So today I’m going to talk about caloric intake and counting your calories. And to be clear, not everybody needs to count calories. For some people it doesn’t work, they have different goals and it wouldn’t benefit them, or they are trying to be free of restrictions and maybe even an eating disorder. However, in order to lose weight it will be beneficial to be aware of how many calories you are consuming.
To take it back to basics: in order to lose weight, you need to have a calorie deficit. This means burning more calories than you consume. This will be easy if you track your meals while adding in exercise. To begin the tracking process, you will need to see how many calories you as an individual need to function. If you google a calorie calculator you can type in your information such as height, weight, age, and activity level, and it will give you how many calories you should be eating to maintain, lose, or gain weight depending on your goals. When I am figuring a new calorie goal for myself, I usually go to a few different calculators just to make sure they are all giving me around the same amount. (It is also important to note that sometimes they will give you very low amounts if you want to lose weight quickly. I would not recommend going too low because your body needs nourishment to function properly, and losing weight too quickly can cause issues. You may also be grumpy or tired if you don’t eat enough.)
After you have a rough idea of what you need, a calorie counting app will make it easier to track. I have had success with MyFitnessPal, which is a pretty common tracking app. It lets you enter in food you’ve eaten and exercise, and keeps track of how many calories you have left throughout the day. It can also give you a breakdown of the macronutrients you’ve consumed, so what percentage of fat, carbs, and protein your meals have consisted of. I find that feature helpful so I can see if I’ve gotten enough protein in for the day. Also, once you complete your entry for the day, it will give you a projected weight that they predict based on how your day of eating went. A personal example would be I am 152 pounds, and I ate 1,633 calories today. Once I hit the “complete diary” button, it said that if every day was like today that I would weigh 148 pounds in 5 weeks. That can be extra motivation, because I can imagine losing 4 pounds in 5 weeks and it seems attainable. I’ve used this app off and on throughout my journey, and I plan to use it until I reach my goals and then see if I can maintain my weight by eating intuitively. However, this has been a great tool in my weight loss journey; this past time when I started using it again I’ve lost about 15 pounds. I also know this has helped other people, and even my mom uses it and likes it!
Before I wrap this up, I want to add a few notes in about counting calories and weight loss in general. It’s going to be hard. When I first started counting, I would track for half of the day, realize I was going to run out of calories because I didn’t make healthy food choices, and stop tracking for the day. It took a while for me to be able to make good decisions with food and add in more fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods so I could stay within my calorie limit. You may also end up stopping, or kind of going out of control with this. Which is what happened to me. I was afraid of eating because every time I ate I saw how many calories it was instead of seeing the health and nutrients I was getting from the food. It took a while of not tracking to be able to see food as food again, and even now I think about calories before I eat something. But I also see it as nourishing my body, tasting good, and part of living. If tracking turns into you worrying about the next time you are going to eat, or you not wanting to eat because it will take up some of your calories, you may want to take a break from tracking and focus on your health. Your health comes first, weight loss comes second.
I hope this can help if you are trying to lose weight or are thinking about tracking calories. I know I’ve had success with this, and I hope you do too if you decide to!