Counting calories or/and macronutrients (fats, protein, carbs) or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is an excellent fat loss method.
Of course, sometimes weight loss is not only about calories in – calories out: stress, hormones, food allergies, and intolerances can contribute to our personal ability to lose weight. And of course, in an ideal World, we all should eat healthy nutritious food when we feel real hunger and stop eating before we are full.
However, in the real World, tracking calories is the best method for the majority of people:
- It gives flexibility. You decide what to eat, when and how much.
- It gives clarity. If you are not losing weight, it shows you why.
- It allows sustainable weight loss – maintainable in the long term.
Sadly, many dieters misunderstand it or abuse it. Here are typical fallacies:
1. Calorie tracking means eating ‘dirty’ most of the time
In reality, you will not be able to fit much ‘unhealthy’shit into your ‘macros’. You will want to include lower calorie density (think ‘healthy’) foods into your diet to allow more volume of food and reduce hunger. IIFYM is not an antipode to clean eating. It is clean eating with a room for LIFE.
For example: one cinnamon bun at Upshot with flat white are ~400 kcal. It is so good – it is worth every calorie! But when you realise that you could have a whole healthy meal, like a huge portion of salad with a significant amount chicken…you know you’ll have this bun less often.
2. Calorie tracking is complicated and time-consuming.
It requires precision. One can only eat the food when calories are known: only home cooked meals and no restaurants.
In reality, it is enough to roughly estimate the calories of the meal based on the ingredients you can identify.
The truth is, it is impossible to count calories without an error, so do not be too obsessed with precision. And sometimes, just f*ck it (if you do not binge and do not do it too often)
For example, a burger and fries. Any regular bun is around 150 kcal and a regular beef burger is 300 kcal. Add sauces and cheese – another 200 kcal. Roughly 650 kcal altogether. 100g of fries is 300 kcal. So you know, this meal is 950 kcal.
If you’d like me to help you to achieve sustainable and maintainable results, contact me HERE.
3. Cutting calories too much (Impatience)
Hey yo-yo dieters, I know there are many of you, and I’ve been there too. You want to lose weight quickly because you have no self-compassion whatsoever. All-or-nothing. Do-or-die. Lose 10 kg by tomorrow. Life is all about suffering.
In reality, reducing calories by 10% is optimal. Maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more. But not 50%! Just settle with the idea that fat loss is a marathon, not a sprint, and you MUST enjoy the process.
The place, where you can eat anything and everything you wish and stay lean, does not exist. So you do not have to rush to that place.
It is important that you understand that fat loss may a take a year or two. And maintenance will take the whole life. ‘Dieting’ for a month and then ‘not dieting’ is a route to nowhere, at best. To hell – at worst.
For example: If with your maintenance of 2000 kcal, you would go for 1153 kcal. Surely it will be very restrictive, also very unhealthy for females and very damaging for our fragile mental health.
In contrast, with the maintenance of 1700 kcal, you will be slowly but comfortably losing weight eating 1500 kcal. Yes, you will be a bit hungry. It is okay, it is healthy and natural to be a bit hungry. But you will not be starving and this is important.
4. Being in denial (Inconsistency)
‘I eat 1000 kcal from Monday to Friday. Then I don’t count because we go out and I have drinks. And dessert.’
‘Not going to count this weekend as we are going to have a big party’ And the last weekend you said the same!
‘I counted 3 previous weeks, I will not count this week, but will start again from the next week’ Do you know what will happen in a week of not counting, if the person is inclined to binge eating? Armageddon.
In reality, if you’ve chosen to count calories, then do count regularly. Maybe missing 1 meal once in a while is acceptable, regular ‘going blind’ will ruin all your results.
To lose 1 pound of fat, you need to create a deficit of 3500 kcal (Read more here). You can create this deficit over a month or over a week. Then accordingly, you will lose 1 pound in a month, or in a week. Now extrapolate it for losing 15 pounds.
For example, Let’s take a week. With a maintenance of 2000 kcal, you’ve been eating 1500 kcal from Monday to Friday. On Saturday you binged on peanuts and did not count them because it is painful to face the truth that in 200 grams of peanuts there is 1200 kcal. Then you had 850 kcal of Ben and Jerry’s tub all on top of your regular breakfast and dinner. The deficit you created over the 5 working days (2500 kcal) is all canceled by a bit of overeating on weekend. Do not blame your metabolism.
5. Comparing measurements on two separate dates and not looking at a longer-term trend
Why, oh why so many people compare 2 separate scale readings on to separate dates on the calendar to assess their progress. The fact that today you are 150 pounds and tomorrow 152 pounds only means that you gained weight, but it does not mean you gained fat. The fact that you gained 4 pounds after a 1 week holiday, does not mean that you are gaining everything back as soon as you start eating ‘as normal’ (‘as normal’ in its contemporary meaning means ‘overeating’, unfortunately)
In reality, you need to take regular measurements, daily (if you want to see the trend over a few weeks) or weekly (if you want to see a few months picture)
Our weight fluctuates daily due to different reasons. One can gain up to 9 pounds of water and glycogen overnight. It never means gaining fat. And fat, this is what we are fighting with, not weight. I weigh 63, but it does not matter. What matters is where does my weight slowly move over a period of time with the current regimen.
Why it is important. One can misjudge the effectiveness of a diet due to inadequate progress tracking. For example, low carb low-calorie diet will help to lose weight fast, due to glycogen depletion. However, there is no scientific evidence that a low-carb diet burns more fat than a low-fat diet given the same amount of calories consumed. Low carb diet is quite limiting and many people cannot stick to it for long. And losing weight is a long process, sorry for repeating it again and again, but this is what I do as a job 🙂
6. [My favourite] Eating strictly the same amount of calories every day
In reality, it is very uncomfortable. Some days we are hungrier, some days we don’t need much food. Sometimes we are more active and sometimes we need to go to a party and have fun. If on some days you have above your daily goal, it is okay. Say, you calculated that to lose weight you should eat 1500 calories. 1500 kcal is not your daily goal. It is your total daily average goal. Think on the scale of months, years. Think about your average daily calorie consumption.
For example, it is your birthday today, you need cake and booze. Have your 2500 calories. Than eat 1200 for a few days, to balance it off.
Or, imagine you are going on holiday to Greece for 7 days. You’ve heard of irresistible Greek food, right? Eat 1200 for 3 weeks; then you can overeat 800 kcal every day out of those 7 days. Your overall month results will be fat loss, because on average over 4 weeks you’ve been eating 1500 kcal daily – which you need to lose fat.
Of course you will gain some weight in Greece, but still, overall you’ll be leaner as a result of a month.
Fat loss expert, elite group fitness instructor and personal trainer based in Sheffield.