HomeDebunking The Myths, Did You Know, Healthy Eating, It's All Mental, Tools For Weight Loss, What Are You Eating?Understanding Calorie Counting: Creating Your Calorie Goal and Being Honest About It

Understanding Calorie Counting: Creating Your Calorie Goal and Being Honest About It

For our first series ever, Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss will be explaining calorie counting, and ways to win the war. This is post 3 of the series – post 1, Defining The Basics of Calorie Counting, can be found here. Comments are always welcomed, and questions will always be answered to the best of my ability. :)

1196242_96901825Keeping in mind those constants that I listed in the first installment, head over to this page and enter your information. It’ll tell you your estimated Body Mass Index (or BMI) – I know, cringeworthy, right? – as well as an estimated value for how many calories your body burns in a 24 hour time period. Then head over to this page, and do the same. Compare the two values for your daily calorie expenses, and take the lower of the values. Hold on to that number. Now, do a food journal for one day. Don’t try to eat “better” than you usually do.. just write down a day’s worth of what you’re eating. No calorie values yet.. just merely what you’re eating. During the next day (’cause doing it the same day just might depress you), sit down and google the caloric values of the foods you’re eating. Make sure you’re sitting in a leveled chair when you do… because you might just tip over.

Compare the number of calories your body burns in a 24 hour period to the amount of calories you took in during a 24 hour period. Think about the days you’ve eaten more than you did the day you wrote everything down. Think about the foods you might’ve intentionally left off the list as a means of cushioning your ego. Think about how often you eat more than what you wrote down. Is it pretty darn often? Think about the days where you eat nothing but fast food. Is your calorie count up near the 3,000s? Is it IN the 3,000s?

Setting the goal

Going back to that calorie count… take a look at that number you came up with. Weight loss is about creating a deficit – more calories burned than taken in. If you’re maintaining the weight you’ve put on, it’s because this deficit doesn’t exist. You’re either nor burning enough calories, or you’re eating too many calories. Having said that, if you create a deficit of 500 calories a day (meaning, if you eat 500 calories less than you “usually” do), you will lose 1lb a week. Create a deficit of 1000 calories a day, you will lose 2lbs (1000 calories multiplied by 7 days a week: 1000 x 7 = 7000 divided by 3500 calories in one pound equals 2lbs.) If you create a deficit of 1000 calories, and burn 500 a day walking/running, you will lose 3lbs per week (1500 x 7 divided by 3500). I’m suuure you get my drift, right? The better you plan, the better you prepare, the more likely you are to succeed.

Be honest with yourself

I’ve read several books about scientific studies in relation to obesity and they tend to say, in short: “In efforts to attempt to track the eating habits of overweight and obese individuals, we gave them a journal to document their daily intake of food. Considering the number of methods used to monitor intake, it was easy to determine that overweight people were more likely to lie about not only what they’d eaten, but how much of it they’d eaten.”

I don’t mention that as a put down – I mention that because I know I did it, and didn’t even know it. It’s another method of consciousness. It’s also another reason to make SURE you’re being honest with yourself. It’s vital to know what you’re putting in your body, so that you know what kind of dragon you need to slay. Lying to yourself might save your ego, but it does nothing for the rest of you, especially your weight.

It’s ok to admit you have very little control over your eating habits – it’s ok to admit that your discipline might be lacking. There is an industry that makes billions off of your inability to control yourself, and they have millions invested in ensuring that you never get it. It’s ok to admit that this beast is on your back. This, here, will help you gain control… and it starts with being honest with yourself.

Looking for other posts in the Understanding Calorie Counting series? Check the links below!

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and crtified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because lol why not.


  1. kokoesquire July 29, 2010 at 9:31 PM - Reply

    Hey . . .love the site!

    I’ve been on my journey for almost two months now and have lost 14 lbs!!!

    Yay me!

    My goal means that I need to lose 20 more. I haven’t lost any weight within the last week. I’m not discouraged . . .yet. . .but I want to understand what the issue is.

