Many people tend to perceive calorie counting as something unnecessary and obsessive.
“Why should I even count calories?” they ask.
“I don’t believe in calorie counting.”
I’ve heard that as well.
If you’re someone who has these mental roadblocks. It’s going to make it difficult for you to reach your fat loss goals effectively.
Because you don’t want to use the tools which will let you get there.
Then you will have to use methods which rely a lot on guesswork. And in that case, it’s just going to take longer.
Why should you even track your food intake?
One common thing I have heard from people is when they ask me:
“Why should I keep track of my calorie intake? I don’t want to be obsessive about food.”
“I don’t think you need to count calories to lose fat. To lose weight.”
Yes, you are correct. You don’t need to.
But the analogy I like to use is that when you look at a piece of thread. A piece of rope. And I ask you:
“Can you tell me the length of this piece of rope?”
You would have a fairly good estimate of say, is this one foot? One and a half feet? Two feet?
Depending on the length of rope. And you would have a general sense of how long that piece of rope is.
That is because since childhood you have been using a one-foot-long ruler for all your maths classes.
Maybe in college. If you were in engineering or some kind of discipline where you use those rulers. You’d be used to it.
Now, if I asked the same question to a kid who is barely in school. And asked them to guesstimate the length of a piece of thread.
They likely will not be able to do it as accurately as you. Perhaps they would not be able to do it at all.
Because they don’t have the same kind of experience using a ruler for the amount of time as you.
Tracking your calories is in a way similar. If you have never understood how energy in food actually works. Because food is fuel for our body.
If you don’t know what food items have what quantity of energy. You would have no idea how much fuel you’re filling into your body.
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An analogy I’d like to bring up here is that of a car.
When you’re driving a car, you have a fuel gauge to show if your car needs fuel.
And when the fuel gauge shows towards empty, you refuel it.
Imagine you’re on a highway. You’re driving a car without a fuel gauge. How are you going to decide when to refuel the car? You would have no idea.
It is in a way similar for your body that you need only as much fuel as you’re going to utilise during the day. And you utilise the energy that you consume when you move about.
As I’m recording this podcast. I’m using energy.
You use some energy when you’re exercising. You even use energy when you’re digesting food. Everything that you do uses up energy.
Now, if you’re eating more energy than you are using. It gets stored in your body as body fat. This happens over a long period of time.
When you’re eating more than what you need. Like in a car where if you fill more fuel than what the car needs. It will overflow.
But in your body, it just gets stored as fat.
Now how would you tackle this issue?
You can either go the guesswork way where you try to cut-off random foods, or try to add random foods.
“Oh I’ll start drinking green tea.”
“I’ll just remove all kinds of carbs from my diet.”
“I’ll remove all snacks from my diet”. But this is guesswork.
You could be removing some food categories and instead be overeating from other so-called “healthy” food categories.
People like to think that peanuts are healthy. Almonds are so healthy.
And they only eat almonds for snacks and have removed all other things that are “unhealthy”.
But you have to understand that almonds, cashews, peanuts. These are very fat-rich foods which are highly energy dense.
And when you think you’re consuming healthy stuff. You might in fact be consuming a lot of these energy dense snacks.
Which is not doing you any kind of favor when it comes to your fat loss goals.
Now you would get confused.
Because you would think:
“I have eliminated all unhealthy snacks and replaced them with all these healthy foods. But it is not making any difference to my fat loss progress.”
That is because the energy consumption is still the same. Or maybe it has gone up because you’re over eating these healthy foods.
In order to make accurate calculations about how much fuel your body actually needs. You have to be willing to measure and quantify your food for a certain period of time.
Otherwise, your current understanding of nutrition in the form of energy composition of food is at a kindergarten level. And like a kid in kindergarten who cannot accurately tell the length of a rope just by looking at it.
You cannot tell what the energy quantity of a certain food is just by looking at it.
So you have to be willing to subject yourself to the process of learning. But thankfully you don’t have to go through 12 years of schooling to learn this.
You can do this by sticking to the process for a couple of months. You’d get very good at it just within a couple of weeks.
But within a couple of months, you’d be super proficient.
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Another reason why people tend to fail in their fat loss progress is because they only think about calories and nutrition when they’re going out with friends.
And this is kind of crazy because the environment where you should be concerned about these things is when you have control over the foods that you’re eating.
When a child wants to learn how to measure lengths using a ruler. He would take fixed lengths from his textbook of different lines, different shapes.
And he’d use his ruler to measure those and then compare that to the solutions given in the book. Right?
It’s in a controlled environment.
He would not go outdoors, grab random pieces of rope. Place them against the ruler when he has no way to verify if his observations correct.
When you’re training yourself to learn the method, you cannot do it in an environment of uncertainty.
When you’re going out with friends, you can’t be obsessing over calories.
This part needs to be done when you’re home. When you know exactly how much of what food is going into your meals.
And you can very well do this using a food scale.
You should get one and then weigh your ingredients before you cook them. That way you’d know what is going into your meals. And then you can keep a record of those in your food diary using an app like MyFitnessPal.
I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if I was living in the 20th century when I had no MyFitnessPal.
I would have had to do so much of trial and error to just get things right.
It would be like an early man trying to build a car when he had no accurate measuring tools. But now it’s so easy because we have very highly sophisticated measurement methods.
But when it comes to food, people are not taking advantage of it.
They’re still eating like they’re in the 20th century. When they have free apps that tell them how much energy is there in each food item that they’re consuming.
You have nutritional labels on packaged foods.
Everything is available to you for free and you’re not making use of it. You should change that.
So, get a kitchen scale. Start weighing your food when you’re cooking.
Try to keep a food diary and track your food habits.
And this is how you train yourself to understand the energy composition of different foods. Then when you go out with friends, you’d be able to do some kind of approximation just by looking at whatever is being served.
But you cannot reverse engineer this by starting to randomly do guesswork when you’re out with friends.
You can’t say: “Oh that is high calorie. I can’t eat that.” Or “That is fattening.” When you have no idea how that works. Because you have no experience with tracking food.
That won’t work.
It has to be a linear process.
First, you have to undergo the training. Which is in your own kitchen.
Then once you get proficient at it, you will be able to handle things in uncertain situations like when you’re eating out with friends.
That covers the basics.
Say you got proficient with calorie tracking. How do you make it work when you’re eating out?
Here’s the trick. When you eat out with friends, you don’t try to guess what is the composition of each and every food item.
It’s not possible.
You don’t know what they’re putting into that gravy. How much oil is in it?
What do you do in this case? You spare calories beforehand.
You save some amount of energy from what your body needs for the entire day. And you reserve it for the outing.
And you make sure that for the rest of the day, you’re on track with your calorie counting.
That is how it works.
The amount of energy that your body needs on a day-to-day basis is like a budget. Imagine I give you a daily budget. So you have a specific amount of money to spend throughout the day.
Would you be cautious about your expenditure? Yes. Right?
So, it works just like that.
You would save some money (in this case, your energy) for food to be eaten during your outing and the remaining of the money (or energy), you will use during the rest of the day.
When you go overboard with your budget, you go into debt.
That’s what you tend to do with your food.
When you have no idea how much energy you’re consuming. When you have no idea of how much money you’re spending. You’re spending as if you have unlimited funds.
Then you go into debt
And in the case of the body, then you put on excess body fat. Now you have a problem to deal with.
In order to prevent all of these issues, you have to learn how to track calories and track your food intake at least for a few months.
And in about a year you would get pretty damn proficient at this.
To learn how to set up your diet for fat loss, download your free fat loss guide.
If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.
It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.
If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.