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Tracking calories effective for weight loss?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 24, 2012 at 5:45 PM

I started counting calories to see if if would help me lose weight. I have only done a week so far so I know it would be immature to expect any noticeable weight loss in that time and I stayed within the recommended calorie intake for 6/7 days. Background for haterz- I want to get lean for personal reasons, I have been doing Crossfit for nearly a year with no noticeable change in body fat so it is reasonable to look to diet at this point. Jeez who doesn't want to look good naked? Ohyea - historically 75-80% Paleo 80% of the time for a year (not strict I guess you could say, but not SAD). I'm trying to eat particularly Paleo as well right now.

1- In your experience has calorie tracking helped you lose weight (I mean fat)? (For people just above 25 on the BMI index, or slightly overweight). 2- How long has it taken you to be able to track everyday and not mind it? Took me about 5 attempts to be OK with it. 3- Were you able to maintain tracking for extended period of time or did you just forget about it at a certain point?

026dde5c5ed48e30d006ac075410871e

(288)

on September 28, 2012
at 10:50 PM

I feel exactly the same - I hate doing it, and my "calorie count" never seems to affect my weight in the slightest. Also in a bigger sense, I think the calorie counting mentality encourages processed foods with labels over whole foods that you have to estimate.

E791387b2829c660292308092dc3ca9b

(831)

on September 25, 2012
at 09:25 PM

I used Fitday and yeah it did show me I was doing really low carb to start, lower than I thought and then adding carbs and especially the occasional gluten stopped the weight loss.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on September 25, 2012
at 03:33 AM

also note that calories are just an approximated number when applied to foods http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/2/296 , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_energy , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atwater_system

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on September 25, 2012
at 03:31 AM

also note that calories are just an approximated number when applied to foods ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/2/296 , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_energy , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atwater_system

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on September 25, 2012
at 03:30 AM

also note that calories are just an approximated number for food http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/2/296 , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_energy , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atwater_system

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on September 25, 2012
at 03:03 AM

was it the counting calorie exercise that helped you identify that eating too many carbs caused you to plateau? or did you already know that

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on September 25, 2012
at 12:27 AM

think of your cals like you do money with a monthly or weekly budget. You have X amount of money to spend where you want: you have X amount of calories to spend where you want. Spend them wisely.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 24, 2012
at 11:31 PM

I started out counting carb exchanges and calories are much simpler. But I learned how to use exchanges, which greatly simplified calorie accounting. Think of calories in blocks, for me 70 cals. Learning the foods, exercise and portions in that way I can carry totals in my head, with a shorthand tally-up at the end of the day.

F76e0742f9992a37f213220c81195686

(105)

on September 24, 2012
at 08:36 PM

No problem! I use LoseIt, and it recommends that I eat 1346 calories (very specific for some reason) to achieve a 2 pound a week weightloss.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:58 PM

...and while it's alright to iterate to find your daily calorific need, if you start too low you'll evetually starve yourself into submission.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:56 PM

What sort of fat though Sol? If you are only eating whole foods (and not supplementing with too much dairy) then isn't it pretty difficult to get too much fat without satieting yourself with protein: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/10/perspectives-on-low-carb-i-dr-kurt-harris/

785efa3950951957e65fa17efb25b078

(452)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:39 PM

That honestly does not make sense. Then again you may be conflating weight loss with fat loss, which are not the same.

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:30 PM

Also, it doesn't matter if we know what our daily calorie needs are. Pick a number, track the data. If your weight is going in the right direction then you picked a good starting number if not then lower it.

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:30 PM

My experience is that I can eat tons of fat, way beyond what it takes to be satisfied. So, I don't think "eat to satisfaction" works for all of us.

Da2c728c093488e4f2ea87b81619682f

(388)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:28 PM

I think though, that it may take AWHILE before many of us can get our natural appetites back. I have found that I don't *usually* gain while eating paleo without counting calories, but that I've never ever lost. Maybe my body is just too damaged, but even eating low carb paleo I do not lose weight unless I am counting calories as well. But everyone's different I guess.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:05 PM

Hey thanks for your reply. Seems about where I'm at too in the trying to dial in efforts. I use sparkpeople for tracking. What does the site tell you to eat calorie wise. It says for me 1200-1550 but it also says the lowest it will recommend is 1200. I am 5'5" 154lbs.

