Counting Calories: No Big Deal

By Sean Keats, CSCS

(WINDSOR, ON) – A complicated process made simple. Weight loss may not be easy, but the formula behind it is.

Weight loss = fewer calories in and more calories out.

In order to shed those pounds, you’ve got to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume.  This deficit causes your body to burn the calories stored as fat rather than the calories from the cheeseburger you just ate.

A calorie is a unit of food energy.  Each person must eat a certain amount of calories each day to survive.  The number you need depends on your current weight, age, activity level, and sex.  Here’s what you need to know about counting calories.

Weight Loss Calculator

Want to lose five pounds by swimsuit season?  Looking to lose 100 pounds in a year?  For a quick way to estimate how many calories you should eat each day to lose your desired number of pounds by a certain date, find a weight loss calculator online.  You’ll need to enter your sex, age, current weight, height, activity level, as well as your starting date and the number of pounds you want to lose.  Once you’ve done this, it’s time to get started.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Many dieters are tempted to take the idea of a calorie deficit to the extreme by practically starving themselves.  Though this may work in the beginning, a calorie deficit of more than 1,000 calories (eating 1,000 fewer calories than you burn) a day is counterproductive and unsafe.  Without enough calories for energy, your body will begin to burn muscle mass for fuel and go into starvation mode.  Your metabolism will then slow and your weight loss will decrease or stop completely.  Following such a diet, any lost pounds will likely be found once again.  To avoid this, women should eat at least 1,200 calories a day, and men should go for a minimum of 1,500.

To lose weight the healthy way, aim to create a calorie deficit each day of between 300 and 1,000 calories.  This means you must either eat that many fewer calories or—even better—eat fewer calories while increasing your physical activity at the same time.  You may find you need to eat more to calories on the days you workout so your body has enough extra fuel.  A healthy goal to work toward is weight loss of a half a pound to two pounds per week.  This way, your body can adjust to the changes and you’ll be more likely to maintain your new weight.

Calories In

Every food and drink contains calories, from the junk food you eat in shame to the wholesome, nutritious food you eat so proudly.  The calories you put in your body are called “calories in.”  While a calorie is a calorie, no matter what type of food or drink it is, not all calories are created equal.

Nutrition Facts.Is your daily calorie intake made up largely of sweets and fats?  These empty calories won’t provide the nutrients necessary for optimal function and you’d have to eat a lot more to feel full and have enough energy.  On the other hand, if your daily calorie intake is a balance of protein, carbs, and fibre, your body will have the energy it needs to stay healthy and you won’t have to eat as much to feel full.

As you can see, counting calories is important for weight loss, but it is only part of the picture.  To count your “calories in” you’ll need to find a website that lists every food and drink and its corresponding number of calories.  After each meal or snack or at the end of each day, keep a running count of your total daily calories.

Calories Out

Every action you perform burns calories.  Your body burns calories just by being alive.  Activities that require more energy (running, walking, lifting weights) burn more calories.  Calories you burn are called “calories out.”  This number is a little harder to determine.

To estimate how many calories you burn on a normal day, hunt down a basal metabolic rate calculator online.  Once you determine your basal metabolic rate, you can use it and the average number of calories you eat each day to determine how many calories to cut from your diet and how many you need to burn in order to create the deficit needed for weight loss.

Then get on it!  And don’t forget to weigh yourself every few days to chart your progress.  Not seeing the progress you want?  Stop weighing yourself so often, but keep up the work. In a short while, you’ll begin to see your weight go where you want it: down!

Sean Keats is a personal fitness trainer in Windsor who helps busy people get in the best shape of their lives — right from the comfort of their own home.  Make sure to check out his Facebook page at Facebook.com/SeanKeatsCSCS.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.
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