By now you should know how many calories you need to maintain your weight and how many calories you should consume to lose X kg in Y days. Now it’s time to learn how you actually count calories in your everyday life.
The previously explained calorie theory looks like this:
Daily calorie goal >= (consumed calories – calories burned)
As you can see you want the sum of your calories to be less than or equal to your daily calorie goal. If you manage that you will lose weight. Because of this we need to track two variables – your consumed (1) and burned (2) calories.
Count calories in the food you consume
Almost all food has a nutrition facts label showing how many calories the food contains per serving. In Europe there’s a set quantity of 100 g or 100 ml but this seems to vary in other countries. Therefore you have to begin by calculating the amount of calories there is in each gram or milliliter.
If you’re using one of the tools mentioned below you won’t need to keep doing this in the future but it’s still a good idea to learn how it really works.
By looking at a soda you will see it contains 84 calories per serving where one serving consists of 200 ml. Therefore we need to divide the calories (84) with the amount (200 ml) to see how many calories 1 ml contains.
84 / 200 = 0.42 kcal per ml
Since we drank one can of soda, consisting of 33 cl, we need to multiply the amount in ml (330 ml) with the amount of calories per ml.
330 x 0.42 = 138.9 ≈ 139 kcal
As you can see – one can of soda (33 cl) equals 139 kcal.
The more difficult part begins when you eat food and actually have to weigh to know exactly how much you eat. If you have a lunch, consisting of pasta and meat sauce, you first need to place your plate on a scale and reset it. Then you add your pasta on the plate, write down the numbers and reset it again. Add the meat sauce on the plate, write down the numbers and reset.
You’ve got to do this for every single meal and it might be a bit difficult in the beginning but once you get the hang of it you will find it a breeze. Remember that calorie counting is just a short phase in your weight loss.
Count calories from your exercise
Exercise is a bit simpler but trickier to track correctly. There’s a ton of tools to estimate how much you burn per minute when doing an activity. According to these I would e.g. burn 139 kcal in 30 min when taking a regular walk. Unfortunately this depends on speed, terrain (snow/grass), pulse, etc.
Therefore I highly recommend that you use a tool with GPS such as Runkeeper which you can download for free to your smartphone. If you’re really serious about your weight loss you should also get a heart rate monitor (I’m in love with my Garmin Forerunner 405) to obtain the most accurate results possible.
A regular walk to my school takes me 13 minutes and burns 80 kcal. When I get there I simply reduce my total number of consumed calories with the amount from the exercise, which in this case is 80 kcal. By doing so I’ll know that I can either eat an additional 80 kcal or skip them and lose more weight.
Tools to track your calories
You can use a few different tools to track your calories. Some prefer advanced tables in Excel and others prefer a simple notebook. Personally I recommend online tools because of three important reasons.
- They offer a database filled with thousands of food products. Thanks to this you don’t have to calculate the amount of calories per gram or remember how many calories the food contains. You simply enter the the amount of food you ate and the tool does the rest.
- It’s available everywhere. This requires a smartphone or laptop but it will be much easier to keep track if you can save data during the meal.
- You’ll get amazing statistics. Thanks to their graphs you can dive into the statistics and see interesting information such as which day you tend to overeat and how much you eat from every macro nutrients.
There are a few different tools on the market. Personally I’m very satisfied with ShapeUp Club but I’ve heard good things about MyFitnessPal. Both are free and offer a smartphone app which I believe is a major help in your weight loss.
Some advice on the way
It’s extremely important that you write down the calories directly after your meal. Every hour you wait, you increase the risk of being tricked by your memory and collect wrong data. Think about it – do you remember if your drank one or ten glasses yesterday? Most people tend to mix this up just a few minutes after their meal so write it down as soon as possible.
If you’ve got a smartphone, make sure you use it!
Next big thing is to always overestimate how much you eat. By doing so you’ll always have the risk of losing more weight than you estimated. If you on the other hand underestimate the amount, even unconsciously, you’ll run into a common problem of not losing weight even though you’re doing your best.
Weight loss is all about becoming aware by keeping a food diary.