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8 Answers

4
Da2c728c093488e4f2ea87b81619682f

on September 24, 2012
at 06:25 PM

Tracking calories has been the ONLY way I've been able to lose weight. Of course, eating paleo can help to keep cravings down, and get enough nutrients in while you are trying to lose weight. In the past, I have tried eating as much as I wanted but only of healthy paleo foods, and I did not lose any weight at all.

Tracking calories at first was a bother, but then I got used to how much food was how many calories and so I didn't have to think about it as much. Also, it just kinda became habit after awhile.

3
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:21 PM

If you cut out refined carbs you can start trust your appetite to control your calorie intake (so that it's influenced by your actual nutritional needs, and not by carb induced sugar rushes).

Calorie counting (as a method of weight loss) has only been around since the 1940s, and is limited by the fact that you don't actually know what your daily calorfic needs are (other than using some hacked up generic formula). During almost half of that period we've been plagued by chronic obesity.

For at least 200 million years before the 1940s, we let our appetite control our calorie intake, and during that period obseity was either rare or non-existant.

I'm kinda biased because I've lost 70lbs by reducing my carb intake, and never counting the calories in anything. YMMV.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:58 PM

...and while it's alright to iterate to find your daily calorific need, if you start too low you'll evetually starve yourself into submission.

Da2c728c093488e4f2ea87b81619682f

(388)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:28 PM

I think though, that it may take AWHILE before many of us can get our natural appetites back. I have found that I don't *usually* gain while eating paleo without counting calories, but that I've never ever lost. Maybe my body is just too damaged, but even eating low carb paleo I do not lose weight unless I am counting calories as well. But everyone's different I guess.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:56 PM

What sort of fat though Sol? If you are only eating whole foods (and not supplementing with too much dairy) then isn't it pretty difficult to get too much fat without satieting yourself with protein: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/10/perspectives-on-low-carb-i-dr-kurt-harris/

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:30 PM

My experience is that I can eat tons of fat, way beyond what it takes to be satisfied. So, I don't think "eat to satisfaction" works for all of us.

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:30 PM

Also, it doesn't matter if we know what our daily calorie needs are. Pick a number, track the data. If your weight is going in the right direction then you picked a good starting number if not then lower it.

2
E791387b2829c660292308092dc3ca9b

(831)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:00 PM

My personal experience is that counting calories has not helped. I tracked them steadily for a couple of weeks and all I found was eating strict Paleo caused weight loss and eating too many carbs caused me to plateau. Regardless of the number of calories ingested this held steady. I quit counting once I could see clearly it was more about eating the right things than calories in.

785efa3950951957e65fa17efb25b078

(452)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:39 PM

That honestly does not make sense. Then again you may be conflating weight loss with fat loss, which are not the same.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on September 25, 2012
at 03:03 AM

was it the counting calorie exercise that helped you identify that eating too many carbs caused you to plateau? or did you already know that

E791387b2829c660292308092dc3ca9b

(831)

on September 25, 2012
at 09:25 PM

I used Fitday and yeah it did show me I was doing really low carb to start, lower than I thought and then adding carbs and especially the occasional gluten stopped the weight loss.

1
F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on September 24, 2012
at 10:15 PM

The longest I've been able to track calories has been about 2 weeks. I hate doing it. It's nearly impossible to estimate correctly the foods I eat since I don't purchase things with labels and don't ever actually measure anything, not even when I cook from scratch. I always tried to aim high with my estimates to make up for any tendency to underestimate. And every time I did input my calories I was usually pretty shocked how much I actually ate. And yet, whether I've eaten 1900 calories a day or 1200 calories a day (or negative 1500 calories if I did some excessive exercise), my weight has never really changed one way or another. So what I try to do most often is just aim for appetite control on the least amount of food possible, get a lot of exercise at a very low level of effort to stimulate more hours of my life in a fat-burning-for-energy mode, and then do some strength training stuff twice a week for better body comp.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on September 25, 2012
at 12:27 AM

think of your cals like you do money with a monthly or weekly budget. You have X amount of money to spend where you want: you have X amount of calories to spend where you want. Spend them wisely.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 24, 2012
at 11:31 PM

I started out counting carb exchanges and calories are much simpler. But I learned how to use exchanges, which greatly simplified calorie accounting. Think of calories in blocks, for me 70 cals. Learning the foods, exercise and portions in that way I can carry totals in my head, with a shorthand tally-up at the end of the day.

