The Dangers of Calorie Counting


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While calorie counting is fairly normalized in our society, it can cause detrimental problems with your beliefs about food and may even risk your physical health. Today we will walk you through some of the dangers associated with calorie counting.

Food Restrictions May Harm Your Relationship with Food

Telling yourself that you can’t have a certain food usually causes you to think about it more. You may try to find lower-calorie options to stay full, but you still find yourself obsessing about what you eat.

For people with a disordered relationship with food, eating according to their hunger and cravings is a scary thought. If you experience any of the following, your calorie counting may be harming your relationship with food:

  • Getting upset or crying if you eat a high-calorie food
  • Becoming angry at loved ones who invite you out to dinner or ice cream
  • Restricting your food intake because you had a higher calorie meal or snack earlier in the day
  • Refusing to eat because you’ve already “spent” your calories for the day, even if you’re becoming hungry or lightheaded

Calorie Counting May Lead to Exercise Addiction or Purging

Those who count calories in food may panic when they exceed their “limit.” And then what?

Sitting with strong emotions about what you just ate can feel overwhelming. It can lead to feeling the need to “get rid of” these calories. This may lead to intentional vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise.

Not only can this create further damage to your relationship with food, but it can also increase your risk of serious medical issues, including the following1:

  • Electrolyte imbalances, which can increase the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat and may even cause your heart to stop altogether
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as unintentional vomiting, stomach pain, bloating
  • Long-term dependence on laxatives to have a bowel movement
  • Esophageal rupture
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
  • Blood sugar swings

Counting Calories in Food May Lead to Malnutrition

When people who struggle with food set their calorie goals, they frequently set this number too low. Then, they will often underestimate their calorie intake to avoid exceeding this calorie goal. Undereating, even for a short period, can cause malnutrition.

Your body needs sufficient calories to function and thrive. There is a difference between just getting by and thriving. You may be functional at school or work. Your body may not have given out while running on little fuel. But it doesn’t mean that you are functioning at your best.

In fact, your body may start burning the muscles in your arms, legs, or heart to keep up with your energy demands. Plus, consider all the vitamins and minerals you are missing because of your calorie restriction.

Calorie Counting Can Lead To Body Distrust

Most people who count calories end up ignoring their body’s natural hunger cues in order to stick to their calorie count for the day. If they go over their calorie allotment, they may restrict their calories the next day to compensate for exceeding their goal.

This can result in feeling anxiety or dread when your body releases natural signals that you need to eat. Then, they must face the dilemma: Do I trust my body’s signals that I need food, or do I go hungry to stay within my calorie goals?

After a while of suppressing your hunger cues, they may become less frequent, less obvious, or seemingly nonexistent. This can make it challenging to know that you’re actually getting enough nourishment from food.

Where To Get Help

If you find yourself constantly worrying about the calories in food, you don’t have to suffer in silence. At Selah House, we can help you heal and embrace your value outside of your eating disorder. To get started, give us a call at 765-442-3551 or fill out our contact form.


  1. Health Consequences | National Eating Disorders Association

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