Counting Calories and Weight Loss
matter or do you simply need to eat
certain foods and that will guarantee
you’ll lose weight? Should you
count calories or can you just count
“portions?” Is it necessary
to keep a food diary? Is it unrealistic
to count calories for the rest of your
life or is that just part of the price
you pay for a better body? You’re
about to learn the answers to these
questions and discover a simple solution
for keeping track of your food intake
without having to crunch numbers every
day or become a fanatic about it.
In many popular diet
books, “Calories don’t count”
is a frequently repeated theme. Other
popular programs, such as Bill Phillip's
"Body For Life," stress the
importance of energy intake versus energy
output, but recommend that you count
“portions” rather than calories…
"There aren't many
people who can keep track of their calorie
intake for an extended period of time.
As an alternative, I recommend counting
'portions.' A portion of food is roughly
equal to the size of your clenched fist
or the palm of your hand. Each portion
of protein or carbohydrate typically
contains between 100 and 150 calories.
For example, one chicken breast is approximately
one portion of protein, and one medium-sized
baked potato is approximately one portion
Phillips makes a good
point that trying to count every single
calorie - in the literal sense - can
drive you crazy and is probably not
realistic as a lifestyle for the long
term. It's one thing to count portions
instead of calories – that is
at least acknowledging the importance
of portion control. However, it's another
altogether to deny that calories matter.
Calories do count! Any
diet program that tells you, "calories
don't count" or you can "eat
all you want and still lose weight"
is a diet you should avoid because you
are being lied to. The truth is, that
line is a bunch of baloney designed
to make a diet sound easier to follow.
Anything that sounds
like work – such as counting calories,
eating less or exercising, tends to
scare away potential customers! The
law of calorie balance is an unbreakable
law of physics: Energy in versus energy
out dictates whether you will gain,
lose or maintain your weight. Period.
I believe that it's
very important to develop an understanding
of and a respect for portion control
and the law of calorie balance. I also
believe it's an important part of nutrition
education to learn how many calories
are in the foods you eat on a regular
basis – including (and perhaps,
especially) how many calories are in
the foods you eat when you dine at restaurants.
The law of calorie balance
To maintain your weight,
you must consume the same number of
calories you burn. To gain weight, you
must consume more calories than you
burn. To lose weight, you must consume
fewer calories than you burn.
If you only count portions
or if you haven't the slightest idea
how many calories you're eating, it's
a lot more likely that you'll eat more
than you realize. (Or you might take
in fewer calories than you should, which
triggers your body’s "starvation
mode" and causes your metabolism
to shut down).
So how do you balance
practicality and realistic expectations
with a nutrition program that gets results?
Here's a solution that’s a happy
medium between strict calorie counting
and just guessing:
Create a menu using
an EXCEL spreadsheet or your favorite
nutrition software. Crunch all the numbers
including calories, protein, carbs and
fats. Once you have your daily menu,
print it, stick it on your refrigerator
(and/or in your daily planner) and you
now have an eating "goal"
for the day, including a caloric target.
Rather than writing
down every calorie one by one from every
morsel of food you eat for the rest
of your life, create a menu plan you
can use as a daily goal and guideline.
If you’re really ambitious, keeping
a nutrition journal at least one time
in your life for at least 4-12 weeks
is a great idea and an incredible learning
experience, but all you really need
to get started on the road to a better
body is one good menu on paper. If you
get bored eating the same thing every
day, you can create multiple menus,
or just exchange foods using your primary
menu as a template.
Using this meal planning
method, you really only need to “count
calories” once when you create
your menus, not every day, ad infinitum.
After you've got a knack for calories
from this initial discipline of menu
planning, then you can estimate portions
in the future and get a pretty good
(and more educated) ballpark figure.
So what’s the
bottom line? Is it really necessary
to count every calorie to lose weight?
No. But it IS necessary to eat fewer
calories then you burn. Whether you
count calories and eat less than you
burn, or you don’t count calories
and eat less than you burn, the end
result is the same – you lose
weight. Which would you rather do: Take
a wild guess, or increase your chance
for success with some simple menu planning?
I think the right choice is obvious.
For more information
on calories (including how calculate
precisely how many you should eat based
on your age, activity and personal goals,
and for even more practical, proven
fat loss techniques to help you lose
body fat safely, healthfully and permanently,
click on the link below to visit my website.