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Daniel Swift

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Member Since: Dec, 2010

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The art and science of calorie counting
by Daniel Swift   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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Diets only work because they limit the amount of calories you take in on any given day. There simply is no other way to reduce your weight than consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day. Since it is that simple to lose weight why do we suffer from an obesity epidemic? Well part of the problem is restricting your calories isn’t the “fun eating” we got so use to that got us overweight in the first place. However for those who try to limit their calories but still don’t see the weight coming off there is greater forces at work that are sabotaging your progress.

 

Diets only work because they limit the amount of calories you take in on any given day. There simply is no other way to reduce your weight than consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day. Since it is that simple to lose weight why do we suffer from an obesity epidemic? Well part of the problem is restricting your calories isn’t the “fun eating” we got so use to that got us overweight in the first place. However for those who try to limit their calories but still don’t see the weight coming off there is greater forces at work that are sabotaging your progress.
Why is calorie counting so hard? Well let’s start with the science. The science of calorie counting requires accuracy above all else. You must accurately track everything you eat every time you eat it and keep a rolling total throughout the day. This requires knowing exactly how many calories are in the food you are consuming. I say exactly how many calories are in the food because you need to add up the total calories of everything in the meal and then figure out how large your portion is. I know this is a pain in the butt. Now with processed and packaged foods it is easy since they have to list their nutritional information, including their portion size and calories per portion, right on the label. However what if you make pasta with tomato sauce? Well you have to add up the calories from the amount of pasta you made and then figure out how much of that pasta you made you are eating and then do the exact same thing for the sauce. Now it doesn’t have to be a hundred percent accurate (I mean really is there a difference between 300 and 310 calories, no) but it has to be real close, within say five percent is a good rule.
As for the art, here is where the world of hidden calories comes into play. For example a cup of coffee black has zero calories a cup of coffee with creamer can have up to two hundred calories, a cup of coffee with cream and sugar up to four hundred calories and a coffee drink at a coffee shop and hit the thousand calorie mark. Most food work the same way. A two egg omelet has one hundred and sixty calories if cooked with zero calorie cooking spray, use butter instead and you are at around two hundred and fifty calories, throw in a couple slices of cheese and you hit around four hundred and fifty calories, a side of toast will bring your total to close to six hundred calories. As you can see the extra calories add up quickly.
The last thing to consider is the source of the calories. All calories are not created equal. A hundred calories from sugar (say those packaged “orange slices” sugar candy I use to love) and a hundred calories of protein do not function in your body the same way. The protein is used for fuel and muscle repair and building the sugar has no nutritional value and spikes your insulin levels which turns your body into a fat storage machine. So while counting calories is essential it is also important to get your calories from the right sources.
Let’s use a real example, in fact let’s use me as an example. To lose those last twenty pounds I wanted to lose and to drop excess weight whenever I put it on I use a basic 1500 calorie a day diet, I eat every two to three hours, I get sixty percent of my calories from protein, thirty percent from fruits, vegetables, nuts and breads and the last ten percent from feel good foods (for me usually dark chocolate). Every day I write down what I eat and when to make sure I am feeding my body every two to three hours and I don’t put anything in my body if I don’t know the calories in it. This works every time to take off any excess weight I have allowed to gather during a less than ideal eating period. When I am happy with my weight I do the exact same thing with one change I increase the daily caloric intake to two thousand calories and this keep my weight stable until I give myself another food fest holiday.

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