    Note: I’m eating diet foods, and I calorie count obsessively using caloriecount.about.com. I’m always under my personal calorie goal of 1200 calories a day, but sometimes my sodium intake is a little over my recommended intake and I am working to get my sugar intake down, although a large part of my sugar comes from fruits (I eat 2 a day). What has been your experience with too much sodium and the effect on weight loss, even though I’m not taking in too many calories (if anything, too few) and I drink tons of water?

    Note: I am eating diet foods (ala Jenny Craig and SmartOnes).


  2. Natisha January 7, 2011 at 11:35 PM - Reply

    Love the site! Not sure if the person above ever had her
    question answered, but I recently found another site that suggested
    going to the same sites that you suggested above and typing in the
    weight where you WANT to be. When provided with the calorie
    numbers, start eating that number of calories (making sure you eat
    at LEAST 1200) and by staying consistent, eventually your body will
    “regulate” itself to your goal weight. Of course working out will
    help you get there faster, but you may also find yourself being
    hungrier so be careful. Seems like the same thing you suggested,
    but just going at it from the back way – start with your goal
    weight and eat that on a regular basis to get to goal.

    • Erika January 8, 2011 at 12:14 AM - Reply

      This is ABSOLUTELY correct. I wrote about this in another post. The only problem with this approach is if the person has a LOT of difference between what they weigh now and what they WANT to weigh, it’ll be hard to embrace such a drastic change. Other than that? Yes, this is true. 🙂

  3. Eboni January 29, 2011 at 9:55 PM - Reply

    Honestly I wish I had found this site so many years ago ! I read everything I can get my hands on about weightloss and dieting but never from this perspective. I really just want to say Thank You so much for this article, it moved me beyond belief ! I’m sitting here crying like a daymn baby because it just finally clicked about what the hell I’m doing to my body ! I really have to look in the mirror and see beyond the physical and search to see my mental self. It going to be a real journey to reteach myself to stop rationalizing the reasons I can’t loose weight and just accept that I won’t until I get real with myself and take ownership of how I got here. I Thank You a thousand times more!

  4. Khyla July 5, 2011 at 5:20 PM - Reply

    Okay I am confused. I am just now trying to learn how to calorie count and I just did my numbers and calculated my caloric expenses. I burn 2563 calories per day. I am sure I take in a few thousand more than that thinking of all the candy I eat and juice I drink. I am already dieting so it is hard for me to write down the foods that I “normally eat”. However, I want to plan out meals that create a deficient but I am confused. Do I need to take in 2063 (2563-500) to create a deficient or do I eat 500 calories less than I was eating before (which could end up being more calories than I take burn per day). Can you please help? Thanks

    • Erika Nicole Kendall July 5, 2011 at 5:40 PM - Reply

      Stick with the 2063 number.

      • Shenell June 26, 2012 at 9:54 PM - Reply

        I started calorie counting 6 weeks ago. I’m actually down 6.8 pounds so far! Yay me. My problem is: when I input my goal weight into the calorie calculator it has me eating way less than 1200 calories; still >1000 but significantly less than 1200. I have heard this is unhealthy so 2 weeks ago I started eating 1200 calories daily…and I stopped losing weight.

        Now what?

        • Erika Nicole Kendall June 27, 2012 at 6:32 PM - Reply

          Your caloric intake is based on a lot of factors – height, weight, muscular structure, age, activity levels, yadda, yadda, yadda – so if it’s less than 1200 and you’re not starving or struggling through your day, then stick with what you know. I take it you’re somewhere in the 5′ tall-ish range?

          • Shenell January 30, 2013 at 10:03 PM - Reply


            I have no idea why, but I just received the notification that you replied to my comment.

            Anyhoo, YES. I’m extremely tall (4’11” 1/2) and loving it!

      • Yolanda January 29, 2013 at 9:16 PM - Reply

        Hi Erika,
        I am a newbie with calorie counting and I have read your calorie counting series. Is it okay to create a deficit that is more than 500 calories? I burn 2741 calories a day and I think I can maintain healthy eating with a 1,000-calorie deficit.

        • Erika Nicole Kendall January 30, 2013 at 8:23 PM - Reply

          There’s no reason to do that, though. You just wanna rush it, but the reality is that you might find that you’re losing TOO fast, which could jeopardize the muscle you have… and that’s valuable in terms of MAINTAINING your weight loss. At that daily burn, I’d say cut no more than about 700, tops.

