Home Debunking The Myths Understanding Calorie Counting: Creating Your Calorie Goal and Being Honest About It

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

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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!

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kokoesquire July 29, 2010 - 9:31 PM

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).


Natisha January 7, 2011 - 11:35 PM

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 - 12:14 AM

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. 🙂

Eboni January 29, 2011 - 9:55 PM

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!

Khyla July 5, 2011 - 5:20 PM

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 - 5:40 PM

Stick with the 2063 number.

Shenell June 26, 2012 - 9:54 PM

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 - 6:32 PM

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 - 10:03 PM


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!

Erika Nicole Kendall January 30, 2013 - 10:05 PM

Dang, I am good. ROFL

Yolanda January 29, 2013 - 9:16 PM

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 - 8:23 PM

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.

DianaLyn February 6, 2012 - 7:30 PM

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.

Yin yang writer March 1, 2012 - 10:08 AM

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.

Gretchen April 18, 2012 - 8:19 AM

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!

V June 27, 2012 - 10:38 AM

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.

Alana August 4, 2013 - 12:20 PM

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 - 2:20 PM

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.

Calondra July 19, 2014 - 2:00 AM

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.

Bridget November 10, 2014 - 5:36 AM

Hey love the site . I’ve been on a diet since October 12 2014 I’ve lost 18lbs Ya!! I’ve been eating more healthier and portion sizes “small plate” as well I measures pretty much everything, I also use the app lose it! I record everyday what I eat and drink . I use to drink coffee now I drink tea no sugar 2tsp of 1% milk and use sweetener I drink lots of water Greek yogurt and fruits in the morning salad with little dressing every other day because I get bored of it sometimes . I try to cut of my bread with wraps . No salt witch I used a lot before and try to cut butter too . I need to exercise more because I don’t very often but I’m usually running around a lot busy with so much stuff appointments and ect . I try to cut down my intake of noodles n potatoes . My daily budget was 2.114 now it’s gone down to 1.996 is that okay I try to eat that much calories but someday I dont . Is there any suggestions you could give me ? Would be pretty great and very appreciated thanks girl !

Erika Nicole Kendall November 14, 2014 - 10:16 AM

“My daily budget was 2.114 now it’s gone down to 1.996 is that okay I try to eat that much calories but someday I dont .”

I can’t tell you without knowing your height, weight, and body fat percentage.

I CAN tell you to be careful with that sweetener.

bridget November 14, 2014 - 4:49 PM

Okay well I’m 282 lbs I’m 5foot 7 and I don’t know how to fine out what my body fat percentage

Erika Nicole Kendall November 22, 2014 - 9:56 AM

There are a few ways – you can hire a personal trainer for an hour who can give you a consult on your body using calipers to determine your body fat percentage, or you can purchase a scale that can give you a rough estimate of your body fat percentage when you step on it.

bridget November 22, 2014 - 3:46 PM

Thanks so much for all the advice and tips means a lot I will definitely try these thank you -Bridget 🙂

Joy February 28, 2017 - 11:17 AM

Hi Erika, I know this is an ancient post but Please help. I went to the two sites you recommendand averaged the daily calorie amount for my weight(237) and hight(5’2) After a 500 calorie deduction it says Im supposed to eat 1803!! That sounds like soooo much !! can that possibly be correct? I have been over weight since I was 11. Im 40 now and feel like I’m Finally getting the correct information to help me make real progress on this journey.
do you do personal Coaching?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 3, 2017 - 3:48 PM

That does feel right to me but, at the same time, I recognize that people who’ve been eating far less than their bodies are used to may find themselves *gaining* weight because their metabolism has been depleted from the negligence.

I also think that, if you were possibly eating processed food before, that changing over to clean eating might actually feel like you’re eating a TON of food… so here’s what I suggest. Make yourself your own meals and start at your 1803, slowly decreasing from there if that number doesn’t yield results. Don’t cut more than you need to—you’ll need to continually cut your calories as you lose, so you don’t want to accidentally go SO low that now you’re eating an unsustainably small amount to maintain it.

I’m not doing personal coaching now—writing a book! OMG!—but I will certainly announce when I am!

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