Track Your Calories To Lose Weight

The World Health Organization reported in 2016 that over 1.9 billion people are overweight, and 650 million of them are obese. (1) The city of Los Angeles has a population of 4 million. To put this in perspective, it would take 163 Los Angeles’s to account for all the obese people in the world. New York City has a population of 8.5 million people. It would take over 200 New York Cities to hold all the overweight people in the world. Now, do you understand how big of an issue this is? If these numbers continue to get worse, the world as we know it will no longer exist. We are facing an uphill battle when it comes to weight loss. It is in our nature to conserve as much energy as possible while eating as much as possible. Food delivery services, like Postmates and Ubereats, take advantage of this innate behavior by allowing us to order food in seconds. Humans have never faced this much food accessible before and it is showing.

The overconsumption of calories is one of the main reasons for the obesity epidemic. Granted, a lack of sleep, community, and movement have played its part. But for the sake of the article, we will focus on solving the issue of overeating. To solve this issue, we must talk about portion control. When you have a poor understanding of the calories in a meal, you tend to overeat without even realizing it. But it isn't your fault; no one has ever taught you how to manage your meals and track calories. For some reason, schools taught algebra and physics but never taught how to eat correctly. Well, today is the day we fix that and teach you how to control your portions through calorie tracking. 

* Calorie tracking is not for everyone and isn’t the only way to lose weight. But if you have struggled with weight loss, then I highly recommend you give it a try.

Step 1: Calculate YOUR Calorie Needs

 Throughout my career as a personal trainer, I have been continuously asked, “How do I lose weight ?”  My response is always the same, “You need to consume fewer calories than your body needs.”  As long as you reduce your caloric intake to your weight loss needs, you will lose weight and improve your health. But you must base your calorie needs off your lifestyle and not someone else's. Also, not every calorie calculator is going to give you the perfect amount. It is going to require some trial and error. To figure out your calorie needs for weight loss, use the calculator below.

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Once you get your calorie total, adhere to this total for a month. If you don’t get the weight loss results you want then reduce your calories by 250 and test that new number for another month. Repeat this over and over again until you hit your goal weight.  But remember, sleep, exercise and stress levels do play a part, so don’t neglect those.

Step 2: Download Myfitnesspal

Here are what my numbers look like at 180 pounds. My goal is to lose five pounds over the next couple of months.

Once you know your calorie total, you must learn the skill of tracking your calories. To get started, I recommend downloading Myfitnesspal. After it is downloaded, go into the app and create your profile. I recommend buying the premium feature since it is only four dollars a month. By having the premium feature it allows you to customize your macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) to your lifestyle.  For weight loss, I recommend setting your carbohydrates between 30 to 40%, protein 25 to 30 % and fat 35 to 45 %. 

But these numbers will be dependent upon your lifestyle and food preferences. However, to build muscle, you do need adequate protein intake. Therefore, keep your protein at 25% of your calorie total or higher.  From there, you can manipulate your carbohydrates and fats to your liking. After your profile is created and your nutrient goals are set, it is time to start tracking!

Step 3: Buy A Scale And Weigh Your Food

I love myfitnesspal because of the built-in barcode scanner. It allows you to scan and upload the calorie amount in seconds. This feature makes calorie tracking quick and easy, especially since most foods have a barcode on them. But in order to use it correctly, you must be able to report the right amount of servings per meal. Now, don’t let this scare you and make you think that if you don’t report it perfectly you are going to gain weight. I am not saying you have to be 100% accurate, but you should be in the ballpark. You just have to be close to the recommended per serving to keep your portions in check. For example, take a look at the label to the right.

At first glance, it seems cut and dry. The serving size is one potato, but if you look closer, you see that a serving size is actually 148 grams. The weight of the food is what determines the calorie amount and is more important than what the serving size says. It is very unlikely that every potato in the bag is going to weigh exactly 148 grams.The only way to know is by weighing the potato. Now, don’t freak out and think you have to weigh food for the rest of your life. The whole point of weighing food is to develop the skill of recognizing accurate serving sizes. With any skill, it is uncomfortable in the beginning, but over time it becomes easier. Eventually, you will be able to look at a potato and say, “I bet it weighs between 140 to 155 grams.” But you wouldn’t be able to estimate that until you actually did the work and weighed the food.

 *Here is the food scale I use: Click Here

Step 4 Strive For Progress

 The same idea can be applied to all the foods you eat. Weigh each food you consume for a couple weeks or months to get a general idea of its serving sizes and record it in myfitnesspal. Throughout this time you should be testing your new found skill by estimating the weight of each food before weighing it. The purpose of the test is to give you feedback. For example, if you can consistently estimate the right amount in each food then you are improving and can wean off the food scale. But if you are nowhere close,  then you need more work and should continue to weigh your food. There is no timetable on this process, it could take anywhere from a month to a year. Go at your pace and don’t rush the process. I am no robot; I am a human being just like you so I know how challenging it can be to track your calories every day. So if you mess up and forget, give yourself a break and focus on the next day. As I stated above, tracking your calories is a skill, one that takes time and patience.

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