How would you react if you come to know that the process of breathing is burning most of the calories that you eat? Surprised right? But that is the truth. Whatever you eat is the essential component of each and every process that is carried in your body. These processes when they burn the food = calories = energy consumed are collectively called Metabolism.  

Some people burn more calories because their metabolism is high that essentially means that their bodily functions including breathing need more energy and hence to just maintain the day to day activities they need more food than others. Some people tend to burn fewer calories depending on their body structure and other factors so, they need to consume less food as compared to others. 

So when a petite girl is having that sugar-loaded pastry and will still be able to eat a full-fledged meal in a couple of hours, it is due to her metabolism and her naturally high energy requirements. The question is how do you know the number of calories to be consumed. And is it worth counting calories when food is such a complex subject?  

How to Calculate Calories?

Well, it totally depends on that particular day and your energy expenditure. If you are sedentary throughout the day you may consume fewer calories and if you have been running around, you may need that extra slice of bread just to keep afloat. The number of calories you should consume is dependent on the Total Daily Energy Expenditure ( TDEE).

What is TDEE?

Total daily energy expenditure is the number of calories you spend throughout the day excluding your exercise and other bodily functions. 

Here is a quick link where you can calculate your TDEE.

https://tdeecalculator.net/

When I enter my information my TDEE comes to be 1700 calories per day with moderate exercise and 1500 without any exercise which is quite decent. Be very specific when you are feeding in the job information. I am a writer, my job involves many hours of sitting. I have chosen sedentary as my job information..

How do I know how much I eat?

Now, you have a blueprint available with your TDEE requirement, let us say you need to consume 1700 calories. The next step is to identify the calorie count of the food that you eat on the daily basis. Well, it is not that complicated when you are used to it. At first, you will be surprised to see how much we eat unknowingly. 

An app that would handhold you through the calorie counting process is

My fitness pal: I am yet to find an app as accurate as this. I have been using my fitness pal for the last 8-9 years and it is worth it. You can use it for free but if you want to track in detail, you can have a paid subscription. 

It will also break down your Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat intake based on your TDEE. You can decide your macronutrient intake as per the requirement. Indian diet is high on carbs so my macros are usually 150g of Carbs, 75 g of Protein, 33 g of fats. You can take the guide to macronutrients from the above TDEE calculator or take a clue from My Fitness Pal. 

How To Count Calories without an app?

The app may or may not be available all the time. Eyeballing may create a major issue in terms of calorie intake. Calorie counting should be done when you want results and check whether it is something else like hormonal imbalance that is a cause of weight loss plateau/ inch loss plateau or no progress. 

Once you start logging in your food in MFP ( myfitnesspal) you will be able to remember the number of calories that a whole wheat bread slice or a cup of rice has. This is a good starting point. 

It looks very tedious, can I not count calories and still eat within my calorie limit?

The answer is yes. 

As per healthline.com you can just eyeball your portions like below.

  • 1 serving of rice or pasta (1/2 a cup): a computer mouse or rounded handful.
  • 1 serving of meat (3 oz): a deck of cards.
  • 1 serving of fish (3 oz): a checkbook.
  • 1 serving of cheese (1.5 oz): a lipstick or the size of your thumb.
  • 1 serving of fresh fruit (1/2 cup): a tennis ball.
  • 1 serving of green leafy vegetables (1 cup): a baseball.
  • 1 serving of vegetables (1/2 a cup): a computer mouse.
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil: 1 fingertip.
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: a ping pong ball.

But again, it takes a lot of practice and a lot of mindful eating to come to terms with the portion of food that you should be having. 

If you consume more calories than required on a regular basis then it is quite evident that you will put on weight, but that is just one factor besides hormones and your activity level. 

So better late than never, just be mindful of what you eat and think twice before taking that extra serving, you may altogether not require it.