Count calories spending 5 minutes a day
People hate counting calories. We think it is obsessive, pointless, and time-consuming.
But I have a question for you:
How long do you think it would take you to count your calories for today?
This new study, published in early 2019, showed that people who self-monitor their calorie intake achieved significantly better weight loss results than ones who were relying on intuitive eating.
They did so by spending less than 15 minutes a day logging calories.
The study also showed that the longer these people were logging their calories for, the less time was required for them to do so.
These people received no guidance and had no prior experience in counting calories whatsoever.
But we do, and we are going to show you how. By the end of this article, you will be on your way counting your calories spending less than 5 minutes a day!
Why count? The calorie sweet spot
Studies and our own experience tells us that eating around 20% fewer calories than you burn is a sweet spot to aim for.
Eat more than that and you might not lose any weight.
Eat less than that and your metabolism will eventually adapt causing the weight loss to stall, and hormonal imbalances will lead to mood swings, hunger, and the feeling of deprivation.
Counting calories is the smartest way to make sure that you consistently stay within that sweet spot. That ideal zone where you lose weight as fast and safe as possible while eating the most amount of food possible!
Can I intuitively count my calories?
Sure, you can count calories in your head. This is actually what we are aiming for, in the long run.
To be able to glance at a plate of food a make an educated estimation of its calorie content, the same way you glance at a pair of shoes and try to guess its price. These are both skills. And like all skills, you get better at them by practicing them.
This study showed that people tend to underestimate the calories they eat by an average of 37%. At the same time they overestimate the calories they burn by an average of 72%. This phenomenon is more severe in overweight individuals.
The authors of this study attribute these results to “poor understanding of calories”. So attempting to methodically track your calories for some period of time, is a sure way to improve your understanding of calories and be able to manage your own weight forever.
Start counting using a calorie tracking app
You can find numerous calorie tracking apps on Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Any calorie tracking app will do the job, but the best one is the one that you actually like using on a daily basis and can stick to.
MyFitnessPal is a great app to start with because it has a comprehensive food database.
FatSecret is another great app that I am currently using. It has a minimalistic interface and is 100% free.
Spend less time counting, more time eating
Both you and the app will get better at calorie counting day by day. Logging might take you 15 minutes today, but by the end of next week, it will take you no more than 5 minutes.
All apps will come with some basic features like autocomplete words when typing or saving your favorite meals, but here are some even cooler features I bet you did not know about and can save you a whole lot of time.
Add friends who use the same app
Needless to say that a friend who is already on their way to losing weight and is tracking their calories is a good friend to have! Moreover, you can connect with your friends in the app and be able to view each other’s meals.
Did you have lunch with your friend today? Simply check your friend food diary and directly copy their meal to your food diary.
You can even split the work. Make a deal with your friend so that they count calories for dinner, and you can count calories for dessert.
Search for branded products in the database
Are you snaking on some MilkyWay bars? Then chances are that some other user will have already inputted the nutritional data in the database for you.
So, try searching for “MilkyWay” or “MilkyWay bar” in the database, instead of just “Chocolate bar“. All you have to do then is select how much of that you had to eat, and you are done!
Auto-import yesterday’s meal
I guess I am not the only one who likes pancakes for breakfast. Okay, maybe I love them since I am eating pancakes almost every morning.
But I don’t have to count their calories every time I have them. I just import the whole meal from a past date with 1 click. Most apps support that. This is convenient and saves a lot of time.
Save homemade recipes
If you count your calories based on the ingredients you use, then you will love this feature.
Say that you are making a cake for the family, using flour, sugar, eggs, etc. You measured all your ingredients and you made the cake which yields 12 servings. Instead of dividing every one of the ingredients by 12, you can simply save the whole cake as a homemade recipe in the app and then just take 1 serving of that recipe! Piece of cake!
Does your food come in a package with a barcode on it? Then try to scan it with the app instead of manually typing the full name.
This is particularly helpful when you are traveling to a foreign country and you don’t speak the local language. No need to install a Chinese keyboard on your phone to be able to search for the foods you eat there. Just scan the barcode!
Take this challenge
If you have never used a calorie tracking app before, here is a challenge for you:
Step 1: Download any calorie tracking app on your phone and input your data.
Step 2: For the next 3 days, try to log ALL the food you eat. No need to be perfect, just make an effort and remember to be honest with yourself.
Step 3: Go back and take look at what you logged during these 3 days. Which one of all the foods you logged seems that does not “worth” its calories? Maybe you can skip it next time, or eat less of it, or replace it with a low-calorie version.
How much time does it take for you to track your calories? We want to hear your answer! Write it down in the comments below.
Stavros is an engineer who used to work as an expat and now traveling around the world. He has been obese for a good part of his adult life, until two years ago where things took a happy turn for him. Today, Stavros wants to share his weight loss experiences, tips and mistakes, in hope to inspire other ordinary people to find their way to improve their body, their life, their happiness.