I’ve met a number of people who attribute their weight loss to calorie counting. Some of them swear by calorie counting apps, which entail setting a daily calorie goal, and then entering the details of every single meal to make sure they would be at or below their daily intake targets.
Indeed, weight loss requires a calorie deficit (i.e. calories consumed must be less than calories expended) and this is why calorie restriction leads to weight loss. But calorie counting can be tedious, and not everybody wants to or has the time to track every meal. Is it even worth doing?
Depending on your starting point and your desired goals, calorie counting may or may not be useful. Here’s what I mean:
- If you’re coming from a place where your daily diet involves a lot of processed food, sodas and sugary drinks, simply eliminating those in favor of real, whole food and home-cooked meals would likely already help you shed some pounds.
- If you’re already at or close to your ideal weight but interested in losing FAT and not necessarily weight, then it’s less about how much you eat, and more about WHAT you eat. Limiting carb intake, for example, makes it easier for your body to turn to fat for fuel. One should also consider fat-burning activity such as slow movement throughout the day, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or strength training. It’s possible for one to lose fat and inches without necessarily losing weight (and in some cases, even gaining a few pounds).
- If you’re after losing those last few stubborn pounds or if you’ve hit a plateau, THEN calorie-counting may come in handy. Take note of your Basal Metabolic Rate, adjust for activity level, and then work from there. Use any of those calorie counting apps for a couple of days to get an idea of your average consumption, and then work towards a calorie deficit.
A more sustainable approach to eating just enough is to practice moderation and eat not until you’re stuffed, but until you’re no longer hungry. There IS a difference between fullness and satisfaction, and you have to learn how to distinguish between the two.
Finally, keep in mind that not all calories are created equal. 100 calories from cheesy processed snacks are NOT the same as 100 calories from real cheese. Calories from a baked sweet potato will be more nutritious than an equal number of calories from your typical fast-food fries. Avoid empty calories and shift your diet to one that prioritizes nutritionally dense food.
REMEMBER: What’s more important than counting calories is to make the calories count.