Home Debunking The Myths Understanding Calorie Counting: What is it? Calorie Counting Defined

Understanding Calorie Counting: What is it? Calorie Counting Defined

by Erika Nicole Kendall

frozen-aisleFor 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 2 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. 🙂

Calorie counting is comprised of two elements:

  • A) Gauging approximately how many calories you burn in a given day, and
  • B) Setting a total calorie maximum for how many calories you will take in during a 24 hour time frame.

This is a very controlled method for managing caloric input – not eating anything unless you know how many calories it will add to your daily total. That means… if you’re planning to visit a restaurant? You’d better google those nutritional values for their dishes, and pick a dish that will keep you under your caloric intake.

Conscious eating, and the power of “No”

This also requires a LOT of consciousness. It forces you to consider the things you eat every day – every… day – without thinking. Do you leave the house in search of the nearest Starbucks to get your morning Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino? Well, if you’re calorie counting, you’d have to consider that your morning drink (not even food!) costs you 750 calories, 120grams of sugars, and 15grams of fat. Say you don’t hit Starbucks in the morning. Instead, you give yourself an extra 20 minutes and hit up McDonalds for a Deluxe Breakfast. Calorie counting? You’d need to know – in advance – that this entire meal just cost you 1,370 calories, 161grams of carbohydrates, and 64.5grams of fat (consider that, on average, MY fat intake value for a person 6′ fall at ~200lbs is no more than 80grams… that’d leave me 15.5 grams to enjoy the rest of the day!) without even mentioning the 2,335mg of sodium. McDonalds’ would’ve screwed up your whole calorie day! You would’ve been inhaling kool-aid packets all day for sustenance!

Calorie counting requires a LOT of what I refer to when I say conscious consumerism. It means taking 10 seconds to think about what you’re preparing to do before you do it. Did a co-worker come over to your desk and ask you to dip out with her and dine at Macaroni Grill after work? Is your favorite dish the Parmesan Crusted Sole? Well how, exactly, does 2,190 calories, 141grams of fat, and 145grams of carbohydrates fit into your total caloric intake? Do you think you can go without ordering your favorite dish out of habit? You spot that the Pollo Magro is only 320 calories.. could you commit yourself to ordering that instead? Can you be honest with yourself and say “No” if you really can’t do it? Do you have the wherewithal to tell your co-worker “No” if you know the temptation is too great?

Trust me, it takes about ten seconds to run this scenario through your mind one good time, if you’re being honest with yourself. And I’ll admit it – in the beginning of MY experience with calorie counting, I had to learn the QUICK way how to simply say “No.” It might even make you feel like you’re talking to yourself… and then you might feel awkward because you actually respond, but it’s for the better. That “No” is important, because it is FAR easier than “Let me get an Egg McMuffin (300 calories, 12g fat, 30g carbohydrates – less fat than that Starbucks drink that I mentioned up there) instead of that big giant dish of pancakes… mmm, with that syrup… oh, and that hash brown? Hmm…” Please believe, in 2 seconds flat, it turns into “Actually, let me just get the Deluxe Breakfast instead.” You must be at the ready. No auto-pilot. You must always be conscious.

Calorie counting requires that you take a long…hard…look at the foods you’re eating at home. Lots of microwaveables? Calorie counting demands that you take a hard look at each item. Could you make this better at home? If not – and that’s OK if you can’t – would you be better off with another dish, instead? Look long and hard and the caloric values on that nutrition label. Does it say 1 serving is equal to 400 calories? If so, does it say that there are actually TWO servings in the entire dish? You know, the dish packaged like it’s made for only one person? You have to be conscious!

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

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10 comments

vanessa May 21, 2010 - 3:42 PM

OO EMM GEE…im sure you hear it all the time but your truly an inspiration…..Right now im pushing 220 ish (sighs) and im 5’8 and i have been fighting my weight since 190 lbs. I keep telling myself i would never reach 200….210…215…omg and now im 220 ish and i just cant find that determination to say NO to food. So much is happenin in my life and food is my only friend…it doesnt tlk back it just gets devoured and i feel great….ive joined lucille roberts for 9 months now and im just not sticking to it. …long story short from this moment on you have gave me the inspiration to not give up and stick with it….THANK YOU!

Tabitha September 17, 2010 - 1:21 PM

“You must be at the ready. No auto-pilot. You must always be conscious.”

This is one of the most powerful weight loss phrases I think I’ve ever heard. I’m printing that out and keeping it taped to my wallet (since I go there to pay for food).

