A Case for Counting Calories

All those teaberry ice cream cone calories went straight into My Net Diary! Photo by my awesome cousin Bobbi Ann Bowen

It’s probably the least popular method for losing weight, because reality is just not that much fun. Admitting that you have to eat less and exercise more to lose weight is a truth that most of us, including myself, don’t like to face. But it’s how our bodies work, like it or not.

I’ve written about this before, yet I recently fell for another trick: I cut out all sugar from my diet for two weeks, expecting the pounds to fall off. I gained 4 pounds.

The problem is, tricks don’t work—except, of course, the tricks that actually result in eating fewer calories, which is what some of the low-carb, Weight Watchers and other methods do. But I find it so much more straightforward to simply log my caloric intake. You have control—you’re not relying on someone else to provide your food, or following some mysterious and weird regimen. People will try all sorts of complicated plans, from cleanses to paleo, anything but keeping an honest tally of how many calories they’re eating and burning off. It’s a little too real.

Don’t take my word for it, experts say the same thing. A calorie is a calorie. Some calories taste better than others, and some are better for your health than others. But, bottom line: if you eat more of them than you burn off, they will turn into fat. I know, bummer.

But, chin up, it can be fun to take control of your body by counting your calories! Recently, my scale approached my heaviest weight since back in college after I’d gained the freshman 15, and I wanted to nip that progression in the bud. Clothes weren’t fitting, I wasn’t eating healthy, and I didn’t feel good. So I started using My Net Diary (no, they are not sponsoring this post!). Over three weeks, I’ve lost about four pounds, and I’m committed to sticking to my plan.

If you’re ready to face the reality of how many calories are actually in the food you eat, it’s easy to use a calorie counting method. It’s also extremely enlightening. You punch in all your stats (weight, height, age), plus how much weight you want to lose in what period of time. You also enter your exercise. Then it tells you how many calories you can eat per day to achieve your goal. The good news is you quickly learn that the healthiest foods—those high in fiber and water content, for example—keep you full the longest. So not only does counting calories help you lose weight fast, but it helps you eat more healthy. If I eat a candy bar, I know I’m going to be hungry in an hour and I’ll be screwed, because then I’ll risk going over my caloric limit for the day. But if I eat half that many calories in a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit, I’ll stay full longer and I’ll be able to eat more later.

It’s math! I always hated math. But you can’t argue with it. And with the numbers on the scale decreasing, I’m starting to warm up to its charms.

  • Jennine Jacob

    THANK YOU! So many people are cutting stuff out of their diets: gluten, sugar, carbs, etc… And I think it’s crazy. Once I went on vacation in Hawaii, and ate nothing but ice cream, shaved ice, and sushi and lost 5 pounds. Like, I ate ice cream two times a day. I have a friend who lives off of M&Ms and red wine, and she’s THIN (ok, now that I think of it, I have two more friends with similar diets). It really does boil down to caloric intake. I find that if I cut anything out, like sugar, I just get hungry and make up for it by eating tons of bread. So I try to diet as little as possible, because it always backfires on me.

    So, basically, my experience no help to this post, sorry for the rant! 😉

    • Kristen Philipkoski

      Hah! Personally if I only eat sugar I get really hungry, so I end up eating way too much. But I know people like that too! Counting my calories helps me keep things under control… then if I want to eat a cookie I can make sure to not eat a second helping of pasta, or whatever. I guess everyone has to find their comfort zone!