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How I Lost Weight by Counting Calories

Updated on September 20, 2017

A Personal Anecdote

In February of 2015 I was at my highest weight yet. At 252 lbs, I was by no means a small man. My doctor warned me about the dangers of obesity and I shrugged his warnings off.

I first found out about calorie counting on the Internet. A few blogs and websites here and there mentioned the practice as being the only sure-fire way to lose weight. Feeling I had no other options, I took this as a last-ditch effort and tried the method for myself.

In the first few months, I had only my iPhone calculator and whatever number was on the back of the frozen food I was eating. Sooner or later, I would come to November of 2015, weighing 103 pounds less, all thanks to calorie counting. Is it really that simple? Yes, yes it is!

Diet Industry, Meet Thermodynamics.

Listen carefully. Many people will tell you that if diets worked there wouldn't be a massive industry directed at helping people lose weight. And in a way, they're absolutely right. The diet industry seems to have absolutely no stake in curing you of obesity. For every crash diet, low-carb diet, low-fat diet etc., they are milking you of cash. Plain and simple: If you eat 2,500 calories of fat vs. 2,500 of protein, your weight loss/gain will not be any different, and the diet industry knows that. This is because of something known as "thermodynamics."

You see, your body has what's called a "basal metabolic rate," which is essentially the energy it requires to keep your vital organs afloat. An excess intake of energy from, say, pizza or a juicy cheeseburger, will result in your body storing energy, just in case you miss food for a day or two. As our hunter-gatherer ancestors knew, this was essential during periods of drought, extinction events, or just any period of time when there wasn't enough food to go around Bedrock. On the other hand, however, an excessive expenditure of energy, either by sitting around powering your vital organs, or running a marathon, will cause your body to draw from its reserves of body fat, keeping you alive for just a little longer and also leading to weight-loss.

For more information, there are many websites where you can get your estimated Total Daily Energy Expenditure to help you get started. Just one caveat: always start slow or you may end up "yo-yo dieting."

With your newfound sense of where you stand on everything, you're ready to begin portioning food, with science!

This pizza sure looks good... in moderation.
This pizza sure looks good... in moderation. | Source

To Exercise or Not to Exercise?

This may sound absurd, but in terms of calorie-counting, exercise is in reality 100% optional. Of course, I'm going to advise 100% in favor of exercise. Exercise induces endorphin's in the brain, temporarily annihilating stress and producing a good feeling. It also encourages good heart-health and longevity in life. If you're not an exercise person, don't fret; just follow your BMR/TDEE and eat accordingly. However, if you want to eat more in a day than what you're willing to spend being sedentary, the only answer is to exercise.

Poll Time!

In the form of a caloric deficit, which of these foods would you eat everyday?

See results

Keep Things Healthy and Wise!

While a cheeseburger in moderation is okay in terms of weight loss, just remember; these green guys are your best friends when it comes to essential vitamins and nutrients. Fit those vegetables in when you can!
While a cheeseburger in moderation is okay in terms of weight loss, just remember; these green guys are your best friends when it comes to essential vitamins and nutrients. Fit those vegetables in when you can! | Source

Don't Demonize Food

Let me just make this clear; I'm a guy who eats pizza, submarine sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and candy bars. But I do it in moderation. One mistake that may very well be easy to make is "black and white thinking." Don't be scared to eat a few things here and there that may be considered "junk." Have a half of a Hershey's bar if you need a snack; eat a cheeseburger after a hefty workout. Life doesn't always have to be watercress and lean chicken.

While I'd advise most meals and most days of the week you keep up with a diet high in fiber, Vitamins A and C, potassium, etc., once in a while a little dip into the unhealthy territory is not a bad thing at all. Of course, in terms of weight loss, as long as that candy-bar, cheeseburger, slice of pizza doesn't exceed your TDEE in anyway, you'll be golden and guilt-free. Calories in calories out does not have to be a draconian lifestyle.

A YouTuber's Advice on Calorie Counting

How Many Calories Are in a Pound of Fat?

A pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. Of course, very few people eat that much in one sitting alone. If one has an excess of 500 calories in their diet a day, it will take them about a week in order for them to gain 1 lb. However, the opposite is also true. If one has a deficit of 500 every day in their diet, then in about a week, they will lose 1 lb.

Example Chart

TDEE
Calories In
Calories Out
1,638
2,000
-362
2,145
1,575
570
2,534
3,500
-966
The 1st and 3rd TDEE's, theoretically continuing in their trend, will lead to weight gain. The 2nd leads to weight loss, as the expenditure of the body is greater than the energy it is taking in.

Be Wary of Fruits

Fruits are delicious... and also high in natural sugars. While absolutely nutritious, sugar is sugar, so enjoy fruits in moderation.
Fruits are delicious... and also high in natural sugars. While absolutely nutritious, sugar is sugar, so enjoy fruits in moderation. | Source

Calorie Counting Is the Only Way to Lose Weight

You can't defy science. You can't defy gravity. You can't defy Newton's Laws of Motion. You can't defy thermodynamics. The simple scientific formula will always be calories in<calories out will lead to weight-loss.

As long as you have an expenditure of energy exceeding intake, your body will always draw from your reserve body fat. I beseech you to not buy into "crash-diets" or anything pandering to a current fad. All you need to do is look at the nutritional label on whatever food your eating, research your BMR/TDEE, pull out a calculator and start counting. You can still eat pizza. You can still eat General Tso's chicken. You can still eat fried haddock. But eat it in moderation. Know your caloric limits. Know how much sugar, sodium, and saturated fats you're putting into your body. And if you want, exercise a little, or maybe a lot. Either way, I hope you took something worthwhile out of this article. Thank you so much for reading!

© 2015 Dakota Lawrence

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