Counting Calories? Here’s What You Need to Know

I have observed that a lot of people think simply counting calories is a sure shot way to lose weight. What was even more shocking was that, the composition didn’t matter to them at all! Read on to find out why counting calories is more than just a simple number game….


You would have already read about the cost benefit analysis that is needed when assessing calories. This article stresses more on the fact that once you assess you daily calorie requirement, you cannot simply count the calories of everything you eat and think you are doing fine as long as you stick to the prescribed limit. There are a lot more things you need to pay attention to.


Calorie EquationInterpreting the Calorie Equation

You sure have heard this a lot: Consume more calories than you can expend and you will gain weight. Do the reverse and you lose weight. Does that mean you eat 2000 calories a day and burn 2200 in workouts and you will be thin in no time? Certainly not. It’s humanly impossible to burn 2200 calories everyday by exercising.


What this saying really means is that our body needs a certain amount of calories everyday for day to day activities and to remain healthy. This depends on various factors like age, gender, level of fitness and amount of physical activity.

If you are looking to lose weight, you should reduce this amount to a reasonable number

1. by reducing your food intake or

2. by increasing your exercises or

3. by doing a little of both

Personally, I think the third option is the best.


Let me explain with the help of an example. An average person who just needs to maintain her current weight, requires about 2000 calories a day. But if you are looking to lose weight, depending on your goal and current activity levels, your body may need to consume only 1700 calories a day. You can do this

1. by skipping a meal or

2. by using the elliptical an extra 30 min or

3. by eating a light dinner say (reducing 150 calories) and using the elliptical an extra 15 min (burning 150 calories)

The last option is a lot easier to do and more importantly to sustain.


In this article I am going to focus only on the calorie part since that’s the tricky one. Increasing your workout to burn a few extra calories is pretty clear-cut.


Distributing Calories Over the Day For Nutritious Diet

Now that you know how to assess your calorie intake, you should pay attention to the kind of food that adds up to the number. How you apportion your daily food intake is equally important if you are looking to lose weight or maintain it.


For a healthy and balanced diet, you need carbohydrates (yes carbs!), proteins, minerals, vitamins and calcium. So you should have your serving of low-fat milk, veggies, fruits, pulses or whole grains or eggs or lean meats and rice or bread. Sprinkle it throughout the day such that you end up with a real heavy breakfast, moderate lunch and a light dinner. You can have light snacks like fruits or low-fat yogurt to avoid a large gap between meals. You can also snack on good fats – like cheese or nuts. Wondering where you can fit your candy bar or a slice of pizza? Read on.


counting calories caveatsCaveats in Calorie Counting

The idea behind calorie counting is not simply adding the calorie for anything you eat in a day and stopping when you reach the 1700 figure. If it were that simple, you could just eat cookies, brownies, pizzas, chips and chocolates everyday till you hit that count and dream about losing weight.


No matter how straightforward people might make calorie counting seem, trust me, it’s not a question of simple mathematics. We cannot simply eat balanced meals and stick to the healthy stuff all our lives. We definitely need to indulge once in a while and there is no reason not to – even when you are on a weight loss program. Some days you might want to skip the good stuff and indulge in a cup of ice cream or a candy bar or a slice of pizza. But, you should be aware of what you are consuming.


That’s why you should pay attention to the composition of the calories especially in packaged food, just like you pay attention to the composition of your daily meals. Confused? Don’t be. I am talking specifically about the content of fat and saturated fat. For instance, although a bar of chocolates and a 6″ Veggie Delight Subway contain 300 calories per serving, you cannot simply replace the subway with chocolates all the time. That’s coz, while the subway contains 300 calories and no fat calories, a bar of chocolate contains significant amount of fat calories, and up to 40% of saturated fat even for a 2000 calorie diet. So while you are simply counting your calorie intake as 300, it’s a lot more difficult for your body to burn the calories from the chocolate bar since a significant portion is already present as fat!


A Simple Exercise to Put Things in Perspective

Next time you are out grocery shopping just compare the calorie content in your favorite fried potato chips and the baked version of the same brand. If the fried version contains 150 calories per serving, it would contain about 100 fat calories. The baked one, on the other hand, might contain only 130 calories per serving with 15 fat calories.


If you are just going by the total calories per serving, you might not see a compelling need to switch to the baked variety. But, once you start paying attention to the amount of fat calories per serving, you will realize how grateful your body is going to be for not choosing the fried chips. What’s more interesting is that the serving size of the baked version is bigger than that of the fried version. This means you can eat more chips and still add fewer total calories and significantly lower fat calories to your daily intake


So, while keeping track of the total calorie consumption is very important, that alone will not help you lose weight. There are hidden things you need to pay attention to that matter in your overall weight loss efforts. And, once understood, these hidden things will only serve to significantly accelerate your weight loss rate.



  • Understand your calorie needs and learn to interpret the calorie equation
  • Ensure your daily food intake is nutritious and well balanced
  • Calorie counting is anything but simply adding up the calories of everything you consume
  • Pay attention to the composition of calories especially when you pick things off the shelf
  • Feel free to indulge once in a while but don’t make it a habit


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