Ah, calories. We’re taught to worship them and respect them above all to be healthy. And while calories are a big part of a food’s nutritional value, just as with any diet plan there’s a right way (and a wrong way) to go about counting calories. Here are the 5 tips for making counting calories work for you.
1. Balance Calories With Exercise
Flickr user Fit Approach
Calories are units of energy, so the basic principle goes that for every calorie you take in, you’d have to burn it off in order to maintain (or lose) weight. Simply cutting down on calories will only make you hungry. Balancing a healthy number of calories with regular exercise maintains that cycle of eating and burning calories that makes maintaining a healthy weight possible.
2. Remember That You Don’t Fit Into A Cookie Cutter Calorie Count
Flickr user jugglerpm
If you pick a calorie count to shoot for and develop an exercise routine and stick with both for long enough, you might find that nothing seems to be changing. Or worse, you find that you’re hungry and weak all the time. That means you need to change the number of calories you’re consuming, because it’s either too much for your exercise to burn off, or too little to give you enough energy to get through the day.
That’s perfectly okay. People differ hugely on the number of calories they need based on their metabolism, general health, daily routine – any number of factors could contribute to that. So it’s okay to adjust from that number you started with!
3. Focus On The Food Itself, and The Calories As A Detail
Flickr user Dan Zen
As you probably know, plenty of foods that are good for you still have high calories. The opposite is just as true – some low-calorie foods still have little nutritional value. (That’s why eating only celery never works). So don’t focus ONLY on the number of calories in a food – make sure to consider the other attributes – carbs, protein, sugars, etc. – before deciding whether or not it would fit in with your daily count.
4. Change Things Up Based On Your Daily Routine
Flickr user takebackyourhealthconference
Sometimes your day might be mostly sitting at a desk, or in the car on a long road trip, or just lazing around the house on a Saturday. And other days you’re always on the go. So why would you consume the same standard number of calories? Shake things up based on how much activity in your day. That’s not to say you should go crazy and get cheese fries if you have an unexpected errand to run. But if you realize your whole morning has been taken up with activity, go ahead and have a healthy snack. You’re earned it! Literally.
5. Don’t Let The Numbers Go To Your Head!
Flickr user bark
This is the biggest one to remember. Sticking to one “magic” number is the rabbit hole you never want to go down – and it’s easy to do so. You’re busy, you don’t have time to weigh your options, so you just look at the calorie number and go. But that will tie you down and probably even bum you out. When you accidentally go “over your number,” you’ll feel like you’ve failed somehow. All you’re really doing is being human. So give yourself a break! Stick to the calories that you know work for you to maintain the weight you want, and just take it each day at a time.
What are your tips for counting calories? Tell us in the comments below!