Calorie Counting Mistakes That Prevent Weight Loss

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Calorie counting can be an effective strategy for weight loss. I’m gonna explain how to avoid the calorie, counting mistakes that keep you from losing weight. And the last two mistakes are fundamental ones that a lot of people don’t talk about.

Hi, it’s Ivana, helping you get fit healthy and strong.

Whether you’re just starting out with calorie tracking or you’ve been tracking for a while and you’ve just stopped losing weight, here’s what could be going wrong using the wrong entries.

Using The Wrong Entries

So you’re probably using a calorie counting app in order to track your daily calories and macros, perhaps as well.

Calorie counting apps have some dodgy entries sometimes.

Some of them are filled in by other users who are trying to estimate, or maybe think they’ve copied off a label.

I often see this when my clients fill out their diaries on the app and I look at them. Sometimes I’ll look at an entry and I know it’s obviously incorrect because it’s a donut and it says a hundred calories. And it says zero grams of fat. I doubt very much that that kind of donut exists, but I’m sure people are searching for one anyway.

Check Your Entries!

It’s really important that you just don’t blindly add entries without checking to see if it sounds correct, because sometimes they’re really off. And I know it’s very confusing and it’s one of the frustrations that people have when they’re using calorie counting apps.

There’s too many different choices for each type of food. And sometimes you’re not sure which one is likely to be the right one over time. You’ll probably learn sometimes a little bit of common sense is useful as well. So if you see a food that’s a highly processed, very calorie, dense food, something like a muffin. You’re looking at a minimum of 300 or 400 calories. It may even be 500 if it’s a very large muffin. And of course there’s going to be quite a lot of sugar, unless for some reason there’s artificial sweeteners. And there’s definitely gonna be some fat in there.

Unless again, you know that it’s perhaps something you made yourself and you didn’t add a lot of fat. Generally when you’re looking at packaged goods and processed foods, you’ll often have the label there telling you how much it is.

So follow that label first when it’s sort of arbitrary and you’re not sure it’s a medium size muffin, but you’re not sure what’s inside of it. Go on the conservative side and always overestimate, because then you’ll be more likely to lose weight and be accurate with those entries.

Not Measuring Food

The next mistake is not measuring. If you are just trying to guess what four ounces is or what 225 grams of a particular food is then most of your tracking is not going to be very accurate. It’s really helpful to have a small supply of measuring cups or maybe you even want a small scale. They’re not very expensive.

And if you’re having your food at home, it’s really easy to measure. Even something like a tablespoon, an accurate measuring tablespoon can be really useful, especially for things like oils and nut butter.

Peanut butter is the most amusing example because what people think is one tablespoon of peanut butter is often probably two tablespoons of peanut butter. You’re recording one tablespoon, but they’re actually consuming two or three tablespoons of peanut butter. And this is a very calorie dense food. And it’s so delicious and it adds up very quickly. So not measuring can be a big mistake.

Not Counting Liquids

Another error that you could be making is you don’t count liquids. So coffee and tea, when they’re plain, don’t provide almost any calories. However, a lot of people will throw in some sugar or maybe some milk or cream. And if you’re just assuming that that’s a zero calorie beverage, then you’re missing out on calories.

So a tablespoon of cream could be that a hundred calories. You could be adding 50 calories worth of sugar without recording it. You might be having that coffee multiple times a day and over time that adds up. So make sure that anything you’re drinking, if there’s added sugar or added milk or cream, then make sure that you add those things as well.

Using Activity To “Earn” Calories

A big mistake that I see is using activity to add more calories.

Now, I really prefer to keep calories and activity completely separate. And I know some of these calorie counting apps, they will give you an estimate of the amount of calories that you should be consuming to lose weight, but then they allow you to add some activity and thereby adding more calories that you can consume. I don’t like to do that. I like to keep the calories consistent. So you’re sort of developing a meal plan over time and then adding a little bit of activity at a time.

If you have to reduce your exercise for some reason, or even just your physical activity, your walking for a period of time, then you can just focus on the calorie side and make sure that you’re meeting your targets.

It can start to get confusing. If you allow yourself more calories because you did more exercise that day, or you just walked for a little bit longer, not only can those entries that you’re finding for calorie burn, be a bit of an overestimate. They tend to be an overestimate. Whatever you’re gonna see for activities. You’re probably not burning off as many calories as they say.

The calorie trackers on fitness machines, for instance, tend to overestimate what you’re actually burning off. So it’s best to just ignore those.

A Bad Relationship Between Food And Exercise

The other thing that I really don’t like about it’s that it sets up a really bad relationship between exercise and eating food.

That whole idea of like earning your meal. You don’t need to earn your meal. Just eat. You need to eat as many nutritious foods as you can. And also throw in foods that you really enjoy. That may not be that nutritious.

So adjusting your calorie intake every time you increase your physical activity. For me, isn’t a good solution. So set your calorie goal and keep that consistent.

Setting Calorie Goal Too Low Or Too High

One mistake that people make with calorie counting is that they set their calories too low or too high. So if your calorie goal is not the right one for you, it may be hard for you to follow it for the length of time that you need to. That means that you’ll get frustrated and you might give up on calorie counting altogether.

I also don’t like to follow the recommendations that are given by the calorie counting apps.

I tend to do an estimate of maintenance calories, and that would be 13 times your body weight in pounds. So if you’re 180 pounds, that means that your maintenance calories would be 2,340.

You can also use a system that I use with some of my clients where I ask them to track and monitor their calories for a week. And from there, you’re basically determining what you’re eating on a regular basis. And that’s your maintenance calories. If you continue eating that way, you’re going to maintain your weight as it is.

