Intuitive Dieting: How to Lose Weight Without Tracking Calories

The fitness industry truly has a label for just about every way there is to eat. Where I thought eating without tracking calories was just called…eating…turns out we have a name for it.

“Intuitive dieting” refers to an “anti-diet” mindset in which the individual in question does not specifically track their calories everyday or even worry about sticking to particular foods. You can see the 10 defining principles of intuitive dieting here. Cool. Sounds just like the promises of any other fad diet technique.

Personally these ten tips sound great on paper, but I believe we can go a bit further in helping someone understand how they can lose weight without tracking their calories. Here’s some basic principles on how I believe anyone can learn to truly eat “intuitively” and not have to rely on a calorie tracking system like MyFitnessPal to lose weight.

1. Start by Tracking Your Calories

Stay with me for one moment. This might seem counterproductive to the whole “we are going to learn how to lose weight without tracking calories” goal.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think it’s possible to achieve a truly “tracking free” diet, without first having an appreciation for the calorie cost of food. Most individuals will tend to highly underestimate the amount of calories they eat each day. This can be disastrous for a weight loss goal and lead to a lot of frustration down the line if you truly believe you are eating less, but you still aren’t losing any weight. Especially when you aren’t tracking anything. Having a basic understanding of the calorie amounts in the different foods you eat is your starting point.

A few months of diligently tracking your calories can help give you the insight you need to ditch the tracker in the future. People who have had to track the foods and calories they are eating each day are in a much better spot to guesstimate their calories more accurately. There’s still going to be some error obviously, but not to the same degree.

If you are serious about reaching a tracking free version of dieting I’d highly suggest you do take the few months it will take to get used to tracking in the first place. Might be frustrating, but it will set you up for success in the future.

2. Practice Consistency

If you aren’t going to use calorie tracking as your main way to gauge how many calories you are eating each day, it’s a good idea to stick to some sort of daily eating routine. Following a routine will basically guarantee you are eating roughly the same amount of calories each day, then you can make small adjustments from their if you need to cut out some food to lose weight, or maybe you want to gain weight and need to eat a little more.

By no means does this mean you have to a super rigid game plan for each day. You don’t need to eat the same exact 4 meals of chicken, broccoli, and rice every single day to achieve your goal.

Think more along the lines of broad goals for your routine. Shoot to eat about the same number of meals each day. Shoot to eat your meals around the same time each day. And shoot to eat roughly the same foods for each meal. This doesn’t mean it needs to be the EXACT same meal, just similar. For example, your dinner routine could be you always have a protein, carb, and vegetable in roughly the same proportions. But it doesn’t truly matter what those exact food items are to hit that general goal.

3. Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods

The term “nutrient dense” means that a certain food packs a lot of punch in terms of the vitamins and minerals you’ll get from it, without packing too much in the calorie department.

Focusing on nutrient dense foods will be helpful when trying to diet without tracking calories in two ways.

One you are guaranteeing that you are going to be getting the proper nutrition you need to feel good and fuel your body which is key in any diet. Two focusing on nutrient dense foods is a great way to naturally lower the amount of calories you will be eating over the course of the day. If you are consistently keeping yourself full on high quality food items, it’ll leave less room for you to cave on less than stellar food choices.

4. Establish a Healthy Relationship with Food

The whole point of wanting to get on an intuitive dieting style of eating in the first place should be having a healthy connection with food. Or at the very least removing food as a source of stress in your life.

Try not to get caught up in demonizing certain foods, or viewing certain food items in a negative light to begin with and instead shoot for balance. Anytime diet plans try and restrict a person from eating certain foods or even goes so far as completely forbidding a food, it makes adherence to the diet plan much more difficult.

In an intuitive dieting eating plan nothing should be off limits, you should be able to go out and eat with your friends, enjoy your favorite foods, and maybe even have a drink or two. That being said you should also have a strong enough relationship with food that you understand when you are overindulging, or when you are eating emotionally instead of out of hunger. Just because you can eat whatever you want doesn’t necessarily mean you should. This can take time to master, but the more you practice the better you will get with identifying your own eating habits, and when you are making choices that are going to benefit you or not.

5. Embrace Personal Responsibility

If you are truly going to go all in on losing weight without tracking your calories, you’re going to need some serious sense of personal responsibility.

Because you won’t have an objective measure of your day to day eating habits like you would if you were counting your calories, all responsibility rests on you. That means you are going to need to learn to be extremely truthful with yourself. Are you making the proper decisions that are going to help you reach your goals? Are you eating a nutrient dense and balanced diet? Are you staying consistent with your diet goals each day?

If you are the type of person that will look to reach into a bag of excuses before accepting the blame on yourself, I am being very honest when I say tracking your calories will be a better option for your progress. If you can, however, reach a healthy viewpoint on how your personal decisions both positively and negatively impact your progress, and can objectively view your eating habits, their is no reason a person cannot learn to lose weight without having to track their calories.

(For more on dieting tips check out this article on macronutrients!)

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.