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I got this question from one of our readers as a comment in my post “How many calories should I burn a day to lose weight”, and found it a great idea for a new article. It is indeed a very interesting question and I am sure that many people wonder the same thing.
To dive directly into the answer, yes it is possible to lose weight without counting calories. Counting calories is just one of the tools you can use if you want to have a clearer picture as to the effort and time needed to lose a certain amount of pounds. Counting calories alone will not help you since there are many other factors involved in the process. You can read our 50 Weight loss tips to get an overview of what is takes to lose weight correctly, but for the context of this article I will concentrate more on the debate about calorie counting.
Why count calories?
First let me explain why it is a good idea to know how many calories you need to consume or burn if your aim is weight loss.
Benefits of counting calories
- It gives you a rough idea on how long it will take you to reach your ideal weight
- You can ensure that each day you consume less calories than what you burn.
- You build knowledge and awareness about basic weight loss concepts
- Getting to know the calories of foods can help you eat healthier in the long term
- It can help you set SMART weight loss goals
- It gives you the feeling that you are actually doing something to ‘correct’ the problem with your weight
Disadvantages of counting calories
- It can be time-consuming and stressful task – Thinking about calories all the time can be stressful especially if you are on a tight diet and need to get results fast. It is also time consuming if you have to find out and calculate the number of calories each food or drink has before to eat it. Of course you can always use a calorie counter application on your PC, tablet or mobile and make the task of counting calories much easier but still is more effort than not counting calories.
- Can draw your attention away from other important things that matter while on a diet – It’s not only calories that matter but the amount of fats and sugars, the nutritional value of food, taste, variety and a lot more factors.
- It’s not for everyone – Not everyone can easily get used to this habit. The majority of people need a set of rules to follow (in other words a diet) and want to see positive results without worrying about the details.
- It can sometimes be confusing especially for ‘complicated’ foods or foods that you can’t find their nutrition information. For example you won’t know exactly the calorie contents of a custom made Italian sauce you may eat on a restaurant so you will have to do some guessing which may be correct or wrong.
How to lose weight with or without counting calories?
My recommendation is to count your calories. You can easily calculate your BMR and daily calorie intake and getting used to a food calorie counter is not that hard. To make it even easier you can plan your meals in advance so that you know the calories without counting them before lunch or dinner. What you need to avoid is becoming obsessed with calorie counting. Do some preparation work; plan your meals for a couple of weeks and everything else will become easier (especially if you are getting positive results). It is my opinion that the benefits of counting calories are more than the disadvantages.
Nevertheless, even if you decide to count your calories or not there are some easy guidelines you can follow to get better, faster and healthier results.
- Eat smaller portions – don’t wait for your stomach to bloat or to empty your plate in order to stop eating. Eat sensibly and without exaggerations.
- Healthier food choices – Give preference to healthy foods and low calorie drinks.
- Nutrition information – Learn how to read the nutrition label on the food you are purchasing and stay away from high calorie, high fat and high sugar foods. Instead prefer items that are low in calories and fat and foods that have low glycemic index.
- Aim for long term weight loss and not short term and temporary results. Concentrate on making lifestyle changes rather than dieting for life.
- Eat slowly and enjoy your food – Eating slowly will help you eat less, that’s a fact. Instead of feeling guilt or worrying about calories, enjoy each and every bite. Food is a joy and dieting is about moderation and not for being miserable.
- Don’t eat because you have to but eat only when you are hungry. Try to drink a glass or two of water 15-20 minutes before eating to slow down your appetite and improve digestion.
- Prefer to eat at home – Cooking your own food with healthy ingredients is better than relying on the cooking methods of restaurants and fast food chains.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables – According to the principles of a balanced diet our daily diet should include 5 servings of vegetables per day.
- Develop a fitness schedule that includes both exercises and physical activities (such as a sport or hobby). Stay motivated and try to stick to your schedule for long periods.
- Even if you decide not to count your calories knowing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Body Mass Index (BMI) can help you evaluate your situation better.