We all know that weight gain happens when we eat too much for too long. How do we know we’ve eaten too much? How can we find out if we’ve consumed more calories than we burn in a day? We track our calories. Eat an apple: Track it. Take the stairs: Track it.
Can you run a business without knowing if you were making or losing money? Could you run a business without tracking income and expenditures? Could you run a car without filling up the gas tank and watching the gas gauge? No. No. No. We need feedback to judge what to do next. Anyone that tells you that you don’t need to count calories is selling you their get rich quick scheme (as in get rich quick off of you). The food card system used by various diet agencies is still counting calories, but in an abstract way.
One thing to understand, normally, your own body will tell when you have had enough food to eat. There is a chemical “switch” in that triggers once enough food has been eaten that tells your brain you’ve had enough. One of two things can happen, even both at the same time, once you find yourself overweight. You can start to ignore the switch, and keep eating, even though you know you’re full and you’re body is telling you it is full. The other thing that can happen, is you may listen to the switch, but the food you eat is very calorie dense. So ignoring the “switch” or eating calorie dense food will create problems when trying to lose weight.
Another problem people have with losing weight is not realizing how many calories they are really consuming. Have you ever sat down with a bag of chips and started eating, and the next thing you knew, all the chips were gone? This “robotic” eating can result in eating way more calories than you expected.
Every little thing you eat during the day adds up. A couple chocolates here, sugar and cream in the coffee, some crackers on your soup, one little cookie. Even an apple and extra glass juice will create the extra calories that result in weight gain instead of loss. All those uncounted calories add up pretty quickly to a significant amount.
You need to track it all so you can see where, when, and why you are unable to drop the weight you want to. I have found that a smartphone app works well. As soon as you eat something, pop it into the app. That way you can track your calories easily throughout the day. The best habit is to enter it as soon as you eat it.
Where this fails is when you eat out. It can be difficult to estimate calories if they aren’t listed in the menu or not on the internet, but do your best, and sometimes, your meal can be approximated by a similar meal at a different restaurant.
Tracking the calories you burn is just as important. By dropping 125 calories from your diet and adding 125 calories of exercise daily can result in 1 pound weight loss in one week. An apple is 125 calories. A ½ hour extra of walking over a whole day is 125 calories (a 10 minute walk at lunch, 5 minutes at each coffee break, and 4 walks up and down the stairs is 30 minutes of extra activity).
The key point I’m trying to hammer home, when starting out, you need to track all those calories so that you know you have the required deficit. Otherwise, you’re just guessing and guessing is just luck and not reliably repeatable. If you’re using the reward/punishment system, you need to know how much you can reward or why you need to punish. If you don’t seem to be losing weight, the calorie tracking can tell you why. The feedback of the scale and the metering of the calorie tracking provides the information you need to successfully lose weight.
If you’re accurately keeping track of calorie intake, and you are sure you should have a deficit, and yet are not losing weight, then there is a good chance that you miscalculated your base metabolic rate. But, that is something you would not be able to figure out if you were not keeping track of your calories.