What’s the point of counting calories?

Counting calories seems like one of the most mundane tasks people do. Why would anyone want to measure food with spoons, cups and scales? Wouldn’t all the numbers drive you crazy? Counting calories is one of the best ways to guarantee successful weight control. Weight control is a numbers game. It is as simple as understanding the relationship between how many calories you burn and how many you eat. Counting calories is an important step in managing this relationship.

Weight Control

Though weight is not the only measure of overall health, it is an important one. Controlling weight and ensuring you remain within a healthy weight range is crucial in reducing the risk of developing heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and even certain forms of cancer.

Weight control is all about how many calories you burn relative to how many calories you eat. When you eat more than you burn, you gain weight. When you burn more than you eat, you lose weight.

Weight Control Equation: Burning & Eating

There are two parts of the weight control equation: burning and eating. Weight loss becomes much easier as you become more precise in measuring both parts of the equation (energy burned and calories eaten).

Estimating how many calories you burn each day is easy, however, getting a more precise number is difficult and costly. Precise measurements are not needed for weight control; estimations work for most people. Precisely measuring how many calories you eat each day is much simpler. Counting calories is important because if you want to manage body weight, you need to ensure you are eating the proper amount of food.

Counting Calories

Counting calories is more than estimating. People are horrible at estimating calorie intake. One of the most important pieces of information located on the nutrition label is serving size. Many ignore it and assume one serving is an all you can eat portion. This leads to an underestimation of calorie intake and unwanted weight gain, especially when dealing with energy dense foods such as sugary snacks, fatty foods and beverages (soda, fruit juice, sweet tea, beer).

Verifiably counting calorie intake means careful accounting for everything you eat. Using measuring cups and measuring spoons is the easiest way to verify portion size. If you have never measured what you eat, you may be surprised at how many calories are found in such small portions of certain foods. This forces you to make smarter food choices.

A 100 calorie serving of vegetables takes up a lot more room on a plate (and in your stomach) than a 100 calorie serving of candy or chocolate. Measuring food/counting calories makes two significant changes: 1) you are accounting for all calories, and 2) when you limit calorie intake, you begin to make smarter food choices so that they can fit within the daily “calorie budget” (healthy foods typically contain fewer calories than unhealthy ones).

Counting is Easy

Counting calories used to be tedious. With smartphones and apps, counting calories is almost fun. The most popular calorie counting app is MyFitnessPal. This [free] app takes care of the counting part, all you need to do is use it on a regular basis.

MyFitnessPal allows you to scan a barcode with a smartphone’s camera to look up calories. You can also search for food using phrases, names or brands. Once the app finds the food, all you need to do is enter how many servings you ate and it takes care of counting.

The Bottom Line

Once you figure out how to accurately measure calorie intake, you will never struggle with weight problems again. Though counting calories is overwhelming at first, when it becomes part of a daily routine and you feel the impact of living within a healthy calorie budget, you start to see some very positive results.

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