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Why Is Tracking Calories Frequently Ineffective in Weight Loss?

Have you ever been told that all you need to do to lose weight is track all of your calories and ensure that you burn more than you intake? No, it isn't always that straightforward.

Shivani Meena
Checking Weight
Checking Weight

Understanding how calories function is still vital for weight loss today. Food contains energy, which is measured in calories. We consume calories through meals and expend them through our regular activities. When we consume more calories than we expend, our bodies retain fat. We may lose if we burn more of it than we eat. 

But, if tens of millions of individuals across the world are using calorie-tracking apps and still aren't losing weight, it raises the question: does it always work, or is there more to this story than meets the eye? 

Let's begin with the calorie-counting dilemma 

A cup of carrots can range in calories from 37 to 61. A "big" sweet potato can range in calories from 231 to 705 kcal. Are they all incorrect? No, when Atwater, the grandfather of calorie counting, went out to quantify the calories in a variety of foods, the discrepancy was so large that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued a statement. "Since foods are biological materials, their composition varies; hence, a database cannot precisely predict the composition of any particular single sample of food." 

To make matters worse, not all of the calories mentioned for each food are absorbed and used by our systems. The amount of calories we take into our bodies is affected by how we process and cook our meals. 

While tracking calories to reduce weight seems amazing in theory, it's completely out of our control. If losing weight is our goal, we want to be in charge of as many decisions as possible to affect the outcome. 

What is in Your Control? 

To begin with, not all calories are made equal. What is more nourishing: 100 calories from an apple or 100 calories from soda? What contains more nutrients, 400 kcal of fat in the morning coffee or scrambled eggs, whole-wheat bread, and fruit for breakfast? You have a choice. You have the option of providing your body with optimal nutrition or feeling less satisfied with less nutritious options. 

Second, humans are notoriously bad at estimating their meal amounts. Simply scooping more than one tablespoon of nut butter might result in an extra 94 calories that the dieter was not calculating for. A miscalculated quantity of spaghetti, resulting in an additional 1/2 cup unplanned for, might contain 110 kcal. A single ounce of cheese would provide an additional 113 kcal. 

Finally, we must tune into our bodies and listen to what they have to say. You can eat sensibly for your body and your objectives if you can listen to your bodily indications of when to eat and how much to consume. 

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