Monday, July 18, 2011

The "Smart" Way to Count Calories

Well, here we are in the middle of summer already. Temps are hot, calendars are busy and swimsuits are everywhere. I hope you are enjoying a healthy summer full of fun!

As we know, weight loss is a numbers game: you have to burn more than you consume in order to lose weight. I mentioned in a previous blog that we tend to underestimate our calorie intake and overestimate our activities. These problems can be greatly reduced if you track them in some fashion. It used to be that the only option was a good old fashioned paper and pencil. Now with internet programs we have so many options at our disposal. If you are one of many with a “Smartphone” then you have the entire world of apps at your fingertips. There are tons of health and fitness apps out there, and many of them are free. The trick is to find the ones that work the best for you.

Let’s talk about calorie intake first. Take a look at your diet and generally determine the types of food you eat and where you eat them. Do you tend to grocery shop and make most of your food at home? Do you eat out quite a bit, even if it’s for work? Are there any unique, special foods in your diet that most people don’t typically eat? These all need to be considered when you are selecting a calorie counter app. If you eat out consistently, check to see if the app has those places and the foods you eat, or close substitutions. Apps that provide a place for you to save foods that aren’t in their database are a good idea, especially if you have a particular food regularly.

Next, take a look at your activities. If you are a walker/runner type person, there are specific apps that can tell you the distance of your chosen path. Many companies have apps where they have people demonstrate fitness activities from weightlifting to aerobic-type movements to yoga to, full workouts, to, well, you get the idea. Some of these apps may show you the number of calories, but others may not. For the purposes of calorie counting and balance (hopefully a deficit to lose weight), use the ones that you are most likely to use on a consistent basis.

The most comprehensive apps combine the two elements into one. The user can input their dietary choices via an extensive database, include activities such as exercise and even water intake. Once you input your personal information such as height, weight, desired goals, etc, they can help guide you. The ones used by my clients also show a calorie deficit/surplus for the day. Having all of your calorie information in one place makes it easy to click and input, versus going to several apps and trying to put it all together yourself.

Bottom line, as with many things, is to try a few and see what works best for you and your lifestyle. Make sure whatever app you select is one that you will use to help you reach your goals. It will help you be “smart” about weight loss!