Counting Calories Pt. 1

Yes! I’ve hit my physical activity goal of 1,000 calories expended today. That means, by the end of the week I should be down two pounds and just 10 away from my goal weight. Right, FitnessPal? Well, maybe not so much…

Let’s explore three reasons why the supposed tried and true method of calorie counting for weight management is a flawed approach and not an exact science like many want you to believe.

1  Calorie counts are not precise.

Our bodies don’t absorb all the calories we consume.

You’ve probably heard before not all the food you eat is absorbed. Some calories pass through us undigested, and this varies as much as there are different things to eat.

Scientists created the formula we use to evaluate food absorption decades ago. The problem with this formula is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, it doesn’t work for nuts and seeds because we absorb fewer calories from them than calculated. With almonds only 68 percent of the calories are absorbed and pecans 79 percent. This formula also is wrong about fiber- rich foods, from which we are consuming an average of 17 percent more calories than reported.

Expect a margin of error around 10 percent due to food absorption variability.

3  Food preparation affects calorie load.

Cooking your food generally makes more calories available for absorption. Additionally, chopping and blending your food increases the calories absorbed as well.

For example, grilling your fist-sized steak takes it from just about 200 calories to almost 250. Parboiling your eggs adds almost 30 calories to each.

Calorie counting is not as perfect and linear as individuals/companies would like you to believe. Count on up to 25 percent margin of error when counting your calorie intake. Yes, it is a method that can be helpful in creating structure and organization when incorporating behavior-focused goals. Yes, it can assist with accountability and goal attainment as many of my clients can attest to. What it is not, is an exacting, precise, and singular means of sustainable weight management.  Think of it as a tool to use in your arsenal along with your hand for portion control.