Are you using calorie counting as your only measure for losing weight or getting healthy? Not all calories are created equal, which is why it’s important not to use calorie counting as your only rule for weight loss. Here are some facts, myths and solutions for a healthy lifestyle.
The Basics of Calories
• A single calorie is how one unit of energy is measured in food.
• The way to lose weight is to use up as much energy (calories) as possible; calories that are not burned off will be stored in your body as fat.
• Calories are in everything you eat – bread, cookies, milk – and in any flavored beverage you drink, including coffee and Vitamin Water.
• Be wary when counting calories – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that there is nearly 40 percent inaccuracy when looking at calories on the nutrition label.
Calorie Burning to Lose Fat
• Overeating is the number one way to gain weight, and will occur (no matter how active you are) when you don’t burn off the calories you digest.
• To lose 1 lb. of fat, you have to burn an extra 3,500 calories.
• You are always burning calories – when you eat, sit at your desk and even sleep.
• Studies have shown that you easily use up to 10 percent of your daily caloric intake with just breathing, walking and talking. Other calories are burned by cell repair, blood circulation and the motions of your organs.
• Women should generally stick to 1,500 calories a day. Men should limit their daily calorie intake by 2,000–2,500, on average.
• To lose weight, reduce each day’s caloric intake by 500 calories. When you do, you can lose up to 1 lb. of fat each week!
• Limit your calorie intake (instead of obsessing over counting calories) to lose weight. The less you consume, the less you’ll have to burn off.
Not All Calories Are Created Equal
• Don’t just look at the amount of calories you’re about to eat. For example, a 300-calorie bowl of oatmeal isn’t the same as a 300-calorie candy bar. The candy bar is loaded with saturated fat and white sugar, which are harder to work off than the oatmeal.
• Take in calories from healthy sources: fiber-rich legumes, leafy greens, fruits, coffee, lean meats, and whole grain foods like bread and pasta.
• Drink lots of water (eight large glasses a day) to stay hydrated and stave off hunger by feeling more full throughout the day.
• Avoid starving yourself by cutting down your diet too radically. Don’t shoot to lose more than 1–2 pounds a week. Otherwise, you’ll deprive your body of enough food to fuel it properly. You can also send starvation signals to your body, which will make it burn fat more slowly – not exactly what you want!
Counting Calories Solutions
• Lose weight by recording your eating habits (including what you’re eating and when) in a food journal.
• Add up your daily calories at the end of each day, and set realistic weight-loss goals. If you want to lose 1 lb. per week, cut out 500 calories a day, or if you want to lose 1 lb. every ten days, limit your daily calorie intake by 350 calories a day.
The Bottom Line . . .
If you want to lose weight the healthy way, make each and every calorie count. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a bowl of ice cream that has 500 calories is the same thing as a hearty breakfast of eggs, veggies and ham with the same amount of calories. Strategize your healthy eating plan by keeping track of your daily calorie intake, and cut down your calories in a reasonable way.