Portion Control Benefits: The Freedom of Calorie Counting

Calorie Counting Meal

Counting calories is not normally seen as a liberating activity. More often than not, it can be perceived as a limitation. However, this is missing a fundamental truth. A diet focused purely on calories in vs. calories out, can be one of the least restrictive diets possible.

Benefits of Calorie Counting

The reason calorie counting can be an effective exercise for weight loss is because it allows for freedom in the foods you choose. All the dieter has to do is correctly log their quantities of food, and ensure they stay under the recommended number of calories and logically, the weight should come off. This allows for people to indulge their cravings for various foods without derailing their weight loss efforts. This kind of freedom is powerful and may increase the likelihood of long term dietary success.

There is significant evidence to suggest that counting calories and portion control can contribute to long term weight loss. In clinical review literature it has been shown to be “effective, simple, reliable, and sustainable”, all of which are important factors to consider for a weight loss intervention (Clark). A simple reduction in the quantity consumed and tracking to confirm this fact can contribute to greatly accelerated weight loss and can be combined with other methods to further improve results.

[Related Post: Best Ways to Lose Weight FAST (Even with Low Willpower).]

Food Scale

A multitude of studies have found a strong relationship between monitory intake of food and weight loss (Burke). It also appears that electronic calorie counting may contribute to greater weight loss, assuming it includes some form of positive feedback (Burke). The addition of the positive feedback on the electronic device can improve the dieter’s view of themselves and help condition them to continue tracking their dietary intake.

The Drawbacks

There are several problems with calorie counting. For one, some people will more easily become discouraged because of the additional time and effort inherent in keeping track of every single thing you eat. This extra friction can also function to improve the outcome. Knowing that every bite of food you eat will have to be logged, can be a very strong motivating factor to prevent overeating.

“Cutting back on calories is not the [only] answer to successful weight loss and successful health… you have to increase the quality of what you eat, not just reduce the quantity.”
-Joel Fuhrman, Author & Physician

Other negatives include the fact that a diet focused primarily on calories in and calories out may be effective for weight loss, but it may fall short for general health. Health is about more than the number on a scale and it can be easy to become malnourished if your only focus is on reducing the number of calories consumed. However, calorie counting is still a useful tool combined with other dietary changes for general health.

Veggie Portions

The Verdict

The evidence shows that tracking calories is a useful tool for weight loss. This simple change actually allows dieters freedom in their diet because they can significantly vary their choices of foods as long as they stay within their calorie needs. This can increase compliance and contribute to positive health changes in the long term.

Have you ever tried calorie counting before? Please share your experience below!

1. “Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature.”
2. “Overweight and Obesity: Use of Portion Control in Management.”

 *DISCLAIMER: Always consult a medical professional before applying the advice given throughout this website. While the articles on HMM are thoroughly researched, it is important to speak with your medical provider before starting a new exercise routine or introducing something new to your diet. We ourselves are NOT doctors, so the information we feature should not be used to replace any of your medications or lifestyle choices that have been recommended by your doctor. Read at your own risk and read our full disclaimer here.*


  1. I profess the same belief. I am 57 years old and have exercised for the last 38 years and entered my foods in a computer program for the last 21 years. This is NOT a PUNISHMENT. It is a method to understand what we actually consume vs. what we believe we consume. If my blood profile ever changed from its healthy state, I would be able to see if dietary factors contributed to this imbalance. Food logs should be a requirement in the education process from K-12 grades. It would help address the obesity epidemic in a cost effective manner and improve awareness about nutrition and disease.

    • Yes, we tend to agree as well. Tracking what you eat is like tracking your progress or lack there of. Becoming more conscious of what one puts into their body might make one think twice before eating something they shouldn’t (say, a doughnut).

      Also, you make a great point about food logs being a requirement for students. That really needs to happen and we believe it will be extremely beneficial in alleviating this unfortunate epidemic.

    • Thank you very much for your comment. I’m the author of this post, and do agree that it could be a useful tool for some children. My one worry with introducing it to certain people at that age is it could contribute to further problems in people who could be at risk for certain eating disorders. However, I do think it could definitely contribute to reducing the amount of obesity.

      • Yes, it’s definitely good to look at both sides. While it can be beneficial, it can also pose some issues as well.

        Thank you for your article, Bennett! We look forward to your future posts (if you feel inclined to submit them to us, that is). 🙂

      • It’s all based on how it is introduced to children. The concept should demonstrate the “quality” of food a child consumes necessary for healthy function. It should NOT simply be based on calories. Teaching children to focus on a comprehensive approach to healthy living helps children achieve healthier weights. It becomes an END RESULT rather than the focus or goal. The food log would simply bring AWARENESS to quality food where it currently doesn’t exist.

  2. This is such an important post for anyone starting to change their lifestyle into a healthy one! As someone who’s experienced it the hard way, calorie counting has fast weight loss results but then equally as fast weight gain once you stop counting the calories! It’s much more important to set realistic and sustainable practices such as portion control than always using the MyFitnessPal app 24/7. While the results may show later, they are so much more worth it!


  3. I never have counted calories, until recently out of curiosity and I will carry on doing this for the next few weeks just out of interest.
    I am finding I am in my calorie limit intake and I am only monitoring it this way for a short while. I was surprised I was under my limit if anything so far, but I know this is right for me, because if I took more in, I would put on weight.
    But what I have done over a year now is portion control. A book called Goodbye Sugar has really helped me in many ways, like coming off my blood pressure meds, as well as losing weight that I needed and feeling I have energy instead of being tired. (I just need to maintain my weight, but that was only because I slipped a little.) I will carry on using the book as reference.

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