Why count calories?

“I exercised and ate healthily, but I still couldn’t lose any weight”

The above statement is not an uncommon lament.

Many people are convinced they are cursed with a “slow metabolism”, “syndrome X”, a “female fat cell”, or some other physiological curse condemning them to be overweight.

What if these people don’t have some mysterious biological cause for being fat?

What if they simply don’t know how much they are eating and what if $2 in office supplies could be the tools they need to lose weight without starving like a super model?

Everybody knows that sloppy eating habits can undo the weight control benefits of exercise, but most people do not know that even good eating habits may not be enough. There have been studies that have shown that even educated and conscientious people consistently underestimate how much they eat unless they track their caloric intake.

Even small and/or healthy snacks can quickly add up.

For example, I saw on a web site that if a man my size worked out on a rowing machine for an hour that the calories burned would be:

661 calories.

That is wonderful! All it takes is using 500 calories a day more than I eat to lose a pound a week.

Now, let’s say that after my workout I like to have a drink and small snack like many people do:

    20 floz bottle of coke - 220 calories
    1.5 oz bag of potato chips – 228 calories

The portions for the soda and the chips are typical of the portions found in most vending machines.

Then, let’s say I eat a reasonable dinner and after dinner while I watch television I have a few Hershey Kisses out of the candy dish over the course of an hour. Lets say I have 8. That is another

200 calories.

Adding it all up:
220
228
200
––
648 calories — from typical snacking habits.

Even though I worked out like a bear on the rowing machine and burned off 661 calories I put 648 calories back into my system. I wasn’t binging, nobody watching me during the day would have said that I ate like a glutton. Yet, my hard earned caloric deficit was reduced to a mere 13 calories.

Of course I am not going to lose any significant amount of weight under those conditions.

What if I ate healthy food for my small snacks instead?

Okay, lets say that after my workout I chose to have a can ( 12 fluid ounces ) of orange juice and a bagel ( 4 inches in diameter ) instead:

167 calories
229 calories

Then after dinner, instead of nibbling at chocolate from a candy dish, I eat 1.5 ounces of roasted peanuts:

250 calories

Adding it up:
167
229
250
————-
646 calories

I still put 646 calories back into my system, despite snacking moderately on healthy food.

My caloric deficit is still on 15 calories despite working out like an animal.

At this point many people would conclude that if such small transgressions undo a huge work out that there is no point in trying to lose weight as life would become too unpleasant.

These people would be wrong.

The flip side of a small transgression ruining a weight loss goal is that only a small change is needed to make it weight loss realistic.

If I decided to give up the small and innocent snacks above I wouldn’t be missing much.

I would still be having the reasonable meals implied in the example and I wouldn’t be starving like a super model either. Yet, my mere 13 calories a deficit would jump up to over 600 calories lost a day………more than a pound a week in weight loss.

Even if I just gave up my evening snack, my caloric deficit would increase to about 200 calories a day……enough to lose 20 lbs in a year. A 20 pound weight loss for doing nothing but keeping my hands to myself while I watch television. I think that is positive and very inspiring.

For the cost of a memo pad, a ball point pen, and about 6 minutes a day to log what I eat I could turn what would seem like a dead end weight control situation into a fast, comfortable weight loss regime.

Yes, I am sure there are some people who can eat mountains of food and not gain weight, but maybe you aren’t one of those unlucky people with a “slow metabolism” either. Maybe you just don’t know how much you are really eating.

Writing down the calories you eat takes about as long as brushing your teeth and over the course of a year could make as much a difference in your health.

Give it a try for 1 week. You will be amazed at the difference between the amount of food you thought you were eating and the amount of food you really ate. You will also become amazed at how very, very tiny differences in your food intake can have dramatic, positive results over time.

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One thought on “Why count calories?

  1. heh, i had to go through a big hard change in eating habits when i went from cycling and burning 3,000+ cals a day to being injured and burning less than 2,000 a day =/

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