I stopped meticulously tracking calories suddenly. I’d been a nutrition software addict for years. I’m talking about tracking things like parsley and garlic salt. When I quit the software, I switched to handwritten food journals in notebooks. Those allowed me to still do the pointless busywork and feel like I was controlling something, but it was somewhat less obsessive. I didn’t write down any amount of what I had eaten. That way I couldn’t freak out one day and go back and enter six months worth of food into the software. Instead of amounts, I’d add some thoughts about my day, how I was feeling, what I was grateful for, what my workout was like. I wrote down every single thing I ate or drank for two years. It was pointless and time consuming. Most days I still tallied the calories in my head. Periodically, I would track a whole day in writing in the notebooks. Once I ditched the notebooks, the label reading and mental math stayed strong. I became more interested in macros and started tracking those with software. Then I got my first Fitbit and began comparing intake and expenditure. I became obsessed with it. That’s when the red flag finally hit me in the face. I really didn’t want to live like that, with every life experience happening behind a cloud of math. I ditched the Fitbit and quit the software again. This time I was very consciously NOT going to participate in that running tally of what I’d eaten. My brain would start to do it, but every time I recognized it happening, I would think “no!” or “stop!” and deliberately think about other things. It took about 5 years after THAT for calorie math to finally die. It’s not part of my awareness anymore. I don’t look at nutrition labels. I don’t add things up even casually or subconsciously. I hate that they’re putting calories on every menu now. I ignore them other than having a vague sense that items with more calories will taste better and be more satisfying.
So, yeah, my decision to suddenly stop counting calories actually took me 7-8 years. Someone more committed could probably do it much faster, but I don’t think anyone who has been doing it for any length of time decides to stop and it just goes away. Some kind of brain rewiring has to take place.