Calories. Do they matter?
There seem to be two different camps when it comes to calories. The “calories matter” camp and the “calories don’t matter” camp.
The fact of the matter is, that calories DO matter and they also DON’T matter.
Hear me out.
In the beginning, when you just start taking those first steps to losing weight and getting healthier, it would be an excellent idea to learn how many calories you are taking in on an average day. Why? Because the basic rule of fat loss is based on energy balance.
Now, I’m not saying that calories are the only thing that matters but for now I’m talking about why they DO.
So, back to the point.
Because the basic rule of fat loss/weight loss is energy in vs. energy out, being aware of how many calories you are taking in vs. how many calories you are expending (on average) is incredibly important.
With all other factors removed, if you are burning more than you are taking in, you should lose weight.
The best way to become aware of your calorie intake is to track your food daily. While I don’ think you should track for the rest of your life (please don’t do this), tracking for a few weeks to see where your average is a good idea.
Once you have tracked your calories for a few weeks and you can see a pattern, it is time too look more at food quality.
This is where I believe the magic really happens.
I think many people get caught up in the calories in vs. calories out cycle and forget to actually take a look at the QUALITY of those calories.
I know we all know that carrots are better for us than a can of diet Pepsi. Why then is it so hard for us to grasp that eating 200 calories of carrots is going to leave us in a much better place that 0 calories of diet Pepsi?
This is where we really need to drop calories and look at nutrients.
Food with more nutrients will always be better for us than food with little to no nutrients, despite calories.
So, yes, calories do matter when you are just starting out so that you can get a basic understanding of how many you are eating and how many you are burning. If your goal is weight loss, a calorie deficit is where you want to be in an average week.
Once you are comfortably in that deficit, you really need to focus more on food quality and this is when calories start to take the back burner because there are more important factors at hand. Calories *might* actually go up a little as food choices change. At the same time, foods with more nutrient value are actually going to make you feel full and satiated longer which *might* mean you feel like eating less.
In the end, it is not as simple as calories in vs. calories out and it is not as simple as “just eat healthy food”. There is a fine balance which is slowly found over time and being consistent with your food and making changes as you become more aware of how foods make you feel.