Is Calorie-Counting For You?
If you’d like to lose weight and are trying to map out a plan to reach your goal, counting calories can be a good way to get there. Because counting calories is not for everyone, understanding your body and how it works is a great step towards determining if calorie counting is a right fit for you. Focusing very closely on your eating habits can be stressful, exhausting, and even unhealthy for some people, especially if you have a history of an eating disorder. so before you attempt to go in the direction of counting calories, here are a few factors to consider:
- Your past relationship with food
- Your self-esteem and how it fits into your desire to lose weight
- Why you want to lose weight in the first place
Once you have weighed these factors and examined them closely, then you can now decide in your mind if counting calories is the way to go, and then tailor it specifically to your personal needs. With all of that being said, here are a few reasons why you might want to try counting calories:
- To get an overview of how many calories you’re taking in each day, and how many calories are in foods that you regularly eat.
- To identify unhealthy eating patterns that you have developed which might help explain why you’re always exhausted, why you’re always hungry, or not hitting your weight loss goals the way you’d like to.
- To help you cut down on things like sugar, sodium, or calories in general so that you can be a healthier, smarter version of yourself, if that’s something that you’re interested in doing.
What To Note
It is important to note that if your goal is weight loss, counting calories alone my not help you achieve that. If you want to lose weight, you’ll have to burn more calories than you take in, and counting calories can help you calculate that, but that in itself is just one tiny piece of the entire puzzle. Generally, it is believed that a pound has bout 3,500 calories, so to lose a pound a week, you’d need to cut your calorie intake by about 500 calories a day. It’s not always that easy, of course, because your body adapts, and there are lots of other things that affect your metabolism (which is the rate at which your body burns calories); like sleep, stress, activity levels, diet, body structure and body muscle. So have it in mind that if your end goal is to lose weight the right way, and keep the weight off through sustainable means, then counting calories can be a good place to start. Before you embark on this journey though, it would be a good idea to consult with a nutritionist early in the process.
Counting Calories Can Be Tricky
Counting calories is not always the easiest thing to do. It can be very tricky, to say the least. For starters, whole foods like fresh produce and fresh meat aren’t usually labeled, so you’ll have to do some research to find out exactly what amount of calories are in each unlabeled food that you’re eating so that you can keep up your tracking momentum. If you ever go out to eat, chances are that you will spend a huge chunk of your time looking up a restaurant’s nutritional facts, or writing down every single ingredient you can see (or taste) in whatever food that you ordered (and frankly, who has time for that?). If you eat more than one serving of something, then there’s more calculation to do. I will go over some tips and tricks to make the calorie counting process a bit easier.
Ways To Make Calorie Counting Easy
Buy Measuring cups and spoons
Calorie information is usually based on serving sizes, so if you’re going to successfully count calories, you need to actually know what a serving size is and how many you’re eating. It’s less practical to use measuring cups in public situations, but if you use them regularly at home, you might start to get used to seeing what a cup of vegetables, meat, and grains looks like on your plate, and in the long-run, that should help you make better estimates when you’re eating outside of your home and faced with a giant-sized guacamole sandwich.
Track Your Calories With an App
There are many apps out there that are useful for tracking calories (examples are MyFitnessPal, MyNetDiary, and my personal favorite LoseIt! to name a few). An added benefit of calorie-tracking apps is that they can also measure your nutrients against the recommended daily intake of things like sodium, fat, sugar, protein, carbs, and so on. Depending on what your personal goals are, paying attention to the numbers might just be as important, if not more so, than tracking down how many calories you’re actually eating, because no calories are the same; eighty calories worth of carrots will not do the same favor to your body as eighty calories of a fun-sized snicker bar. If you want to lose body fat, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to carbs and fat and how often you eat them.
Log Calories at the Right Time
Depending on your relationship with food and eating, calculating calories before you eat could cause you to obsessively plan and worry about your food instead of looking forward to enjoying it. Instead of worrying about what’s in your food, log your meal after you eat instead. Thankfully, technology affords us certain luxuries. You can always snap a picture or write a few notes to make sure you remember what exactly you are eating.
Counting calories is a process as well as a system that helps you to be accountable for the things that you eat and how they directly affect your body. Like I mentioned earlier, it is just a piece of the puzzle. If it is not coupled with exercise, good sleep, and most importantly, excellent nutrition, then your efforts are as good as wasted down the drain. Counting calories is worth it, and can be sustained if you can make it a life long habit and develop a system for yourself that works. Just remember that the calories in a piece of velvet cake, can never be the same as the calories in a bowl of Caesar salad. Happy counting!