Most experts agree that weight loss occurs when the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories burned. With that logic in mind, calorie counting sounds like a very effective way to drop a dress size or two. However, in the real world, as many of us know, it is never that simple!
In order to best understand calories, it is important to understand what a calorie is. In the simplest terms, a calorie is a unit of energy that is required for your body to function. It is literally a lifeline that allows you to breathe, think and pump blood around the body. By doing all these things, your body is constantly burning those energy units, which is why we need to refuel on a regular basis.
The biggest problem with leaning on calorie counting as a weight loss tool, is that eventually the maths can no longer work. The British Dietetic Association states that one pound of fat is equal to a calorie balance of 3,500. That means, you should be able to lose a pound a week by cutting 500 calories a day, either through diet, exercise or a combination of the two.
Sounds great, doesn’t it! But if this were perfectly true, and you continued to live in a 500-calorie deficit, eventually you’d completely disappear! Since we know that doesn’t happen, there must be a flaw in the mathematics somewhere. Or, there must be other factors at play which can affect your weight.
Firstly, all calories are not created equally, since your body will process different foods in different ways, causing a variety of other things to happen in your digestive system that can be attributed to weight gain or loss. Secondly, it is incredibly difficult to measure your calorie intake or output accurately. You can gauge an estimate, but it is unlikely to be exact. In turn, this can lead to some unhealthily obsessive behavior around food and exercise that can have a negative impact on your mental health.
What is the Answer?
While calorie counting might be an imperfect science, it does have some merits. If you try and eat healthy foods that are lower in calories, while ensuring you have enough fuel to get you through the day, you are likely to maintain a healthier weight than someone who eats the same number of calories in fast foods and unhealthy snacks. Moderation is key, as always. If you do need a little extra help, it is worth visiting an experienced and qualified dietician who will be able to take your lifestyle and unique body type into consideration to help you make a successful plan.