Calorie Counting: Crutch or Key in the Battle of the Bulge?


From time to time a new weight loss tactic will emerge that claims to be revolutionary and much easier than good old fashioned diet and exercise. You may try it for a while and lose weight, but let’s just face it, over time you gain it all back, right?

Rather than a temporary plan to lose weight, you should consider adopting a healthier lifestyle, something your future self with thank you for. You may have heard that you can still enjoy your favorite treats from time to time, but in moderation.

The truth is, “moderation” means something different for everyone. It all depends on how much energy you burn.

Let’s first get down to the basics. Everyone expends a certain amount of energy on basic survival activities such as breathing. The more activity you engage in, the more energy your body needs. This energy is provided by food and beverages in the form of calories.

Weight maintenance indicates that you are burning the calories you consume. If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit, but it is a fine balance because if you create too much of a deficit, your body may start conserving energy. A reasonable deficit is about 500 calories per day which would result in a 1-2 pound loss per week.

Research has shown that people tend to underestimate the calories they consume. For this reason, it may be beneficial to keep track of calorie intake in an effort to consume less.

Supporters of calorie counting say that keeping track of the foods you eat helps you become aware of what you are eating, and thus you will eat less.

This method is much like balancing a budget in an effort to cut spending. By keeping track of spending, in theory, one would spend less.

Critics of calorie counting argue that in the process of counting calories, people ignore hunger cues and cannot maintain weight loss in the long run. The quality of the diet may also suffer as you focus more on calories than on nutritional value.

So, it all depends on you. Some people may benefit greatly and learn portion control while others may find calorie counting to be tedious and ineffective.

Either way, it is important to figure out why you are eating and listen to your body; learn to stop when satisfied, not when stuffed. Concentrate on quality and not just quantity by decreasing simple sugar intake (sodas, sweets, low-fiber grains) and having a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and heart healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, eggs, nuts).

Most importantly, your mindset should not be that you are starting on a diet but rather changing your lifestyle. While the best weight loss strategy is different for everyone the common denominator is a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity.

In my personal opinion and professional experience, calorie counting may be an effective tool in keeping track of total calories in an effort to lose weight. Websites and phone applications make calorie counting much easier and more convenient than ever.

If you are considering tracking calories as a way to become more aware of what you are eating, I would encourage you to give it a shot; what have you got to lose?

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Calorie Counting: Crutch or Key in the Battle of the Bulge?