Char March 13, 2011 - 2:25 PM

Hi! My daily requirement is 2056 (I weigh 190 and am 5’6 with a very muscular frame) and I cut my calories down to 1200. Was that too drastic? I hit a plateau after two weeks and 7lbs lost and so I increased to 1560. That made me gain 3 lbs…

I’m lost. Help!

milaxx June 12, 2011 - 4:43 PM

Calorie counting made me pull out the crock pot, ziploc bags and tupperware with a quickness. My Sunday night prep, even sorting almonds and dried cranberries into ziploc snack bags just made more sense in the long run. Add to that the fact that I am saving money as well? It was a no brainer.

Lawanna Audain November 1, 2012 - 3:12 AM

I follow the same Sunday preparation routine. It is wonderful knowing in advance what will be eaten for the upcoming week.

Lark February 9, 2012 - 3:12 PM

I could barely agree with you more when it comes to calorie counting. What I sense in my own circles, anyway, is that it’s gotten a bad rap, that it encourages unhealthy obsession with food. (Of course, I also had an eating disorder all through high school, so friends and family are understandably a little overprotective around me in that department, even though I’m ten years away from that now.)

That said, though, it’s the only thing that’s worked for me in getting rid of the twenty pounds I gained after returning to school. When you live in a world where your food is engineered to lie to you about whether or not your body is sated and is often depicted as having little-to-nothing to do with actual physical health, sometimes you just need that external meter telling you that you’re eating too much–or too little. Without it, I thought I was eating a reasonable amount. I started counting and discovered that not only was I eating way more calories than I thought, but my fat and sodium consumptions were through the roof and I was way too low on some vital nutrients. You have to be aware of a problem to fix it.

And there are some good sites and programs out there that really do make it much easier than it was in the 80’s and 90’s. There are options now beyond a little notebook, a calculator, and a Calorie Counter paperback.

Teruko September 3, 2012 - 11:40 AM

The My Fitness Pal app has been a LIFE SAVER!!! You can just scan the barcode of what you are eating & it pulls everything right up. You can also type in the name of the resturant and the menu will come up. You just plug in your portions & it will tell you how many calories you are eating and how many you have left for the day. It is like the Weight Watchers points system but this is free!!!!

Sunshyne Smith January 30, 2013 - 6:39 PM

I so needed this in my life thank you again! I know that you are going to get tired of me….. but this is really some good information

Briggitta March 21, 2013 - 11:29 PM

SO , I read this post a while ago, but I just wasn’t ready to commit,now that I am at the last 5 pounds stage, and have reached a plateau,I know that I NEED to start counting.My question is,how do I count when I am cooking ?Do I measure out how much quinoa I am using, the teaspoon of olive oil and the veg ?Would I have to do it all as individual ingredients ? Or should I start looking for recipes where the nutritional value is listed ? Thanks again for a wonderful site 🙂

Erin May 12, 2013 - 5:20 PM

I love this blog and especially love this post! After a couple months of telling myself I’d get back in the gym and start eating better to lose my “holiday weight” — and the lbs I wanted to lose before putting the holiday weight on — I finally started my regimen on March 23.

I began at 153 lbs (I’m 5’4) and today I’m 142 lbs, about 7 lbs away from my goal weight. Exercising or weight training at least 30 mins every single day since March 23 has been a big part of my success. But I know counting calories has also been key.

Losing weight is truly a science. I figured out how many calories I need to eat to maintain my current weight and eat about 500-600 less. Couple that with calories burned from exercising, and my total caloric deficit averages about 800-1000 daily. Since a pound of fat is 3500 calories, I’m losing about 1.5 lbs a week. A steady, healthy pace towards weight loss.

Counting calories requires dedication but forces you to make healthier choices. I’ve learned to value cleaner eating and how to choose foods that are nutrient dense and still tasteful. I’ve been eating a lot of grilled chicken, green smoothies, omelettes, greek yogurt, fruits, almonds and salads in addition to TV dinners. I only drink water and tea during the day and at night I might flavor water with a splash of cranberry juice or a crystal light packet. The only fast food I eat is an 8-count Chick-fil-a nugget with a side salad and light Italian dressing. So filling at only 375 total calories!

It’s hard work, so I give myself a ‘break’ on Saturdays by eating all the calories to maintain my weight. The extra 500-600 calories goes to fun things like an almond snickers (230 cals) or a couple low-cal alcoholic beverages. This way I don’t feel deprived of anything and it’s like a reward to myself for staying on track during the week.

Like any new habit, the first two weeks were a bit of a struggle, but got MUCH easier afterwards. Good luck ladies!

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