5 Simple Ways: To count calories

source: www.clinicalnutritioncenter.com

Most people cringe when I tell them I count calories.

For example, my mom says she doesn’t want to think about every bite of food she puts into her mouth. Other people suggest it requires a person to be anal-retentive. That might help, but it’s certainly not a must-have trait.

For me, it was the most effective way to lose and maintain weight, which I struggled with for years. I started counting calories a little more than two years ago and since lost about 15 to 20 pounds.

Although I had already exercised regularly about a year before, I had no idea how much I should eat in a day. I learned that, after exercising, I probably ate back most of the calories I burned. Or I would eat too few calories one day and then too many the next. That caused my weight to yo-yo. I used to feel anxious every time I weighed myself, never knowing if I gained or lost weight. It was a constant battle that I didn’t know how to control.

I count calories as a general rule, but I’m also OK with allowing myself some slack. As a result of keeping track, I feel more in touch with my body and have better intuition about how many calories — or how much energy — I need in a day.

Physically logging calories might not be for everyone, but knowing how many calories you need per day is important.

Here are five simple ways to effectively count calories.

1. Find out how many calories you need in a day to maintain, lose or gain weight. Either schedule an appointment with a nutritionist, or use a website such as MyFitnessPal or Calorie Counter, which take into account your age, sex, height and weight and your fitness goals.

2. Learn to read nutrition labels. Over time, you will have a better idea of how many calories each food has. Having that knowledge might lead you to make better food choices and feel more satiated.

3. Buy a food scale, and make it a habit to portion out your food.

4. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. For example, I usually eat 350 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch and 500 for dinner, with a couple of 100-or-so calorie snacks. I have a few go-to meals for breakfast that equal about 350 calories: i.e. oatmeal with dried fruit, a tablespoon of homemade peanut butter, a splash of low-fat milk, a cup of fresh berries, and coffee with low-fat half and half.

5. Find a system that works for you. You can keep a manual food journal or log your calories online. I use MyFitnessPal, which has a database of foods and their calories. It also has a feature which allows users to factor in exercise, which adds to how many calories you can have per day. I usually update my data a few times each day, but always once in the morning and once at night.

This might seem like a lot of work, but once it becomes habit, you won’t have to think about it. Knowing how much energy my body needs has enabled me to make healthier choices and cut out excess. When I step on the scale now, I know what to expect.

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2 Responses

  1. August 13, 2012

    […] and it would barely register my heart rate. So I decided to estimate my own burn to factor into my meal tracking, which has worked […]

  2. October 8, 2012

    […] and restrict myself — sometimes consuming too few calories — during the week. Along with tracking calories and eating five or more servings of fruits and veggies a day, I exercised about four to six days a […]

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