Counting Calories - Is It the Only Weight Loss Solution?
We've all met someone who claims they can eat anything they want without gaining weight. But this is true only for a few, rare, lucky people.
Like engines, our bodies need fuel. We store and "burn" calories as fuel. The logic behind losing weight by eating fewer calories than your body burns each day is clear. However, a calorie isn't actually a "thing" that only people who want to lose weight count; it's a unit of measurement for energy in the food and drinks that we consume. We all need this energy to live and stay healthy. So, calories are important for everyone!
How many calories you need per day, depends on whether you want to maintain, lose or gain weight, as well as various factors such as your gender, age, height, current weight, activity levels and metabolic health.
Scientists all over the world agree - an average woman needs to eat about 2000 calories per day to maintain, and 1500 calories to lose 0.5 kg (1.1 lbs) of weight per week, whereas an average man needs 2500 calories to maintain, and 2000 to lose the same amount of weight.
Why wouldn’t you then simply treat yourself with that McDonald's double cheeseburger containing 460 calories and burn off those calories during one hour of intense aerobics?! Things are not as simple as that. Especially not in the long run. The problem is that when you rely on exercise alone, it often backfires for a couple of reasons. This is partly because of exercise’s effects on the hunger and appetite hormones, which make you feel noticeably hungrier after exercise. The other problem with exercise without dieting is that it’s simply tiring, and again, the body will compensate.
But are all calories the same when it comes to weight loss? Experts generally agree that a calorie is a calorie. It doesn't necessarily matter where your calories come from. Due to the fact that protein and carbohydrate have less than half of the calories per gram than fat does, many dieters try to limit the amount of fat in their diet. But some types of fat are necessary for a healthy body, and some carbs are also healthier than others. Hence, simply cutting back on calories without getting good nutritional information could mean missing out on essential vitamins and minerals. And this is where the ‘’calorie math’’ gets more complicated.
For this reason, it’s highly recommended to make a few other permanent changes like proper hydration, increased protein and reduced carb intake that can help you maintain a calorie deficit in the long term and still feel healthy and satisfied.
But the fact is - creating a calorie deficit is the foundation of every diet. Every. Single. One. If a weight loss program works, it is because you've reduced calories enough to create a deficit.
The most important thing to remember is to not cut calories too drastically, as it can cause your metabolism to slow down in the long run and even more serious health problems, including reduced fertility and weaker bones. Especially avoid the misconception that the more weight you need to lose, the more calories you should cut. It's actually the other way around: The more you weigh now, the more calories you can—and should—eat. As you lose weight, you should cut more calories.
Take one step at the time, keeping your patience high!