You want to lose weight. One of the big questions you might ask yourself is, “Should I count calories to lose weight?” Let’s explore the reasons behind that question and find the solution that’s right for you.
Why You Are Overweight
If you are overweight, it is because you are overeating.
The only reason for overweight is overeating. While there are factors that affect metabolism (genetics, age, muscle, thyroid, medication, lack of physical activity) none of those are the ultimate reason for being overweight.
Overweight comes from overeating food.
(If you aren’t sure what the right weight is for you, use our weight calculator here.)
This may comes as a painful reality, but facing up to it is an important part of weight loss.
As someone who has lost 100 pounds and runs an online weight loss program for women, I get emails all the time from people explaining the reasons they are overweight, like no time to work out, chronic health conditions, and everything else. None of these is why they are overweight, though.
If you are overweight, you are overeating.
Once you own up to your behavior and how it’s contributing to your problem, then you can look at which solution is the right one for you.
Do Calories Count?
There’s a great deal of debate in the medical community about if calories count. The rise in diets such as keto have given the allusion that calories are not an accurate measure.
While it’s true that not all calories are equal on a nutritional level, calories do matter. Some foods keep you more satisfied than others leading to long term weight loss, but ultimately it’s because you consume fewer calories overall.
Your body is counting calories perfectly whether you are tracking them or not. Our bodies are the only perfect machine that never gets it wrong.
Here’s the truth about weight loss.
- Burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.
- Burn the same amount amount of calories as you eat, your weight will stay the same.
- Burn fewer calories than you eat, you will gain weight.
Don’t make weight loss more complicated than it is.
Is Counting Calories a Good Way to Lose Weight?
We know calories count and our bodies are keeping track of them.
But do you need to keep track of your calories in order to lose weight?
Strictly speaking, no. You do not have to count calories to lose or maintain weight. There are millions of people in the world who maintain their weight every day without counting a single calorie.
Still, if you are someone in the developed world who has a weight issue, you have mismanaged food. You have bought into society’s wrong information about food types and portion sizes, and it’s certainly possible that you are addicted to unhealthy processed foods, junk food, and fast food.
Counting calories is a helpful way to get real about what you are eating. I recommend counting calories for weight loss.
Whether you use an app like My Fitness Pal or a system like Weight Watchers (which I recommend highly), the end result is the same. These systems help you learn how much you need to eat.
Are you Eating Emotionally?
No discussion of calorie counting, diets, or types of food matters all that much if you are eating for emotional reasons.
I think it’s fair to say almost all of us who struggle with weight eat emotionally. You might prefer to read articles and talk about calories and food plans, but the reality is that if you could get your emotional eating under control, most any healthy diet would work.
At Faithful Finish Lines, our online weight loss program for women, we guide women to stop emotional eating from a faith-based perspective. Our new membership program launches in September, 2019 and gives even more specific strategies and resources. Watch for details coming soon.
Frequently Asked Questions about Counting Calories
This question varies greatly by person. Use our calorie calculator to figure out your needs.
No, Weight Watchers uses a points system. However, the system is designed to help you eat fewer calories giving the same end result of weight loss.
Most people following a Ketogenic diet do not count calories but they count macros, especially carbs. Still, in order to lose weight they would need to eat fewer calories than they burn. There is some evidence that ketosis leads to increased metabolism, but the amount of increase is minimal.
Yes, while it’s not a perfect system, keeping track of calories is helpful to guide your food choices.
No. Exercise can be helpful because you burn calories (use our calculator to see how many) and it increases muscle which burns more calories at rest. Still, weight loss is 90% diet and perhaps 10% activity.
Just like anything else in life, counting calories can become obsessive. If you are new to counting, it might feel obsessive but it’s not. Anything new feels overwhelming at first. If you truly obsess about the calories in every food for months on end, consider if you have an eating disorder and seek treatment.
You may not always have to count calories to lose or maintain weight. I’ve been maintaining a 100 pound weight loss for over a decade, and I have gone weeks and months without counting. Still, if I find myself starting to gain weight, keeping a food log and tracking WW smart points is the first strategy I return to.
You can eat any food (yes, even junk food and fast food) and lose weight if you keep the calories low enough. Still, most people lose weight the best by eating plenty of protein and foods high in volume and low in calories, such as vegetables.
Do you count calories to lose weight? Share about it in the comments below.
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