Counting Calories 101
Counting calories isn’t as easy as it might seem for weight loss. It’s often said that the key to losing weight is consuming less calories, but it’s not quite that simple in reality. Yes, you should eat a reasonable amount of calories and augment it with exercise — but it’s almost more important to consider which foods you’re consuming and how many calories it’s contributing to your daily intake. That in itself can be quite the balancing act.
Calorie counting hasn’t been around very long, and it’s only quite recently that it’s become such a phenomenon. It was only at the turn of the 20th century when scientist Wilbur Atwater conducted an experiment that became the basis for calorie counting. Atwater put food in a machine called a “bomb calorimeter” and burned it, then noticed that you could figure out how much “energy” was released by measuring the ash and heat. The idea quickly caught on, and calories soon became the standard measurement for weight loss.
“A spate of diet books in the early part of the century popularized the notion that it’s all about the calories — and it’s been with us ever since,” nutritionist Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, said.
How Many Calories Should You Eat?
The first thing to consider when trying to cut calories is just how many you should consume in the first place in order to lose weight. A general rule for weight maintenance is 2,000 calories per day, but even that can vary from person to person. The National Institutes Of Health recently introduced a new calculator called the Body Weight Planner, which helps to determine a reasonable calorie intake for weight loss. It’s widely considered to be an extremely accurate tool.
“We originally intended the Body Weight Planner as a research tool, but so many people wanted to use it for their own weight management that we knew we needed to adapt it with more information about how to achieve a healthy lifestyle,” one of the calculator’s creators, Dr. Kevin Hall, said.
The key with calorie counting is to not just go with a broad estimation of what you think you should consume per day. Calculate it specific to your weight, height, activity level and goal weight loss to get an accurate number and ultimately drop pounds more effectively.
Some Low-Fat Food Can Be Good Food
When it comes to calorie counting, it’s not just about the amount you eat. It’s also about figuring out what kinds of foods are ideal for calorie counting. Eating low-fat foods like fruits and vegetables is key for weight loss and calorie intake because carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram, while fats have a whopping calories per gram. Eating high-fat foods like cheese can ultimately be counterproductive, even if you’re eating it in low quantities.
Another big thing when it comes to counting calories is portion control. Eating low-fat foods won’t mean anything if you’re overeating. Great ways to exercise portion control include using small plates when you portion out meals, avoiding eating right from the container and portioning out tennis ball-sized amounts of certain foods like pasta and yogurt.
As long as you’re staying on top of what kinds of foods are beneficial to watching calories and being aware of portions, you can stay ahead of the curve and lose weight fast. A healthy diet and exercise routine is key when trying to lose weight no matter how vigilantly you’re watching your calorie intake, so prioritize a healthy lifestyle over counting calories and you won’t go wrong.