Do you find yourself stressed by the need to eat healthy when you’re out? For those who are struggling with their relationship with food, remember that food is meant to be experienced, not calculated.


One of my favorite things in the world is going out to eat. The experience of trying new foods and not having to do the dishes after is glorious. But lately, something that’s been top of mind while dining out in restaurants are the newly added calorie counts to their menus.

While the FDA claims calorie labeling helps the consumer make informed choices, here are a few questions that one can ask themselves to determine whether the numbers really matter for them:

  • If someone makes a choice because it has lower calories and finds themselves to still be hungry, should they not eat?
  • If someone choose to eat food X because of the calories when they really wanted Y, is this really the better option?
  • If someone is struggling with food and their body, is viewing calories harmful to them?

To help put it all in perspective, there are many people who are currently struggling. Statistics show that 10 million women and 1 million men in the US are struggling with an eating disorder right now – and that’s only reflecting those who report it.

In fact, there are many who struggle in silence and don’t receive help. And while many may not fit the clinical criteria for an eating disorder, they may still have disordered eating and are struggling just as much.

And for those who do struggle, controlling your calorie intake or macronutrient intake is a time suck and mental health drain.

Letting numbers dictate whether you choose to eat something or not isn’t ‘health’. Meticulously tracking calories or macronutrients on your phone app isn’t ‘being well’.

Our bodies do a wonderful job of regulating other biological processes: our heartbeat, when we need to go to the bathroom, when we breathe. So why are we teaching people to micromanage food intake to control their weight based on external factors made to look numerically precise, when in fact our bodies are unique and complex in how energy is stored and used?

What if we instead help people stop obsessing over these numbers, and taught them to listen to their bodies, find foods they enjoy, and drop the food rules? External rules deciding what wellness should look like and has never helped anyone, and continues to fail our public’s health.

So the next time you go out to eat, remember that it shouldn’t cause anxiety or require you to run calculations. No eating experience should.

Food is meant to bring pleasure and experiences, not shame and obsession.

Adapted from the original article.

Hannah Turnbull, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Denver, CO helping others build healthy relationships with food and their body.  In a world full of food rules and restriction, she helps individuals navigate what works in their everyday lives.  Learn more at Nourished with Hannah.