  5. DianaLyn February 6, 2012 at 7:30 PM - Reply

    Read somewhere that a great way to keep track of what you’re eating and you dont have time to journal, is with all the smartphones and ipods out there – take a picture. Then when you have time in your day, you can review the pictures taken and write it down. Of course you still need to be honest with yourself and take pictures of all you eat. But thought it was great for those that say they are too busy to journal.

  6. Yin yang writer March 1, 2012 at 10:08 AM - Reply

    Sparkpeople.com helped me lose some weight and was suggested to me by my nutritionist. In any case, eat a well-rounded diet and you can eat fairly freely if you exercise enough. Exercise by doing the C25K program, getting out on your bicycle, hiking, going to the gym, and don’t forget to weight lift too…the weight lifting made a big difference in weight loss for me. I went from 172 to 145 in one summer and I’m 5’7″. If I don’t watch my diet or exercise enough then I bounce back to 155lbs but I know I can lose the extra 10 lbs as soon as I get back to the gym. There is no magic to weight loss, it really is calories in and calories out.

  7. Gretchen April 18, 2012 at 8:19 AM - Reply

    I’m a white girl–hahaha–but I love your site. Lots of great, straightforward information. So many “tricks” and nonsense about weight and fitness out there and it really does basically come down to this!

  8. V June 27, 2012 at 10:38 AM - Reply

    So I went to a dietitian and she gave me a calorie count for 2500 calories then I gained 25 pounds in about nine months now I am at 156. I am very unhappy about this because I thought she was giving me a meal plan to meet my goals. I was exercising also and wondering why my clothes were getting smaller. This was in the eating disorder program at student health center. Its recommended that people in the program do not know their weight. I actually just stopped going to her in May. Then now I am working losing the 25 pounds I gained. The dietitian went on to say your suppose to be overweight because your black and you should like being thick. Black people are more muscular. Afterwards my doctor said to me how did you gain weight this is not good. I stopped seeing her and left the program but found an outside therapists. I also decided to do way with the eating disorder because it harmful to the body and I never want to deal with people like that again. I needed to vent. So I have been following your blog since May.

  9. Alana August 4, 2013 at 12:20 PM - Reply

    I don’t know if you will see this, it being more than a year since you posted this, but I have a question about the two different numbers I received from the different sits concerning the calorie counts.

    On site calculated the calories burned per day at 2281, the other at 2792. That is an extraordinary difference. I know you said to work with the lower number, but I was curious as to why these two values were so different. Any ideas?

    I found your site yesterday through the salon article (featured by Yoni Freedman in his weekend reading) and I am devouring it. Thank you so much for all this sensible, non-judgemental, fair and balanced, informative content.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall August 4, 2013 at 2:20 PM - Reply

      So, I actually think there could be any number of contributing factors to the difference in the numbers – for one, there are at least three different calculations for computing your caloric burn, right? One accounts for your body fat percentage but not your age, one includes your age but not your body fat percentage. Sometimes, calculators will even try to account for the fact that people overestimate their activity levels, at which point you’d need to be careful to not cut too MANY calories.

      It’s a guessing game, without hydrostatic testing, and because your activity levels will vary day in and day out, you’ll never have the spot on accurate figure. I never did, that’s for sure. Work with the lowest number, or – being even more conservative – take an average of the two numbers and start there, because you don’t want to cut TOO much and have it result in a plateau. Find the sweet spot, and then work from there, consistently cutting your calories and reassessing your numbers for every 5-10 pounds you lose.

  10. Calondra July 19, 2014 at 2:00 AM - Reply

    Hello, love this site! So much valuable info. Not sure if you’ll see this, but I’ve just been reading about calorie counting and wondering if you have any suggestions on what to do if you’ve already screwed your metabolism by “crash dieting” for like a month. 1,000 calories or less with no results really? To determine the real, healthy amount of calories I need to lose weight, do I first have to go back to eating regular? If so, for long? Want to do this the right way, but it seems I already started off wrong. I also exercise.

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