The Dangers of Calorie Counting Apps

By: Hannah Dentry ’17, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

The dangers of calorie counting apps 2
“I didn’t realize how many calories I was supposed to have to lose weight. My calorie counting app is a way for me to not go above that set number”

“When I count my calories, I am less likely to mindlessly eat. I am more accountable”

These were the most popular responses to why my classmates use calorie-counting applications. The quotes above seem very positive, right? It’s true that being conscious of your diet is a great way to manage your weight; however, with these very restrictive apps we run the risk of damaging our relationship with food and setting unrealistic and inaccurate nutrient goals for ourselves.

Let’s look more closely at each of these seemingly innocent comment:

“When I count my calories, I am less likely to mindlessly eat. I am more accountable”

DANGER: Damaging Relationship with food
While mindless eating can certainly lead to overindulgence, meticulously tracking everything that you put into your mouth is no way to live. Our relationship with food is a very important aspect of our overall wellness. When we stop enjoying food and start seeing it as the enemy, something as simple as deciding what to have for dinner can become an all out war with yourself. Experts believe that this damaged relationship with food even has the potential to spiral into disordered eating.

Try This:
We are born with brilliant internal mechanisms to signal our hunger and fullness. As we grow, we lose sight of these internal signals and begin listening to external signals like time of day, emotions and social pressure. By checking in with your hunger levels before and after you eat, you can empower yourself to eat when you body is telling you to eat and stop when it is telling you to stop.

“I didn’t realize how many calories I was supposed to have to lose weight. My calorie counting app is a way for me to not go above that set number”

DANGER: Inaccurate Calories Goals
Your body, like you, is completely unique! Your calorie counting app doesn’t know you or your metabolism. When I asked students with different body types and weight management goals, they all informed me that their calorie counting app set their daily caloric limit between 1200 and 1300. To maintain a healthy weight, The Dietary Guidelines of Americans estimates that college aged young adults, will need more calories than this. A great online tool to track your diet that takes your uniqueness into consideration is the USDA’s SuperTracker.

Try This:
There is so much more to weight management than counting calories! If we limit our calories to the point where we feel famished and deprived, we will inevitably overeat those foods that we were denying ourselves. In order to make sure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and energized and to keep yourself from feeling ravenous, you should consume a variety of foods. Try to mix as many food groups into each of your meals as possible.

Being conscious of what you eat is a great way to manage your weight. You can do this in a way that makes you feel empowered to eat the foods you enjoy while still consuming a balanced diet where all food groups are represented. MyPlate can help you build your meals to get the most nutrients from your food and feel satisfied. If you feel that you would benefit from keeping track of your meals, keep a food journal where you write down what kinds of foods you are eating; this is a way for you to make sure that you are eating all of the required servings from each food group.

Apps on our phones are great for streamlining so many tedious processes but when it comes to nourishing our bodies and enjoying our food, streamlining might not be the best! Let’s take our eyes off the screen and back onto our plates and enjoy!

Bon appetite!

To learn more about maintaining a healthy weight, reserve your session with a  Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing

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3 Responses to The Dangers of Calorie Counting Apps

  1. Emily Tolino says:

    Great article, Hannah! I love how you broke down seemingly positive quotes and provided realistic strategies for healthy eating!

  2. Katelyn says:

    I love the info about counting in order to remain accountable! It’s a great reminder that eating is complex and it’s important to address the psychological effects of certain habits, as well as the nutritional ones.

  3. This is a terrific topic Hannah! Good nutrition is so much more than calories and nutrients, it is about our relationship with food as well. What a refreshing way to look at fueling everything we do and everything we are striving to become here at UMD!

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