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Calorie Counting Is A Diet Culture Scheme

Season #1

It's taken as gospel that the road to weight loss is knowing your calorie expenditure and intake. So, why does this practice fail to deliver a stable, healthy weight?

Rates of regain are a staggering 90% or more. And that's if you can sustain it.

If you've struggled with weight, you've cycled in and out of these counting schemes

Calories are real(ish). Counting them is a cultural ideology. 

Calories have turned into organizing principles on how we deal with food, our activities (does this burn a lot of calories?), and, ultimately, how we conduct our lives.

"This is more or less the central myth of the Western diet. The word “myth” here doesn’t necessarily mean that calories aren’t real. It just means that calories are a story around which we organize our Western beliefs and values — just like ancient societies that had their own culture-shaping myths about why it rained and which spiritual beings ran the show." From The Calorie Myth.

How did this happen, and why does it persist?

In the 1960s, companies figured out how the calories might be useful in dealing with rising food processing. Since then, calorie counting has been trotted out as 'the' solution to weight and endures to this day. Every app relies on some version; doctors suggest it, nutritionists counsel it, and online bros can't wait to lecture you about calorie deficits. 

In this and the following episodes, we explore these two questions.

  1. Is it necessary?
  2. Is it a good idea?

What does it do to our enjoyment of life and food to turn our lives into counting exercises to lose weight?

This a two-part episode. First, we explore how calorie counting was invented, who benefits from the practice, and the underlying assumptions behind its efficacy. Next, we talk about the real-world impact of buying into this food, movement, and weight approach.


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