We can talk all day about the best way to lose weight, but it essentially boils down to boring math. If calorie input is greater than energy output, we gain weight; if the reverse is true, we lose weight.
Argue if you want about carbs/fat ratio, weight lifting vs cardio, and so on. Yes, there are benefits to certain types of diet or exercise, but fat loss still comes back to that math equation:
Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain
Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
So the best way to lose weight is to track calories, right? Well, hang on a minute. The trouble comes when we rely on the accuracy of tracking calories and exercise. Even with fancy apps and fitness trackers, we tend to underestimate the calories we eat, and overestimate the calories we burn working out. Even the experts do this!
This short video has a great explanation of why calorie counting can be so inaccurate. (Has a couple of cuss words but it’s the best video I’ve seen on the topic.)
So, should you track calories?
Now we know that we tend to count calories inaccurately, but what do we do about that? Just stop counting entirely? Well, that’s one option.
Instead of counting calories, we can learn to eat slowly and focus on enjoying our food. No web-surfing, no munching and Netflix, and even if we’re eating with friends or family, we slow down and pay attention. Try eating til you’re 80% satisfied. Don’t worry about how many calories you may have ingested, but stop well before you’re at that unbutton-your-pants level of full. Remember, it takes a while for your stomach to tell your brain that you are indeed full, so if you stop when you’re close to 100% full, you’re probably going to feel sluggish and icky a little later.
Another option: Go ahead and count your calories, but use the total you see in your calorie app as a relative number. Although we know our counting is probably inaccurate, this can still be a useful starting point. If whatever number you’re coming up with isn’t working for you — for instance, you’re trying to lose weight but that’s not happening — then you can adjust that number in your app down a bit and see if that gets your weight heading in the direction you want.