Many health professionals and dieters believe that simply counting calories is the best way to lose weight fast; however, others who have lost and kept the extra pounds off for a long period of time report that while it’s important for the body to take in fewer calories than it’s burning, there is more to getting and staying slim than just restricting calories.
Counting calories is a good way to lose weight. Here’s how successful dieters are doing it.
How to Count Calories
If you want to count calories, the best way to track calories is to write down everything you eat each day along with the number of calories. If it’s difficult to find the number of calories for a specific food right away, be sure to figure it out by researching the calories by the end of the day.
Counting Calories Online
There are several calorie calculators on the Internet that will help you figure out how many calories you need each day to lose weight within a specific amount of time. Here are a few of the best Web sites that will help you count and track calories online for free:
Once you know how many calories you need to lose extra pounds, be aware that women should not eat fewer than 1200 calories each day, and men should not eat fewer than 1500 calories every day. Eating too few calories will most likely leave you feeling weak and sluggish. Health experts also report that not eating enough calories can affect your health.
The Math Behind Counting Calories
The best way to lose weight by tracking calories simply boils down to burning more calories than consumed each day. For example, a pound of body fat consists of 3,500 calories. So if you want to lose one pound a week, you will need to burn 500 more calories each day than you consume: five hundred calories a day times seven days equals 3,500 calories. Because one pound equals 3,500 calories, a deficit of 3,500 calories per week should produce a one pound loss.
Keep in mind that in most situations, doctors and health experts recommend that dieters should not lose more than two pounds a week.
Counting Calories Caveats
It can be very challenging and tedious for most people to accurately count calories. According to WebMD in the article “The Dos and Don’ts of Counting Calories,” “Although 67% of Americans report taking calories into account when making food purchases, nearly nine out of 10 have no idea how many they actually need, a survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation reports.”
Moreover, dieters who restrict calories also have a tendency to underestimate the actual number of calories they’re eating. In addition, many restaurants do not have nutritional information available, so when eating out or traveling, the exact number of calories consumed can be hard to determine.
Dieters who want to get slim by counting calories should also read food packages carefully. Nutritional information is usually listed by serving, and packages of food typically contain more than one serving. For example if one serving is equal to 1 cup and there are two servings in the package, you’ll have to double the calories if you decide to eat the whole package.
All Calories are Not Equal
Unfortunately, all calories are not created equal. According to Linda Bren in the FDA Consumer article “Losing Weight: More Than Just Counting Calories,” “Carbohydrate and protein have about 4 calories per gram, but fat has more than twice that amount (9 calories per gram).” In general, dieters should avoid a daily total fat intake over 30 to 35 percent of total calories and should avoid eating a daily saturated fat intake over 10 percent of calories.
The four main types of fat are saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered the more healthier types of fats, but trans and saturated fats are potentially harmful. Foods high in saturated fat include cream, whole milk, butter, regular ice cream, lard, palm oil, coconut oil, processed meats and skin and fat of poultry (Bren). If you’re counting calories, make sure to avoid exceeding the recommendations for fat intake whether they’re considered “good” or “bad” fats.
National Weight Control Registry Tips
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), established in 1994, is the largest prospective investigation of people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for long periods of time–typically five years or longer. Most people who have lost several pounds and kept them off, according to the NWCR, exhibit four common behaviors:
- They modify their diet in some way.
- They weigh themselves frequently.
- They exercise regularly.
- They eat breakfast.
- They watch fewer than 10 hours a week of television.
Clearly, the best way to lose weight according to people who have done it successfully over the long term consists of not just watching food intake or counting calories, but also developing healthy behaviors and activities. So although restricting calories may very well help you lose weight, it’s probably not the only thing you’re going to need to do to get the slim, healthy body you desire permanently.
Counting Calories to Lose Weight
Even though counting calories is one of the best weight loss methods, dieters should be aware that there are other aspects to weight control if they want to lose extra pounds and keep them off permanently. Check out the National Weight Control Registry Web site, and find out more information about what successful dieters do to lose extra pounds and keep them off.
Bren, Linda. “Losing Weight: More Than Just Counting Calories.” FDA Consumer. January/February 2002. Vol. 36, Issue 1, p18.
“Dietary Fats: Know Which Ones to Choose.” MayoClinic.
“The Dos and Don’ts of Counting Calories.” WebMD. May 20, 2011.