Counting calories is not normally seen as a liberating activity. More often than not, it can be perceived as a limitation. However, this is missing a fundamental truth. A diet focused purely on calories in vs. calories out, can be one of the least restrictive diets possible.
Benefits of Calorie Counting
The reason calorie counting can be an effective exercise for weight loss is because it allows for freedom in the foods you choose. All the dieter has to do is correctly log their quantities of food, and ensure they stay under the recommended number of calories and logically, the weight should come off. This allows for people to indulge their cravings for various foods without derailing their weight loss efforts. This kind of freedom is powerful and may increase the likelihood of long term dietary success.
There is significant evidence to suggest that counting calories and portion control can contribute to long term weight loss. In clinical review literature it has been shown to be “effective, simple, reliable, and sustainable”, all of which are important factors to consider for a weight loss intervention (Clark). A simple reduction in the quantity consumed and tracking to confirm this fact can contribute to greatly accelerated weight loss and can be combined with other methods to further improve results.
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A multitude of studies have found a strong relationship between monitory intake of food and weight loss (Burke). It also appears that electronic calorie counting may contribute to greater weight loss, assuming it includes some form of positive feedback (Burke). The addition of the positive feedback on the electronic device can improve the dieter’s view of themselves and help condition them to continue tracking their dietary intake.
There are several problems with calorie counting. For one, some people will more easily become discouraged because of the additional time and effort inherent in keeping track of every single thing you eat. This extra friction can also function to improve the outcome. Knowing that every bite of food you eat will have to be logged, can be a very strong motivating factor to prevent overeating.
“Cutting back on calories is not the [only] answer to successful weight loss and successful health… you have to increase the quality of what you eat, not just reduce the quantity.”
-Joel Fuhrman, Author & Physician
Other negatives include the fact that a diet focused primarily on calories in and calories out may be effective for weight loss, but it may fall short for general health. Health is about more than the number on a scale and it can be easy to become malnourished if your only focus is on reducing the number of calories consumed. However, calorie counting is still a useful tool combined with other dietary changes for general health.
The evidence shows that tracking calories is a useful tool for weight loss. This simple change actually allows dieters freedom in their diet because they can significantly vary their choices of foods as long as they stay within their calorie needs. This can increase compliance and contribute to positive health changes in the long term.
Have you ever tried calorie counting before? Please share your experience below!
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