Why Calorie Counting Still Works Best for Weight Loss

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Popular diet books and weight loss websites have long asked us to count grams of fat or carbs, but what about calories? This trend doesn't mean that calories don't count anymore. In fact, calorie counting is still one of the best ways to lose weight.

Calorie Counting as the Foundation of Every Diet

Counting calories is often panned by trendy diet experts, but the fact is that creating a calorie deficit is the foundation of any diet. Every weight loss program that works has you reduce your calories enough to create a deficit.

Consider carb-cutting diets. The carbs you cut are usually refined carbs, like bread or white rice, or baked goods. Refined or processed grains are basically sugar. They provide calories without nutrition, which helps explain why we end up getting hungry again quickly after eating them. It also tends to mean that you end up consuming more calories.

If you exchange refined carbs for nutritious whole grains or vegetables, you're likely to eat less because your body is getting the nutrition it needs including filling fiber. If you consume fewer calories, you'll lose weight.

You could simply estimate the calorie difference between this carb exchange, but it's more helpful to understand the real numbers. That way you can find out how many calories you'll save with the swap (and that's counting calories!).

Any successful weight loss method comes down to eating fewer calories and burning extra calories through exercise.

On the flip side, you'll gain weight if you take in more calories than your body needs to meet its energy demands.

Put Counting Calorie Claims in Perspective

We've all met someone who claims they can eat anything they want without weight gain. There are a few rare people out there for whom that is true. Very few of us can eat anything in any amount above our calorie needs and not gain weight.

For example, a McDonald's double cheeseburger contains 450 calories. To burn off the calories in that one sandwich, the average 150-pound person would have to do moderate-intensity aerobics for an hour or more.

That's doable, right? However, if you add a shake and order of fries to that burger, you'd have to spend half a day at the gym to work off a single meal.

Consider Your Caloric Goals

The average recommended caloric intake for losing weight depends on your size and biological sex.

An average weight loss calorie goal is about 1,500 to 1,700 calories each day, but it will vary according to your weight and activity level.

You can use a weight loss calorie goal calculator can help you assess your specific daily caloric needs.

When you lose weight, your caloric needs will also typically decrease. For example, a 210-pound person cannot subsist on 1,500 calories a day. If that person continues to lose weight, they will eventually settle in around that level.

A Word From Verywell

While you'll find a number of very low-calorie diets out there, remember that cutting your calories too low can actually lead to weight loss plateaus.

A so-called- "starvation mode" phenomenon can happen where your body withholds the calories you take in for later use. It's basically saving them up in response to what it perceives as a state of starvation.

You could end up eating less and weighing the same. If you're hungry all the time, you're also less likely to stick to a diet and might be more likely to binge.

You can also do serious damage to your health with very-low-calorie diets. Before you consider any diet that includes eating fewer than 1,200 calories a day, talk to your doctor or a qualified registered dietitian.

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