Why calorie counting is the key to successful weight-loss

There are a couple of well-worn sayings when it comes to losing weight: You can’t out-exercise a bad diet & weight loss is 80% diet, 20% exercise.

Both of these statements are true, because weight loss or gain is all about what you eat. It’s actually very simple. If you eat more calories than you expend (burn-off) then your body will store those excess calories as fat, i.e. put weight on. However, if you expend more calories than you consume, then you will use those fat stores as energy, therefore losing weight.

Now while this is energy balance equation is very simple, calories in Vs calories out, in reality, many of us struggle to keep this equation balanced. Part of the problem is that modern life has given us very energy-dense foods, while at the same time making us much less active. We therefore easily consume more calories than we expend.

Not only that, it’s far easier to put on weight than it is to lose it. Our body’s are genetically programmed to store energy (fat) in times of plenty, ready to be used in times of famine. Unfortunately, we live in a constant state of plenty, many foods are very high in sugar and fat, so while a few hundred years ago, it may have been a struggle to get your daily calories, now we can easily consume twice what we need in a day, without even thinking about it!

This is where calorie tracking comes in. As I covered earlier, in order to lose weight, you have to be in what’s called a calorie deficit (eat less calories than you expend). A pound (454g) of fat is approximately 3,500 calories. Divide 3,500 by seven days in the week and that means you have to consume 500 calories less per day, than you expend, to lose a pound (454g) of fat in a week.

Sounds easy, but how do you know how many calories you are consuming and how many you are burning? This is where calorie tracking apps come in. There are two we recommend: MyFitnessPal & Nutracheck. They both have their Pros and Cons, which I’ll cover in my next blog post, but they both enable you to track your calories to ensure you stay in a deficit and lose weight.

Now, I know some people don’t like calorie tracking, because they find it tedious, or they think if they just eat sensibly, they’ll stay on track. Well, here’s some hard truth for you: If you don’t track your calories, you will not succeed.

You cannot possibly hope to lose weight by guessing how many calories you have consumed and how many you burned in an exercise class. That’s like putting a random amount of petrol in your car and hoping it’s enough to get you home! Believe me, I’ve tried. Many, many times. It just doesn’t work and that’s why when I need to lose weight, I always track both my intake and expenditure. I’ll follow up in the next post, with how to use a calorie tracker and how to track your exercise calories, too.

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