Stop being so anal about your calorie goal

It is an estimate and should be treated as such.

Why?

Because..

Your expenditure will vary day to day

And

Your intake will vary day to day.

That means to maintain the exact same energy deficit day to day you would have to change your calories daily based on any changes in behaviour.. not only would this be insanely anal and unnecessary but we simply do not have the technology to do so accurately.

The importance of your specific calorie goal should not be over emphasised. If you need proof of this concept look at all the diets that work that don’t involve counting calories..  low carb, low fat, 5:2.

You do not NEED to count calories. Doing so is a sensible approach especially initially to gauge how much you should eat or if/when your fat loss stalls.

I do feel many of us have become too analytical and caught up on the numbers. There are so many chances for errors to creep in that worrying about precise calorie intake or expenditure and religiously following that is senseless.

Let’s have a look at where errors creep in..

– Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is an educated guess.
TDEE is calculated using an equation based on your current weight and activity levels. So in terms of accuracy we are already off to a bad start at the first hurdle.

– Your fitbit/Activity tracker is not accurate so if you are using it under the illusion you are tracking your expenditure precisely, well, I am afraid you’re not.
That’s not to say it is not extremely useful for increasing activity levels and staying accountable to how much you do (or don’t) move.

– Myfitnesspal is not accurate.. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
Portion sizes vary.. one chicken breast is not always the same size. Even if you are weighing foods there are inaccuracies. Not to mention the fact MFP is an open resource and anyone can put in nutritional info.

– Restaurant calorie info is inexact.
Again, portion sizes vary, cooking methods vary, fat added varies.  Restaurants aim to make tasty food..they don’t care much about calories.

Your day to day activity levels vary.

Decide to take the lift instead of the stairs? There’s 20 less calories used. Helped an old lady up the steep hill to her house with 5 bags of shopping? There’s 50 more calories burned. Boiler broken and you’re sitting in the cold all day? An extra 80 calories keeping warm.

  • Some Advise:

    If weight loss is the goal focus on being in a net deficit by the end of the week and not obsessing over 20 calories here and there.

    Having a calorie target is useful but there is no need to obsess over it to the exact calories..

    If weight loss is your goal always err on the side of lower calories and if weight gain is your goal always err on the side of more calories.

  • Make sure the size of your deficit relates to your goal. E.g. if 1lb a week fat loss is a good goal for you (this will depend on the amount of fat you have to lose and any time restraint) then you will want to aim for a deficit of 3,500 calories a week (1lb of fat = 3,500 calories).

    *Note: weight loss is not linear and the scales will sometimes mask weight loss.

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