Is Counting Calories Really Necessary?

When it comes to counting calories in the attempt to drop the excess kilos. We’re going to answer two questions in this post – Is counting calories to lose weight really necessary? And how to reduce calories?

Firstly, how serious are you about losing that weight for good, through quality nutrition and moderation?

Losing weight really is a simple formula dictated by the law of calorie balance in physics. To lose it, you must consume less calories then you burn. To maintain body shape, you generally need to consume the same calories that you burn. To put the weight on, you simply eat more calories than you burn throughout the day.

You see this is the thing, in an attempt to lose weight people often go on diets that severely restrict the number of calories they consume each day. This is not only unhealthy, but whilst the body may lose some initial weight, it will also switch to ‘starvation mode’. This is where the body recognizes the fact that it’s getting much less food then necessary so it slows down your metabolism to help you survive the famine. Your metabolism is your primary fat burner, so why would you want to slow it down?

Let’s not kid ourselves here, a healthy eating plan for life is one with a balance and variety of one ingredient foods including fish, meats, vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds, oils and some grains. You can also use quality supplements to help cleanse, nourish and absorb nutrition through food for your body is also important.

But, the calorie intake of these foods should match your energy output for the energy you need for the day. If you’re trying to lose weight it should be slightly lower, so that your metabolism is continually firing as well, not shutting down.

Now back to the initial question – should I count calories? If you are serious then you can easily find calorie guides that explain the general amount of calories in foods. This is great in the beginning for your education at the start. Good tools that can be used are My Fitness Pal and Calorie King. You can use these sites on demand when you’re curious about the macro nutrients and calories foods contain.

But is it really necessary to count calories for life? I don’t think so. Yes, maybe in the beginning for a few weeks or months as an application to get educated on the foods types and calories in foods. But after a while I want you to develop lifelong skills, of being calorie aware. Calorie aware is just know roughly what is in everything foods, and not just being calorie anal.

Being calorie aware: Use this guide as your way to moderate yourself…

  • Lean proteins: 1 service should be the around the size of the palm of your hand.
  • Fruits and vegetables (Simple and fibrous carbohydrates): 1 serve should be around the size of two open hands.
  • Starch carbohydrates (i.e. Rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, legumes etc): 1 serve should be around the size of your clenched fist.
  • Healthy fats (oils, avocado): 1 serve should be around a tablespoon or thumb size.
  • Nuts & grains (which come under healthy fats, proteins and carbs): 1 serve should a small handful. I.e. equivalent of the size of 10 – 15 nuts.

counting calories

Of course how many serves of foods that you should be having in each meal is dependent on your own goals, body, activity levels, etc. Always discuss this with a trainer or coach, as you may require more (not less) food to get your goals. I would be quite confident in saying that generally if you are overweight or obese, you can stick to 1 serve of each of those types of food in 5-6 meals per day. If you where doing this, you would definitely be training your body and metabolism to get leaner and stay there.

Ultimately once you have counted calories to lose weight for a few weeks, you will have learned a lot about the amount of calories in foods. But I don’t think you need to count for longer than that. Once your food and calorie knowledge has improved, you will be able to safely continue to lose weight without the tedious task of calorie counting. Because you are calorie aware, you’ll be making smarter decisions about the types of foods and serving sizes you consume.

How to Reduce Your Calories?

We’ve discussed calorie counting, but getting your calorie intake to almost match your activity levels is the challenge. Finding ways and alternatives to replace bad habits, is vital to your attempt in getting your goals. Here are 6 ways that should help you prepare meals that are lower in calories and higher in goodness.

Grill it! 

Cooking meat by using a grill is better because the fat can drip away to the bottom of the drip pan, just don’t put foil under the meat!. Ridged griddle pans and tilted electric grills can also be a good option. Try and use as little oil as possible when cooking with it and even better use an olive oil spray. These generally have around 1 calorie per spray as opposed to a tablespoon of oil which has around 120 calories.

Another bonus is that meat usually takes a little less time to cook in the grill meaning that it retains more nutrients.

Replace it! 

In this case less is more, so try to replace higher fat foods that are less tasty with smaller amounts of similar foods that have a stronger flavour. For example using a little Parmesan cheese for a lot of mild Cheddar cheese or cottage cheese which is higher in protein and tastes great with some protein powder, rather than carb/sugar laden yoghurt or ice cream.

Steam it! 

Forget over boiled vegetables that are limp and lifeless and have lost their entire original colour. Not only do they taste worse, but they have also lost most of their nutrients. Steaming preserves the nutrients colour and texture of the food. Meaning they’re become crisper, taster and healthier, just don’t over steam things. the general guide is that steamed vegies should be still crispy when eaten. Use vinegarettes, instead of oils to dress your veges.

Herb it! 

Rather than using stacks of oil, butter, salt and pepper, try adding flavour to meals using a variety of herbs. Experiment a little with herbs, until you get a good combination. According to the American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, herbal antioxidant activity is higher than that of fruits and vegetables.

Trim it! 

Try and remove all visible fat from meat and the skin from poultry. A high percentage of fat is contained within the skin and fat of these meats and you can drastically cut those calories. Once again, add herds to increase flavour after removing the fat. A great herb to go with the a steak is dried oregano.

Supplement it!

There are a lot of people against shake diets these days and too an extent I agree if you’re plan is to lose weight solely through shakes. But if you incorporate a healthy nutritious shake, together with whole food nutrition then you will win. It’s much better than skipping a meal as well, and can sooth the sweet tooth. Don’t be afraid to have a quality brand shake with a balance of carbs, fats and proteins. This could have half the amounts of calories that the bowl of pasta or muffin and latte you would be consuming has.

It’s not just what you cook, but how you cook food which will allow you to understand how to cut calories. Your nutrition plan is 80% (some say more) of any healthy lifestyle program so it’s important that you stick to a proper nutritious eating plan and are calorie aware for life.


As a Trainer and Coach for over 10 years now, I've helped many people reach their goals as well as achieve my own including having lost 35kg. I'm my very own guinea pig when it come to achieving a fitter, healthier life and now I'm here to help you. Start by signing up to the Really Really Fit newsletter, Free Book and Video training that will change your mindset and life.

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