Calorie Counting That Really Works!

Author: Michelle Ricker

If you’ve ever felt frustrated about losing weight or tried calorie counting and felt it hasn’t worked for you, here’s some great tips to help you get the results you want.

Balancing calories sounds deceptively simple: Eat more calories than you burn, and you’ll gain weight. Take in fewer calories than you burn, and you’ll shed a few kilos. Keep your calories in around the same as you burn, and you will maintain your weight.

So how is it then that you can be working out like a madman and still not lose weight? Or you eat like a bird, but the scale won’t budge? In order for calorie counting to help you, you need to do it correctly. The term garbage in, garbage out applies here!


Here’s The Secret

If you don’t record everything you eat and drink each day or record the portions properly, your numbers will be way off. So, before you throw in the towel, you need to understand that counting calories accurately takes a lot of practice, and an understanding of where things could go wrong. But it if makes you feel any better, even dieticians have trouble estimating calories sometimes, and we do this all the time! The good news is, there are several things you can do to make your calorie counting more accurate and feel more in control.

First, know how many calories you should be eating every day. The logical place to start is by estimating how many calories your body burns throughout the day, taking into account your age, gender, how much body fat or muscle you have, and how much you exercise. One good way to estimate your calorie needs is to keep a very accurate food diary for 1-2 weeks and then look at your average daily calorie intake. If your weight is stable, you’re eating about the right number of calories each day. If you are gaining weight, you are eating more than you need.


Did you know? The bulk of the calories you spend every day (about 70%) are used just to keep your system running – your circulatory system, nervous, digestive, and so on. And your resting metabolic rate is determined by how much muscle you have. The remaining calories you burn fuel your daily activity.



Stop Counting Your Calories AFTER You’ve Eaten Them

If you want to help control your calorie intake, the best way to keep on track of your calories is to plan out what you need in advance and tally up the calories. Having a plan in place can make you more committed and keep you on track. Admittedly it can be time consuming to pre-plan. But the information you get from your food diary will come down to you and how accurately you record everything. Download your FREE Weekly food diary here. As you are writing everything down, don’t forget the extras such as condiments, dressings and gravy, the sugar/cream in your coffee, the handful of crumbs you found at the bottom of the cookie jar, the few bites of leftover pizza you ate standing at the kitchen sink while cleaning up, it all counts – every single bite.


Did you know? Most people underestimate how many calories they eat by as much as 40%!



Weigh and Measure

When it comes to counting calories accurately, If you don’t weigh and measure foods and rely instead on eyeballing your portions, you could be way off your calorie count. I can’t stress how important it is to weigh and measure as much as you can. And don’t just rely on averages such as half a chicken breast or a medium apple. I’ve seen cooked chicken breast as small as 100 grams or as large as 250 grams. What you consider to be a medium apple, could also be twice the size of a standard size apple that’s used to calculate the calories for it, therefore it has twice the calories too. Likewise, if you have a handful of recipes at home that you turn to frequently, take a little extra time to calculate the calories in each recipe, then determine the calories per serving. Another plus of doing this is, once you take a closer look at the calorie count of your recipe, you may be able to give it a makeover to lighten it up a bit. You can also simplify your life by replacing a traditional meal with a quality protein shake or protein bar, which gives you an accurate calorie count.


Don’t Overestimate The Calories You Burn

Most people estimate that they burn 2-3 times more calories through exercise than they actually do. Your calories burned from exercise also depends on factors including your body size, the duration of your exercise and the intensity of your workout. And when it comes to burning calories, a good tip is to stop rewarding yourself after a workout by taking it easy for the rest of the day. After exercise some people convince themselves that they’ve burned up a lot more calories that they actually have, so they figure they’ve earned a treat.


To Recap

1.      Counting calories accurately can be an effective way to lose weight because it makes you more aware of what you eat each day.

2.      Calorie counting helps you identify eating patterns that may need to be modified and allows you to keep track to reach your goals faster.

3.      Identifying calorie counting mistakes and correcting them can help your weight move again.

4.      Once you have a better gauge of the portion size that’s right for you, a calorie count check-in every couple of months may be all it takes to stay focused.

By Michelle Ricker
Registered Dietician and Herbalife Nutrition’s Worldwide Health Education and Training Director