the scientific evidence for that claim. 

  32. Mike Lieberman May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm -

    Just because a woman’s body is designed to store more fat that isn’t an excuse to have excess. 

    I don’t have an exact quote from him, but Dr John Douillard has made such comments about emotions and storing fat.
    It is hard to deny that emotions have an impact on weight loss. Especially since food is heavily tied to emotions for us and our bodies release different chemicals based on our emotions. 

    I never disagreed that men’s and women’s bodies were designed differently, but being a woman isn’t an excuse for having too much weight. 

  33. Erin May 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm -

    To be clear, I’m not trying to justify being overweight and yes, humans are excellent at making excuses. I’m just saying that for some people it is not as simple as eating healthy, whole foods and not being sedentary. For some people weight is a lifelong struggle and certainly everyone’s genetics predispose them to being a certain size. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to balloon up, it just means that some people have to go much further than just eating right in order to be at a healthy weight and BMI. To suggest otherwise, as you did in the original post, is oversimplifying the situation and to me, shows that you don’t have a full understanding of the struggles some people face.

  34. Mike Lieberman May 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm -

    Exactly it’s a mental struggle too, which is also a  factor. The balance between food, exercise and mental state is in constant flux and balance. It’s the balance between those three that make up one’s overall health. We’ve all seen people that eat really “healthy” and be sick. We’ve also seen people who workout like crazy and are sick as well.

  35. Kirowyn July 22, 2011 at 6:30 am -

    I find this post very helpful.  As far as eating goes, I go back and forth between eating healthy whole foods and processed crap.  (When it gets to around that time for females sometimes I can’t help myself – I know I need to work on that… I just stumbled on a page that had a recipe for roasted chick peas that looked delicious!)  The only problem I’ve been having is activity.  I can never quite get the motivation to be active in the way that I want.  (In other words I’m really lazy.)  I have started my own garden – I also buy local when I can.  Next step is expanding my small garden to include the things I use every day and trying to find [i]something[/i] active I can stick to.  

    I find that knowing where my food comes from also helps.  I have my own chickens and ducks that I use for eggs (and eventually will for meat,) and in the future plan on having goats for milk/meat and maybe a couple other things like that.As far as some people saying that this doesn’t work for them and that they need to count calories – in some cases, not all – slow down.  Eat your meals more slowly.  Do it sitting down, and actually pay attention to it.  Don’t watch TV, don’t text, don’t talk on the phone.  When you’re not paying attention to the food you eat a lot of times you end up eating too much.  You might also be surprised that everything tastes better as well!  (Again, this is a tip for people who don’t already do this.)

  36. Mike Lieberman July 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm -

    Kirowyn – Thanks for sharing that useful tip. It’s something that I’ve started to incorporate lately. As for the activity, find something you like and just do it. Schedule the time to do it everyday and it will eventually become habit. You got it.

  37. Sabrina September 30, 2011 at 10:25 pm -

    I see that this is an old post, but very helpful! I’ve been on tons of diets, and am moving to a more whole foods menu. I don’t have to lose weight, but I still have a hard time NOT counting calories. I realize that raw organic sugar is healthier for our bodies than, say, aspartame, but I have a hard time swallowing (litteraly!) the calories.

  38. Mike Lieberman September 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm -

    Yes. Calories and quality of the food.

  39. Jul January 16, 2013 at 7:22 am -

    You have the right idea, absolutely. I do have to say when you reach later 40’s and early 50’s for women, it’s still a huge struggle. Wish there was a magic pill!

  40. Jul January 16, 2013 at 7:23 am -


  41. Jul January 16, 2013 at 7:27 am -

    No one is making excuses at all. In a woman’s defense, metabolism changes, be a woman and then you’d understand. I could lose weight easily in 30’s, 40’s a bit harder. And I was by no means over weight. At 50 and even with moderate exercise and eating right (no canned diet) it’s extremely difficult with a very low to mid calorie intake. Walk in our shoes.

  42. Andrew Persaud April 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm -

    Unless you have a health disorder, there is no excuse. It’s calories in vs calories out. Keep in mind calories that are too low will make your body hold onto fat as well ( starvation mode), thus when the scale drops, its all muscle loss and you end up looking worse instead of better. You need a balanced healthy diet with exercise to be fit. Sorry to be rude but “walk in our shoes” is a bunch of crap. Get your overall plan in order and it will work. I’m positive you are not doing things correctly and that is why you do not look the way you desire.

  43. moogan July 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm -

    Question: Why would anyone think ” that it’s slightly awesome that CNN put the word “crap” in their headline”…?

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