Why Calories Counting is Not Effective in Losing Weight

One of the most given advice when one wants to lose weight is to count how many calories he or she is consuming in a day. However, it becomes one of the most misused unit of measurement in the past several decades. Calories counting became the fad and became the de facto if you want to lose weight. The question is: does calories counting actually works?

Nowadays calories count appear in all kinds of food labels to help consumers in making informed decision. Not only it appears in nutritional label, it also shows up in restaurants menu. However, I’m here to tell you that calorie counting does not help in losing weight. Calorie counting should only be used as a guide and you should not follow it to the letter.

According to Wikipedia, the calorie is a unit of energy defined as the amount of heat needed to raise a quantity of water by one degree of temperature. It was invented in the early 1800s to help measure unit of energy and became widely used by chemists during that century. Fast forwarding to the 20th century it was adopted in the 50s to help identifying the unit of energy as part of food consumption. When the calorie was invented, it was not intended to help with losing weight.

Last year I tried to track my food intake and to find out if it helps me in my quest for a healthier lifestyle. After tracking my diet for 2 months, I noticed that it was totally useless. Using one of the most popular app, MyFitnessPal, I found out that I was deficit by at least a thousand calories based on my body build. I thought it was great but over the two months I did not feel any hungrier than before and I did not lose the weight I was hoping for.

After some thoughts I realized that there are several problems with using calories as the tool for losing weight. While I do agree that using calorie counting has some use, it is by no mean accurate.

Everyone is Different

How one metabolizes food is different from one over the other. It has to do with a lot with lifestyle and if the person has adapted to the environment. A person who lives in Norway who eats fishes all his life can metabolize seafood better than someone who lives in a desert. Alternatively Japanese can consume raw meat and not get any fatter while someone who eats an ounce of meat would feel bloated. Eating the same portion of food with the same amount of calories may have different effect on everyone.

Calories is Manmade

The calorie was coined by chemist to allow easier calculation of energy unit. It was not meant to help the 20th Century citizens to help them lose weight. The calorie has been widely used today that it loses its purpose. If you ask 100 persons on the street today about the definition of calorie, 95 of them will tell you that it helps you lose weight. Another problem is total calories for each food category are pulled out of thin air with no real scientific method used to calculate them. As an example, the calorie count of one bowl of teriyaki chicken varies widely between one app over the other.

Misconception of Bad Calorie

Some food supposedly store more calorie than another and hence the use of calorie to determine the value of the food varies widely. As an example, an avocado has good fat calorie while a slide of steak may have the same amount of calorie but it contains bad fat. Both food are metabolizes differently when consumed and the amount of nutrition they provide differ too.

False Sense of Security

Calorie counting gives us a “good feeling” that we consume less calorie. However, it does not address the underlying problem, which is burning the fat and lose weight. One person may eat less but that does not mean that he is losing weight. Losing weight has to do with change of lifestyle and the food we consume. Eating half of the portion while sitting down on the sofa whole day will not likely to lose any weight. Our body is smart enough to store the food we eat as fat as our body does not need the energy to be active.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to losing weight. There is no pill or any special food that will help burn the fat away. Calorie counting is not the magic bullet either. It may help in the process but should not be used to determine what is right or wrong. To lose weight the right way is simply change in lifestyle (includes exercise) and make the right choice when it comes to the type of food we eat.


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