Calories Count or Not To Count

What is a Calorie?

Calories Count or Not To Count
Calories Count or Not To Count

Do calories count? Understanding calories and the ability to balance your input with your output, can assist weight loss efforts. If not weight loss, it can help you maintain a healthy and attractive body fat ratio.

A calorie is simply a measure of heat energy. When your body burns food, it releases a certain amount of heat, depending on the type of food. The higher the caloric content of a food, the more energy – or heat – that will be released while it burns.

The expression, “Burn fat” is common just about anywhere there is any discussion on weight loss. What this basically means is to release calories from our fat storage and burn them for energy. No activity, no fat burn. This is where calories count.

Calories Don’t Count Theory

Oh, but calories count, even if we don’t like to admit it. According to the calories-don’t-count theory, if you eat certain foods, or certain combination’s of foods, you can “eat as much as you want and you’ll still lose weight!” In our idle and pleasure-seeking society this idea sounds great. But this is impossible. The bottom line is that eating more fat makes you feel fuller, longer. This reduces food cravings. But having said that, it is still true that calories count.

The bottom line. The claim, “Eat all you want and still lose weight” is one of the most common lies told in the weight loss industry.

Law of Energy Balance when Calories Count

According to the Law of Energy Balance, if you burn more calories than you consume, your body taps into stored fat for energy. This makes up for the calorie deficit and you will lose weight. The reverse is also true. If you consume more calories than you burn each day, you will store the surplus and gain weight.

Putting it simply, if you wish to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume every day. For gaining weight, the reverse is applied. Eat more than you burn, gain more.

It’s best to see those calories count while burning them, not eating them.

Two factors are applied to the Law of Energy Balance:

  1. If you eat too much of ANY food (even healthful foods), the excess will be stored as body fat. Those calories count.
  2. If you eat fewer calories than you burn every day including junk food, you won’t store it as body fat. This factor tells us occasional indulgences are NOT the end of the world.

Daily Caloric Needs

The first step in determining your daily calorie needs for fat loss is to calculate the total number of calories you burn up every day. This is known as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). TDEE is the total number of calories your body burns in 24 hours. Once you know your level, you will have a reference point from which to start your program.

You can determine an accurate estimate of your calorie expenditure just from body weight alone. The fastest and easiest method to determine how many calories you need is to use your total current weight times a multiplier for TDEE.

  • Fat loss equals 12 to 13 calories per pound of body weight.
  • Maintenance (TDEE) equals 15 to 16 calories per pound of body weight.
  • Weight gain equals 18 to 20-plus calories per pound of body weight.

This quick formula is a good way to get a quick estimate, as long as your body fat is average or less. Once you know your maintenance level, the next step is to adjust your calories according to your goal. To lose weight, create a calorie deficit by reducing your calories slightly below your maintenance level. Or, keep your calories the same and increase your activity.

As you have probably surmised by now, the answer to whether  to count or not to count is CALORIES COUNT. You really do need to understand caloric intake and get an idea of what yours is. Learn how much it should be to lose or maintain (or gain), and how much you should cut back if looking to lose weight. A slow  methodical method is best so as not to go into starvation mode. See: Just Say “NO” To Starvation.

Determining Caloric Intake

Determine Caloric Intake
Determine Caloric Intake

You can’t apply the above formula if you don’t know your current daily calorie intake, can you? Well, you’ll need to do so. Eat the way you have been if you haven’t started cutting back. Keep track of every single morsel of food you put into your mouth for 1 day. Don’t cheat – this is to help you – JUST YOU! No one has to see this list.

And remember, when making your notes, include EVERY THING i.e., if you ate a cheeseburger with ketchup, pickles and onions, add those 3 items to the list. Don’t just write, “Cheeseburger”.

Now get a good calorie content book, or look up the foods online and tally up that caloric intake to use in creating your “formula”. IMPORTANT: If your current caloric intake has been substantially higher than your new target amount, adjust gradually. Cutting too many calories too quickly often causes diet relapses because the change is too dramatic for some people to handle.

During the initial stages, keep a Food Diary. We happen to have some free one’s all ready for you! Grab a free printable food diary!. Using this approach, you will gain a new perspective and a good understanding of caloric intake that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

At first this is a bit of work, but don’t be put off by that. In fact, you should be enthusiastic about it! After a short time, you’ll begin to know by rote how much is too much, or how many calories are in the foods you commonly eat. Eventually you won’t need to keep any kind of diary, or even notes, for that matter. It will all become a great, new and wonderful, ingrained habit.

*If you have above average amounts of body fat, then your first goal should be to focus on losing fat. Once the fat is off, work on gaining muscle while maintaining your lowered body fat level. But remember, calories count.