026dde5c5ed48e30d006ac075410871e

(288)

on September 28, 2012
at 10:50 PM

I feel exactly the same - I hate doing it, and my "calorie count" never seems to affect my weight in the slightest. Also in a bigger sense, I think the calorie counting mentality encourages processed foods with labels over whole foods that you have to estimate.

1
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on September 24, 2012
at 08:05 PM

I track calories intermittently for a couple of reasons:

  1. It helps me make sure I'm eating sufficient calories and not too many. More often than not, my calories have gotten too low, and I think that messes with my thyroid to slow weight loss. So tracking what I'm actually eating helps me see if I'm going way over board (I don't care about one off little increases in calories) or I need to increase calories.

  2. It helps me check my macronutrient ratios. I try to stay VLC, so it helps me make sure there's no "carb creep" going on. It also makes sure I'm eating sufficient protein (this is challenging for me).

  3. When I'm feeling frustrated with weightloss, it keeps me honest. I'm not a big cheater, but having to track it makes me want to "look good on paper" and sometimes helps me clean up bad habits that develop.

I'm not a believer in the "calories in, calories" out theory, so tracking for that purpose is not what I'm after. I see it mostly as data gathering to help me analyze what's working or not. And I don't do it all the time, it's annoying!

1
F76e0742f9992a37f213220c81195686

(105)

on September 24, 2012
at 05:58 PM

Hi Joy! I can only attest to my own personal experience, as everyone is different. Have also been doing CrossFit for a year and 80% Paleo for just as long. In that year, I netted a 6 pound gain on the scale (am about 184 now, 5'5" female, 32 years old, PCOS diagnosed). I started at a size 12/14 and am now a 10, so obviously there was some fat loss/leaning out, but I too, for personal reasons, would like to see some more noticeable fat loss.

About two weeks ago, I decided to dial-in my efforts. I am now 95%/5%, with the 5% being heavy cream in my coffee (I may have to cut that soon, depending on results). I cut nuts out of my daily diet. I cut most fruits out of my daily diet. I am on berries only, and sparingly. I also started tracking to ensure I was creating a deficit, using a free tracker site, keeping in mind the fact that BMR and all that good stuff is a calculated guesstimate at most. I have not stepped on the scale, but I think I am starting to see some physical differences and my pants are a little looser. I'm sure others can give you their n=1, however, for me, counting calories is absolutely necessary to achieve weight loss. As an additionally FYI, the site I use allows me to view my macro nutrient data, and I have been trying to average 60% fat, 15% carbs%, 25% protein give or take. Not sure if that is the sweet spot or not yet, but I'll keep adjusting as I go until I hit it. Good luck and hope my experience helps.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on September 24, 2012
at 06:05 PM

Hey thanks for your reply. Seems about where I'm at too in the trying to dial in efforts. I use sparkpeople for tracking. What does the site tell you to eat calorie wise. It says for me 1200-1550 but it also says the lowest it will recommend is 1200. I am 5'5" 154lbs.

F76e0742f9992a37f213220c81195686

(105)

on September 24, 2012
at 08:36 PM

No problem! I use LoseIt, and it recommends that I eat 1346 calories (very specific for some reason) to achieve a 2 pound a week weightloss.

0
366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on September 24, 2012
at 09:08 PM

I have been tracking off & on for over a year. I lost most of the weight I wanted to on paleo, but never could get rid of those last five pounds, also, I discovered some nutritional deficiencies, and taking care of those solved some lingering health issues. Tracking calories allowed me to figure out exactly how much I could eat (and how much I needed to exercise) to maintain my ideal weight, and the couple of times that I've put a few pounds back on, I went back to tracking immediately and got the weight back off pronto.

I ignore the calorie recommendations at Fitday, which are very low -- I know that if I do yoga 4x a week, walk 2x, lift weights for 1 or 2 short sessions, use my standing desk 1/2 the day, and eat about 1800 calories a day at just about 30% carb, I'll get back to my target quickly without going hungry. If I move less, I have to eat less.

I would take that approach: figure out what works for you, and don't worry about what the program tells you to eat. My personal experience is that if I go too low on calories, my body goes into starvation mode, and the weight will not budge (same is true for me when I try fasting).

It is a real pain to count calories, but for me it is worth it because I feel so much better when I'm at my target weight.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 24, 2012
at 09:05 PM

  1. I did it from 30 BMI down to 25 BMI and stopped so I don't know what happens below 25. As weight came off, exercise calorie burn was the only way to get 2 lb/week loss without starving myself.

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