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The Importance of Counting Calories

You want to lose weight, so what do you do? You work out like crazy and try to eat a sensible diet. But for some reason, week after week, the scale says the same thing. You just can’t seem to lose the weight no matter how hard you try. So what’s the deal? Why isn’t the weight melting off like you imagined it would?

Sometimes what we imagine a “sensible” diet to be really isn’t that sensible. For example, you might think that just because you had a salad for lunch, you’ve been eating healthily. Salads can be low in calories if you just eat the lettuce. But, let’s be honest, nobody does that. Once you add cheese, croutons, and a whole bunch of salad dressing, your “sensible” lunch is no longer sensible. Then, later in the evening when you’re trying to decide if you can have that piece of chocolate cake, you remember the “healthy” lunch you had and figure you can reward yourself by eating the cake.

Another problem is that we are frequently eating much more than we think we are. We might think we’re pouring ourselves ⅔ cup of cereal in the morning (like the serving size on the label suggests,) but if we were to measure it out we may find that we are actually eating closer to 2 cups of cereal.

So what can you do to fix this? The key to making sure that you are actually eating a sensible diet is to track everything you eat. This may sound like a pain but it’s actually quite simple. Instead of looking at nutrition labels and trying to figure out how many calories you’ve eaten, now there are so many resources where you can just plug in your meals online and your calorie count will be generated for you automatically. There are so many websites that are available to help you track your calories throughout the day, and most of them are free. Myfitnesspal, Lose It, and Dailyburn are just a few of the big ones. My favorite is myfitnesspal. I even have the app on my phone so I can track what I’m eating anywhere, anytime. It makes it so easy for me to keep track of how much I am eating throughout the day and to be more conscientious about what I am putting into my body.

The tracking websites are nice because they tell you how many calories you should be taking in each day in order to lose a certain amount of weight each week. All you have to do is enter your height, current weight, and your goal weight, and the website tells you how many calories you should be eating each day. Additionally, they keep track of your progress, tell you how many calories you have left for the day, and usually have options to add in your workouts so the calories you’ve burned will be taken into account as well.

Losing weight really is a balance of exercising and eating right. These websites are an easy way to make sure you’re eating right so you can finally begin to see results.

Go ahead and try tracking your calories. You just might be surprised by how much you’ve really been eating.

If you are not a part of our 12 week shape up challenge, this is the nutrition article for week one of the challenge. Click here to join.

 

 

28 Comments

  1. Anita

    I have always felt that you have to count calories. That’s the only accurate way to find out how much you are taking in. You would be surprised at how many calories you really are taking in by eating “healthy”!

    1. admin

      Anita,
      That is so true! It’s funny how sometimes I think I am doing pretty good with eating then when I actually track my calories I realize that I am taking in waaaay more than I thought. Even though it can kind of be a hassle sometimes, it really is necessary to accurately keep track of what you are eating.

  2. silver@rowingmachinereviews

    Seems to me like without counting calories, you’re just hoping for the best.

    You really only have to do it for a few months to really get the feel for how many calories most foods have. Than you can just do portion control and eye-ball it.

    But as far as losing weight, knowing exactly how many calores you take in can be huge.

  3. Rosetta

    My daughter tells me that I eat too much fruit… my favorite is cantaloupe and nectarines. I can eat one whole cantaloupe and 2 or 3 nectarines a day but she said its being greedy….is this true?

    1. admin

      Rosetta,
      Fruits are great for you but you definitely want to watch how much you are eating because of the sugar that is in them. Having a whole cantaloupe along with 2-3 nectarines in a probably is too much. Like this article talked about, it is important to track your calories, if you enter all of that information onto a calorie tracking website it would tell you exactly how much you are going over. If you are trying to lose weight than you definitely need to watch how many fruits you eat because although they are healthy, it is really easy to eat too many in a day. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  4. Janet

    Until I started measuring and weighing food portions, I didn’t realize that I had been underestimating measurements using the “eyeball” system. By not eating enough, I would end up overeating every few days to make up for the days I wasn’t eating enough. Once I started measuring food (I still do), I wouldn’t get ravenous anymore. I have lost 85 pounds in less than a year and I attribute a great deal of my weight loss success to measuring and weighing food.

    1. admin

      Janet,
      That is amazing! 85 pounds in less than a year is such an accomplishment. Isn’t it crazy how off we can be when we just estimate the amount of food we are eating? You really do need to at least count calories when you are trying to lose weight because typically we always eat more than we think we are.

  5. Mommaof2

    Logging meals is so hard for me&time consuming, but im going to try and do. Would it be better to use a phone app or an actual log book? I get irritated when i cant find the exact product im looking for…but I have been working on healthy eats so maybe it will be easier this time around.