  • Body fat is nothing more than stored energy.
  • To release stored energy, you must be in a calorie deficient state.
  • A large calorie deficit maintained for too long, will invoke the starvation response and slow your metabolism.
  • You can never override the laws of energy balance.
  • Reduce your calories by 15-20 percent below maintenance for optimal, safe fat loss.

“Discipline is doing what is hard and necessary rather than what is fun and easy and doing it when it’s necessary, whether you feel like doing it or not.” – Achievement Expert Brian Tracy

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Slow Metabolism?

Slow Metabolism? Cutting Calories Can Make it Worse!

Slow Metabolism?
Slow Metabolism?

First, it’s important to note that for those who do eat far too much – and if you’re guilty of this, you know it – a cut in your calorie intake is necessary. No one can engage in “pigging out” on a regular basis and not gain weight. This has little to do with a slow metabolism.

Some can get away with this when young, but as age creeps up, so will the numbers on the scale. Common sense, 101…apply it!

The average person who sincerely watches their portions and tries to eat a reasonable amount of food every day often find themselves unable to drop pounds. We’ve been programmed to think the first thing we need to do is stop eating as much as we currently are eating. Not necessarily true! In fact, eating more can actually result in an increase in your metabolism. In other words, it can boost a slow metabolism!

Most of us who have dieted have heard or even used the expression, “I must have a slow metabolism!” Or, seeing someone who can eat like a horse and never gain weight, “Wow, s/he must have a GREAT metabolism!

Well, while it’s true that some metabolism factors are genetic, there are things you can do to give yours a boost. No matter your unique genetic code and no matter your age. And a reduction in calories is NOT the answer to a slow metabolism.

Decreasing calories causes your metabolism to slow down.

That’s right. So, instead of immediately thinking you have to cut calories to lose weight, consider increasing activity FIRST. This will kick start a fat-burning effect and it’s far better to burn fat than starve fat.

What Kind of Activity?

Aerobics are probably your best bet when it comes to fat burning. You don’t have to run marathons or walk 10 miles or jump around in your living room for an hour. If you’re out of shape, it’s best to start slow and gradually build yourself up in time and intensity. You’ll still get results.

Be gentle with your body. Learn your strengths and weaknesses and adapt. And don’t force yourself to do something you dislike. This only leads to distaste for exercise and more excuses for procrastination. It puts a negative aspect on the whole idea of exercise, let alone the actual exercising!

For example, try a 10 minute walk after your largest meal of the day. When done, grab some hand weights and do another 10 minutes of weight lifting exercises.

Alternatively, try a theraband. These are especially good if you have joint problems, arthritis, etc. Getting into this habit alone can be helpful.

About That Food

Now just because you’ve planned to raise your activity levels, this doesn’t give you free reign to stuff your face.

Nutritional quality runs in degrees. Food choices aren’t good or bad. They aren’t black or white. There are shades of gray. When you want to reduce your weight or break a plateau, you have to improve your food choices.  You do this by eating fewer processed foods. Replace them with foods that are in their raw, natural state.

Food should be food you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to eat something you find distasteful just because it is considered healthy. Too much of this and you’ll find yourself on a binge of your favorite fattening foods.


  • You now understand that decreasing calories can slow metabolism, ruining your weight loss efforts.
  • You know you have to increase your activity to increase your metabolism.
  • You understand that swapping out some of those foods you know aren’t the best for you, foods in more of a “raw” state can allow you to eat more and burn more fat.

See also: Using Nature to Boost Metabolism

High Sugar Foods

High Sugar Foods

Used in large amounts, high sugar foods can cause an abnormally high rise in blood sugar. This is due to the quick digestion of carbohydrates in the intestinal tract, which turns into glucose causing quick entry into the bloodstream.

High Sugar Foods
High Sugar Foods

If your body does not contain enough insulin to handle this surge of high sugar foods, blood sugar levels can rise too high. The following list is of  high sugar foods that can cause difficulties with diabetic management. If you use carbohydrate counting as part of an eating plan, you may be able to use these techniques to incorporate some of these foods into your meals.

High sugar foods are often high in fat and calories and contribute little nutritional value. If you are looking to cut back on sugar for health reasons, or for weight loss, avoid the following foods until you meet with a dietitian to learn if they can be included in your diet.

List of High Sugar Foods

  • Alcohol: Sweet wines, liqueurs, cordials.
  • Candy.
  • Carbonated beverages with sugar, including regular soda.
  • Sugar coated cereals.
  • Chewing gum with sugar.
  • Dates, figs and other dried fruits.
  • Desserts containing sugar.
    • Cake.
    • Cookies with filling or frosting.
    • Ice cream, including sodas, shakes and sundaes.
    • Ice milk.
    • Gelatin dessert, sweetened.
    • Pie.
    • Pudding.
    • Sherbet.
  • Fructose.
  • Fruited yogurt.
  • Honey.
  • Jelly and Jam (non-dietetic).
  • Marmalade.
  • Pastries.
  • Preserves.
  • Special “dietetic” foods.
  • Sugar.
  • Sugar-sweetened fruit drinks (Kool-Aid, Hi-C, etc.).
  • Sweetened condensed milk.
  • Syrups (maple, molasses, etc.)

