Don’t Count on it!
If you are trying to lose weight, you might have digested advice to count every calorie, or to eat only particular foods, to count only the portions, or to keep a food diary. It is hard to know which advice to take. Take just some of this advice and you could find yourself having to pick up calorie charts, calculator, notepad and pen each time you need to pick up a knife and fork.
In many popular diet books, “Calories don’t count,” is a 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. Phillips wrote:
There aren’t many people who can keep track of their calorie intake for an extended period of time.
As an alternative, he recommends counting portions where,
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 of carbohydrate.
Phillips makes a valid 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 is one thing to count portions instead of calories – that is at least acknowledging the importance of portion control. However, it is 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.
It is important to develop a respect for portion control and the law of calorie balance. It is an essential element of nutrition education to learn how many calories are in the foods you eat on a regular basis – including how many calories are in the meals you eat when you dine at restaurants.
The law of calorie balance says that 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 have not the slightest idea how many calories you are eating, it is likely that you will eat more than you realize, or in some cases, 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 is a solution that is a happy medium between strict calorie counting and just guessing: Create a menu using an EXCEL spreadsheet or using 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 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 are 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 accurately estimate portions in the future.
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 to calculate precisely how many you should consume 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, claim your free 3 day e-course, click the link below…