  6. Tanya

    The last time I was in really good shape I had worked with a trainer who had me logging in what I ate every day, including fat, protein, carbs and total calories. This was before the invention of “apps” so I had a notebook that I used to log everything. At first it was difficult, remembering to look at the labels before throwing them away, comparing products at the store to find the one with the best combinations of fat/protein/carbs/calories (also sodium, fiber, etc). But after awhile, I found my favorites and could flip back to past days for “staple” items that didn’t change (like an apple, or cup of milk). I also kept a separate list of the nutritional info for things I used frequently (like one serving of S&W low sodium black beans) for easy reference. It became second nature to write things down. I even managed to work in my daily coffee/creamer or non-fat mocha treats. You find the vendors that are good about providing the nutritional information (like starbucks) and those that don’t provide any at all. These days a lot of that research is done for you with a app. The first apps had hardly anything I could use (most had stores or restaurants that weren’t even on the west coast). Now you can find Trader Joe’s as well as traditional store brands in the apps. I also got a food scale at Target for a decent price that made portions so much easier. It’s true, you don’t realize how much you eat until you measure it out. Tupperware often comes in measured sizes, so you can easily plan for the day without having to use a scale. I am definetly going to get back in the habit of this. After having a baby (and a simultaneous career change), I stopped watching so carfully and stopped exercizing. Time to get back into the game!

    1. admin

      Tanya,
      Logging everything really is the best way to see how much you are consuming and be aware of where you can make adjustments. I recently had a baby too and I am feeling the same “time to get back in the game” mentality! We can do it together!

  7. Michelle

    I have been using myfitnesspal for a year and it is great! I have it on my computer and my phone which makes it so easy to track. Another important feature is seeing not just the calories but the composition of the food such as sugar, sodium, fat, carbs and protein. Previously my diet was heavy on carbs and light on protein. I have tried to get more protein in my diet and this is a good way to monitor that. I find that I am less hungry when I eat better. What a bonus!

    1. admin

      Michelle,
      Isn’t myfitnesspal the best? It is so useful when trying to lose weight. It is my absolute favorite! It really is so nice to see what nutrients you are getting and where you are lacking. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Rachon Ward

    I count and measure everything I eat. Eyeballing is dangerous and can get you into trouble until you have the tools and learn how to properly do it. Your first weapon should be a 9 inch plate, a true 8 ounce glass,measuring cups, measuring spoons and a diet journal. These tools will keep you out of trouble.

    Take your plate split it in half, half should be vegetables and fruits. Take 1/4 and use for 3 ounces of meat (the size of a deck of playing cards.) the last 1/4 should be for grains or more veggies. Add 1 dairy. This will help to keep you out of trouble when you have to eat away from home. You will lose more weight if you use a 9 inch plate for every meal.

    My question: Is 1300 calories still 1300 calories regardless of what you eat as long as at the end of the day your total is 1300 calories?

  9. Megan

    I love myfitnesspal! I’ve been using it strongly for a few months and there’s rare things you can’t find on it. Counting my calories has been keeping me accountable to actually eat my calories (the right kind, not junk). I learn new things almost everyday about how many calories I should eat and why.

    1. admin

      Megan,
      That is so good that you have been using myfitnesspal! It really does make all the difference. Keep it up!

  10. Tiffany

    I already count my calories and have adjusted to that eating. I use Myfitnesspal.com

  11. Kathie

    I have been using MyFItnessPal for years now. They have a really good food data base and they make logging my foods and exercises really easy. I have recommended them to many of my friends.

  12. Jessica Maddox

    I have been counting calories for a while, and I always find myself eating under my recommended amout. So now I’m going to follow An eating plan and see how that goes.i need to eat enough calories so i can lose weight.

  13. Melissa

    I use my fitness pal on my phone & at first it seemed like a hastle to input everything but after a little bit it became habit…when I got out of te routine is when I started gaining weight back….the main reason I am takin the 12week challenge, to get back where I should be with my weight!

    1. admin

      We’re glad you joined the challenge! Keep us updated on your success! Good luck 🙂

  14. Xol

    This is really helping me realize that I’ve been putting in a lot more calories than I thought I still struggle managing on how much carbs, fats and proteins I’m getting but I hope to get it soon, also I got confused and was looking in to a different email address and I’ve missed some of the workout videos but I’m not so worried about that because I’ve been working on my own and planning on following all of the videos from now and on.

    1. admin

      Sounds good. If you decide you want the weeks you missed let us know and we can send them to you 🙂 Good luck!

  15. Showgirls

    Just signed up this week (after all the Easter chocolates and goodies). I know I needs to start tracking my food intake better. Have also started a cycle fit class twice a week to up my cardio. I do my weight training 3x a week but just not seeing results. Need that extra accountability and push so I’m up for the 12 week challenge!! Lets go!

    1. admin

      We’re excited that you joined the challenge and we are excited to hear about your success! Good luck!

  16. Cinnamon

    Am just finishing up the first week and getting into the regular practice of recording all I eat. I still need to refine it more, but it’s prompting me to weigh and measure as well. Some of the exercises are hard with my arthritic knees, but it’s spring (finally) up here, and can begin working outdoors in my garden this weekend.

    1. admin

      Congrats on finishing the first week! Keep checking in with us and let us know how the workouts are going. If you are having a hard time doing some of the workouts with you knee you can alter the workout so it doesn’t bother your knee. If it gets too hard on your knee and you can’t alter it just skip that workout. We wouldn’t want you to have any damage done to your knee. Keep up the good work!

  17. Cinnamon

    Hi,

    I actually am able to do most of the exercises, though I admit I don’t have the vigor and endurance that Chris and Skyler do. Yes, it is a tough routine and mine is undoubtedly a little modified, but am going to stay with it. I expect it will get easier as we go along. Thanks for your encouragement. : )

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