Alcohol may interfere with the management of diabetes. Always consult with your doctor or dietitian before consuming alcohol.

For Diabetics

Perhaps you are aware that today diabetics do not have to give up their sweet treats entirely, thanks to artificial sweeteners. There is a wide range available that you can fit into your diet program.

Sweeteners that contain calories, called nutritive sweeteners, will affect your blood sugar. These sweeteners are all carbohydrates and contain four calories per gram. Non-nutritive sweeteners contain few, if any, calories and are therefore called non-caloric sweeteners. These will have no effect on your blood sugar so people with diabetes can use these types of sweeteners. You will find artificial sweeteners have different cooking properties and tastes. You may want to try a variety, depending on the way you wish to use them and according to your taste.

See also: Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

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Restricting Calories Detrimental to Fitness

Restricting Calories is Detrimental to Your Fitness

The most common means of dieting is restricting calories. The first thing we thing of when we think “diet” is “Can’t or shouldn’t eat this that or the other thing”.

Restricting calories is not the answer.
Restricting calories is not the answer.

This amounts to calorie restriction, which can actually lower your metabolism. When your metabolism lowers, so does your fat burning ability and your chance of dropping pounds.

Lift Weights
But why does this happen? Basically because when you cut down on calories, you’re body works to adjust to less “fuel”. The first way it does this is to lower your metabolism. Adding more alarm, study after study tells us that low calorie diets without exercise will always cause 40 to 50 percent of the weight you do lose to come from lean tissue. Even with exercise, if a diet is too restrictive in calories, much of the weight loss will still be lean tissue.

The Thyroid Factor

Many of us are aware of the fact that we have a thyroid gland and that it can play a role in weight gain. This is because our thyroid gland is largely responsible for regulating the rate we burn calories while at rest. The thyroid has an active hormone known as T3. When significant calorie reduction takes place, it reduces output of this hormone, which results in a decreased metabolism.

The Dreaded Plateau

Now you can see how restricting calories to lose weight can actually turn on you. It should be easier to understand why so many dieters reach a plateau. A plateau is a point at which no matter what they do, how little they eat or how much they exercise, they can’t lose another pound. This means your body has adjusted to a lower amount of calories and adapted in order to conserve energy.

What’s really scary is that if you’ve reached this point, merely going back to normal eating habits could mean weight gain. Your body is not burning calories as efficiently as it was before the diet.

And it gets worse. At this point you can start having gnawing hunger pains and insatiable cravings. Ensuing frustration can cause you to break your diet. Weight creeps back up, body fat increases and you now have less muscle and a slower metabolism. Many people will not only gain back any weight they’ve lost, but will add to it.

This is where the expression “yo-yo cycle” comes into the picture. It’s a vicious cycle that some battle their entire lives.

The Signs and Symptoms of Restricting Calories

How would you know if you’re reaching this point in your dieting efforts? The first signs are those of being under nourished.

  • Fatigue.
  • Lethargy.
  • Inability to sustain levels of physical activity.

Restricting calories is known to cause all three symptoms.

What to Do?

Give up the idea that you have to starve to lose weight. Sure, if you starve yourself you’ll lose some weight. This simply IS NOT HEALTHY. Keep this thought in mind:

Temporary dieting can only produce temporary results.

Seven Suggested Steps

  1. Adopt the mindset that you are going to be working on changing life-long habits permanently.
  2. Plan to do muscle toning exercise at least 2 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session. Hang onto that all important lean muscle mass. If you wish, work to develop more!
  3. Obviously restricting calories is in order for anyone who has been in a bad habit of over-indulgence. Decrease slowly and intelligently! Healthier foods, cutting out fried foods, etc.
  4. Work toward off setting reduction in calories with increase in physical movement. Formal exercise or things like gardening, walking, sweeping, vacuuming, etc., all count.
  5. Determine your minimal calorie requirements with the help of a physician and never drop below them!
  6. Woman on ScalePractice “grazing”, not gorging. In other words, eat several smaller meals (4 to 6) throughout the day as opposed to 2 or 3 large ones. This keeps fuel going in while energy expenditure is going out. It also wards off binge-type urges, hunger pains and feeling unsatisfied.
  7. Set out to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Yes, it takes some patience but the long term, satisfying results are well worth it. And remember, if you’re doing your muscle toning exercises, you’re replacing some fat with muscle which could actually reduce your body size. This occurs even if the scale isn’t showing a significant reduction! It’s exciting, trust me. Once you’ve experienced a drop in clothing size while your scale remains the same, you’ll embrace muscle toning! See A Beginner’s Full Body Workout.

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