If you’re worried about your weight, whether it be maintaining or losing, and you’re not counting Calories, you’re essentially riding a bike with no handle bars – meaning, you’ll have a tough time getting where you’re going.
Yes, it can be argued that there is more to weight loss than Calories in vs. Calories out, and I don’t like reducing food to a rudimentary number, but at the end of the day, it is the foundation for weight loss success. First, get your Calorie intake under control, then let’s deal with what makes up those Calories.
Why do I strongly urge Calorie counting, or “tracking”?
Evidence shows that ‘what gets measured gets managed’ and most people have no idea how much they’re consuming. Tracking your intake for a few weeks or months can be extremely eye-opening and give you a better sense of proper portion sizes. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, how will you know where you’re going?
All that said, if you’re someone who likes to keep track every day of your life, that’s great. My hope is that you won’t have to track Calories every day for the rest of your life, but doing it for a while or a few times a year, can give you a better innate sense of your own intake and help keep things in check.
How to track Calories
It doesn’t matter if you keep a separate food journal book, scribble it in your day planner, or use an “App” – any place you can do the math will work.
If you’re trying to lose weight, start by monitoring your normal intake for a week, and tallying it up. The next week, aim for a lower number. If you’re lucky enough to have a smart phone, there are many “apps” that will help you determine a Calorie level for your goals. Personally, everyone’s a bit different so I recommend picking a starting place, and adjust weekly depending on results.
Tips for success in Calorie tracking
1) Count EVERYTHING – don’t forget the packets of sugar in your coffee, the spread on your sandwich, or the swig of your kid’s milk this morning – it all adds up
2) Track every day – missing a day is like missing a piece of the puzzle
3) Don’t get thrown off by one bad day – it’s really your weekly intake that matters. Changes in Calorie intake from day to day can actually help keep your metabolism from slowing down.
4) Don’t get caught up in the numbers – remember that nutritional quality of foods is as least as important as the numbers. There’s nothing wrong with higher-Calorie foods, nutrient dense foods (like avocado), as long as you keep your portions in check.
5) Pay attention to the portion size on the package – this is a common mistake. Make sure you look at both the Calories, AND the portion size listed.