Setting Up Your Calorie Deficit

Once you have your maintenance calories, you wanna decide how many calories you wanna reduce by each day.

And that’s gonna depend on a number of things. Whether or not you’re just doing your nutrition or whether you’re also incorporating extra exercise or physical activity. I talk about that a little bit more in another video, but for now it’s important for you to know that you need to make sure that your numbers are correct in the first place so that you don’t get frustrated and quit.

Not Paying Attention To Hunger Cues

Another mistake is not paying attention to your hunger cues.

It is normal to be a little bit hungry when you’re in a calorie deficit and losing weight. If you’re extremely hungry all the time, and you know that this is actual hunger and not just a desperate yearning for a particular food, that’s psychological or habit based, you may be setting a calorie goal that’s a little bit too low for you.

And that’s something that you want to pay attention to so you can make adjustments.

For my weight loss clients, I always encourage them to go a little bit on the lower side. If for some reason they’re not feeling hungry. So if it’s 9:00 PM and your calorie goal was 2000 calories for that day, and you’ve only eaten 1700 calories, there’s no need to try to top it up with 300 calories of something. Sometimes our estimates can be off when we do our entries.

So if you’re trying to lose weight, you wanna be a bit more conservative, make sure that you’re no losing weight too quickly, though. We would consider that to be more than 1% of your body weight per week. Then you probably wanna slow it down a little bit because you may lose muscle mass and it’s not going to be sustainable for you.

But if your calorie goal is 2000 a day and you keep hitting 1800 or 1900 each day, you’re not excessively hungry or tired, then just keep up with that. And that’s probably a reasonable number. Remember that all of those calorie entries are just an estimate. So you may be consuming more calories than you think. Anyway.

Missing Oils And Sauces

Another calorie counting mistake is missing oils and sauces. So particularly when you’re eating out at a restaurant, you’ll find that most things have added oils within. Um, they may also have sauces that contain calories as well.

A combination of sugar and oil, even a Risotto that might seem like it’s fairly dry, probably has some cream or at least some milk and probably some oils and fats in it as well. So if you mark a Risotto as just pure rice, then you’re gonna be missing out on a lot of calories.

I discovered this with a client of mine who told me he was having two eggs for breakfast, with a bunch of fruit, but what he didn’t record in his diary was that he was having fried eggs and these eggs were fried on coconut oil. And when I had him measure by tablespoon, he found out that he was consuming three tablespoons of coconut oil in addition to those two eggs. So he was assuming the eggs are maybe 60 calories each. So he thought that was 120 calories, but really as most oils are about 120 calories per tablespoon, he was consuming an additional 360 calories.

And that’s a significant difference.

I like to stir fry myself. It’s a really tasty way of cooking, but you need to incorporate all the added oils that you’re using into your calorie totals for the day.

Getting Too Tied To The Numbers

Now we’re down to the final two mistakes and these two can have a real impact. Their first is getting too tied to the numbers.

Now of course, calorie counting is about numbers, but you have to realize that those numbers are an estimate and you need to treat them that way. It’s great that you wanna be very precise and it is important, especially if you have a specific goal and you’re already very lean. So you have to keep your numbers as tight as you can, but it can, for some people become a bit as obsessive. So as I mentioned, it’s okay to go a little lower. It’s also okay to go a little bit higher.

So if you find that you’re a hundred calories over at the end of the day, that’s really not a problem. Especially if you’ve been very careful with your tracking and you’ve been included, the fats and sauces and all the liquids. Going over by a hundred calories is not a big problem. If you do it every day, it might add up over time.

Monitor Your Progress To Stay On Track To Results

Really you need to monitor your progress and make sure that you’re working towards your goal generally every week or two, to make sure that things are moving in the right direction. I’ve actually had clients get upset because of a 50 calorie difference, or they’re not sure which entry to use because one entry says 50 calories and one says 54 calories. And when you’re trying to be that finite with something, that’s really not, then you’re causing yourself unnecessary stress tracking calories is great because it gives you an awareness of calories.

Some things you might be really shocked about when you first start counting calories, but over time, you need to loosen things up a bit.

Tracking Calories Long Term When You Don’t Want To

And that kind of brings me into my next mistake, which is tracking calories long term when you don’t want to.

Now, for some people tracking and monitoring calories all the time is fine. They like it. They don’t find it that challenging, especially after the initial period of kind of getting used to things, but for others, it’s not that pleasant. I personally don’t do it long term and I haven’t really done calorie counting or macro tracking. Since I did some fitness competitions a few years back, I wanted to be as precise as I could be to get a specific result now that I’m not competing anymore. That’s not important to me.

Calorie Counting As An Educational Tool

With my clients, I treat calorie counting as an educational tool.

So it helps them to develop an awareness of calories without developing a dependence on calorie counting. After a while, you’ll probably find that you’re eating similar things most days, and you’ll know approximately how many calories you’re eating and what result that’s going to give you. So you’re basically developing a meal plan for yourself. That’s going to get you the weight loss result that you’re looking for. And you just have to modify things as you go along.

If your goals change and you wanna get a bit leaner, then you know that you might want to take out this one calorie dense item that you have most days. Or you might reduce your treats on the weekends or reduce your alcohol on the weekends. If you want to have a more challenging goal.

Eventually you get to the point where it kind of settled in your weight. You know approximately what you’re eating. Then you can just keep eating that way until your goals change. Again, many people think that you need to keep calorie counting forever in order to maintain your results. But if you’ve been paying attention to the process, then you really don’t.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 9-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training, chocolate, mountain biking, and ice cream...not always in that order of preference.
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