How many calories do I need to – maintain my weight, lose weight or gain weight?
That’s a good question and one over which there is much debate. How many calories are needed and how can anybody know how many calories they need for a specific weight goal? There is a formula to determine how many calories you need. Likewise there are ways to estimate how many calories you’re burning at rest and through various activities.
How important is calorie precision?
I’m going to say that while it’s a mistake to ignore calories, precision doesn’t really matter. There are studies that indicate young children eat instinctively to meet their caloric needs. Susan L. Johnson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor, and the Director, The Children’s Eating Laboratory at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research clearly shows that children ages 18 months to 5 years, when left to their own instincts, eat in perfect caloric balance. They stop when they’re full. Cleaning their plate is of no interest to them.
As children grow many things influence their early ability to maintain optimal balance. I’m not going to expand on all the things that affect how we recognize, or fail to recognize, satiety. I’m just going to suggest we learn how to get back in sync with our body’s signals. I don’t think that trying to precisely count every calorie is the way to do it.
I can’t tell you how many calories you need.
I can suggest that you try to get most of your calories from high-quality sources. I believe that high-quality sources are mostly whole foods, or in other words, foods most closely resembling their natural state.
That means an orange is better than !00% orange juice, and orange juice is better than orange drink containing 10% real juice, water, sweetener, and artificial colors. Steak is better than “steakums” and steakums are better than lunchmeat. Brown rice is better than white rice and white rice is better than rice cakes.
I think it’s good advice to fill half of your plate with vegetables/fruit, one quarter of your plate with starch and the remaining quarter of your plate with protein. I think it’s a good strategy to eat all of the vegetables on your plate and as much protein and starch as it takes you to feel full. If you leave starch and protein on your plate, that’s okay. A little oil or butter on the vegetables is okay too. Fruit makes a good snack when you need something to hold you over to the next meal.
The only foods you really need to worry about the calories they provide are the ones in packages with calorie information. Enjoy them sparingly.
Last of all, and no less important, try to sit less. Your body systems work better when you’re in an upright position and better still when you’re in motion.
To manage weight and support your health, eat well and move a lot. Try to worry less and that includes worrying about calorie counting precision.