There has been much debate over the last few years whether you should or shouldn’t count your calories if you are trying to lose weight.
Let’s look at this from an information only perspective and hopefully it will help you form your own opinion.
First, what is a calorie.
A calorie by definition, according to Wikipedia, is;
The name calorie is used for two units of energy.
● The small calorie or gram calorie (symbol: cal) is the approximate amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.
● The large calorie, kilogram calorie, dietary calorie, nutritionist's calorie, nutritional calorie, Calorie (capital C) or food calorie (symbol: Cal) is approximately the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. The large calorie is thus equal to 1000 small calories or one kilocalorie (symbol: kcal).
Although these units are part of the metric system, they have been superseded in the International System of Units by the joule. One small calorie is approximately 4.2 joules (so one large calorie is about 4.2 kilojoules). The factor used to convert calories to joules at a given temperature is numerically equivalent to the specific heat capacity of water expressed in joules per kelvin per gram or per kilogram. The precise conversion factor depends on the definition adopted.
In spite of its non-official status, the large calorie is still widely used as a unit of food energy. The small calorie is also often used for measurements in chemistry, although the amounts involved are typically recorded in kilocalories.
The calorie was first defined by Nicolas Clément in 1824 as a unit of heat, between 1841 and 1867. The word comes from Latin calor meaning “heat”.
So a calorie is a measure of energy. That is all. It is not good or bad, just a form of measure like milliliters, cups, lbs, or minutes. A form of measure. That is all. Get it???
Ok, so if it is just a form of measure, why should we care and why do we care so much.
Calories have become the unit of measure to figure out how much energy you use and consume. We all need to consume calories to exist just like a car needs gas to go. If you don’t put food, or calories, into your body, you simply won’t function.
Some of the debate over calculating calories or not is how you do it. There are almost as many debates one way vs. the other but in the end, you need to eat.
The problem with only counting calories is that you don’t take into account the nutritional value of what you are eating. Something with more protein will have more calories, does that make that food bad? No, certainly not. There are also foods out there with little to no calories, like celery, but does that mean that we should only eat them? No. The trick is to know where your calories are coming from. Sorry, that’s probably not the answer you were looking for.
There are lots of charts available to see how many calories you should consume in a day, but you also need to be aware how many calories you use in a day. Let’s be honest with ourselves, if you sit a desk all day, your mind may be busy but it doesn’t burn as many calories as someone chasing a room of 3 year olds all day. So, it is now subjective rather than black and white.
So, if you are looking at losing a few pounds, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Calories do count.
Regardless of the debate, keeping track of the calories in is really important. If you don’t know where your calories are coming from, you can’t adjust your intake.
2. Fat, sugar, carb, nutritional info is just as important.
Knowing how the nutritional content of your food is broken down is really important. Your full day of calories should not be all fat, or sugar, or without a balance of nutrients. We will talk later on label reading for nutritional info.
3. Portion size is key.
Just because there are portion sizes on packages doesn’t mean that is what we actually consume. Make sure that your portions are actually the size you think they are. Use a scale, measure cup or measure spoons.
4 . You still need to move your body.
A sedentary life is just not healthy. Regardless of reducing calories in, do your best to add some movement into your day. Every little bit helps.
5 . Counting is not forever.
Once this becomes part of your regular life, you can put your measuring tools away for a while. You will get used to what a tablespoon of peanut butter really looks like, how big 4 oz of chicken is and how big that bowl of cereal really is. You may revisit it from time to time so that you are not cheating yourself, but it will become easier.
And on a final note, if your body is getting all of its energy needs met by the food you are consuming, how do you think you will lose weight. At some point in time, your body needs to look to your stored fat for its energy therefore reducing the love handles.
The reason is that you eat too many foods that are high in “calories,” which are little units that measure how good a particular food tastes. Fudge, for example, has a great many calories, whereas celery, which is not really a food at all but a member of the plywood family, provided by Mother Nature so that mankind would have a way to get onion dip into his mouth at parties, has none. ― Dave Barry, Dave Barry's Guide to Life