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Counting Calories is a Bad System - Scott Adams' Blog

Counting Calories is a Bad System

I add this data point to the “Everything you knew about diet is wrong” part of your brain.

Counting calories is worthless. The science is messy, everyone is different, and – here’s the interesting part –  cooking your food makes the calories more available. That’s one of the reasons I rarely eat cooked food unless I am at a restaurant. At home I eat uncooked things whenever I can.

In my book, I talk about experimenting with your own body to create systems in which you replace willpower with knowledge. This is one example of how to do that. Now you know that given a choice between two foods of equal flavor, the raw one is probably the smart choice for weight loss. 

The obvious caveat is that diet science was all wrong in the past, so we have to be skeptical about new findings too. That’s why I recommend isolating specific diet changes and letting them play out in your body before you try another thing.

Dieting is hard if you stop eating everything that is bad for you all at the same time. Packaged foods are engineered (literally) to create addiction. That’s why the diet system I use involves targeting one suboptimal eating habit at a time until the addiction for that one item is gone. As long as you can have anything else you want, it isn’t that challenging to deal with one type of food withdrawal. After about three months, move on to the next.

For example, I stopped a 12-can-per-day Diet Coke habit a few years ago. It was hard to fight the addiction for about two weeks. But after a few months I couldn’t remember why I ever thought it was a good idea to pour a chemistry experiment into my mouth. Once the addiction was gone, my brain stopped seeing Diet Coke as a beverage. Now I see it as a thing for removing rust. I mean that literally. 

You shouldn’t listen to cartoonists when it comes to your health. The only point I want to leave you with is that it is usually a good idea to replace willpower with knowledge when you have the option. And it is also a good idea to isolate diet changes and deal with them one-at-a-time. That way you never have too much of a willpower demand and you can isolate how each change affects your body and your mind.