Let's talk counting calories.
In Australia we use Kilojoules but here I'm using calories, as long as you know which one you are referring too when you embark on this. The average adult is recommended to have about 200 Calories or 8000 Kilojoules per day. Now this will depend on your height, weight, age, genetics, and activity level. this will also change based on what your goal is (weight gain or loss or maintenance).
Why count calories?
First, let me answer what it is not.
It is not a long-term strategy
It's not something to do without some sort of guidance
It's not something to get obsessive about
Counting calories is a great tool to use to see where your nutrition is at. Think of it like doing a budget check. You don't run a budget every day to track your income vs spending, but you may do it if you have a specific goal in mind and need to save up for something. The budget tells you about the behaviours you need to control so you can achieve your goal.
Calorie counting lets you know where your current calorie "spend" sits in relation to your goal. Say your calorie needs are 2000cals and to lose 1/2kg week you may need 1500cals. After counting your calories for a few days, you determine that you are eating on average 2200cals. You now know you need to reduce this buy 700cals.
But you also know what foods add up quickly and what behaviours contribute to these "high spend" type foods.
Counting the calories gives you an idea of two types of food groups. These two groups will depend on your budget, the calorie amount you have to spend.
"Expensive food group"
These are the ones that add up very quickly. It's not that they are bad foods, they are just higher in calories than the other group. They may have both of what we call "good and bad" foods.
Examples: avocado, bread, cheese, nuts and seeds, pasta, sugar, cream, sauces, mayonnaise, banana...
"Cheap food group"
These are the ones that add up very slowly and you can eat a heap of them. Again, it's not that they are all good foods, they are just lower in calories than the other group. They may have both of what we call "good and bad" foods.
Examples: leafy green vegetables, cucumbers, strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, spinach, popcorn, egg, soup...
So, think about it this way.
Your given $1000 and you have to buy stuff from each group. You could buy a few items from the expensive group, but it may take up most of your budget. Buying from the cheap group can allow you to purchase more items. This allows you to buy what you want; you just have to stay within your budget. You will soon learn how to control spending, so you can feel satisfied and gain good nutrition through whole foods.
You'll now know if you buy from the cheap group more often, you're likely to start losing some weight, especially if this is combined with some extra movement or exercise.
If you buy more from the expensive group, you'll likely gain weight and have to move or exercise more.
Counting calories using an app like calorie King Track my weight is a great way to gain a better understanding of what you're consuming in relation to your goal. Tracking your calories will also pinpoint behaviours that may be contributing to you gaining or not losing weight. For example, after dinner non hunger snacking.
Recapping the benefits
Learning more about what foods contain high and low amounts of energy
Recognise behaviours around eating such as non-hunger eating
Reduces portion sizes back to where you may need them. (Eyes can be bigger than the belly)
Pulls your nutrition behaviours back in line. (I can find myself developing the habit of snacking on the peanut butter jar)
Give you information to start making behaviour changes and methodically make changes to lose or gain weight
It's probably important to note that not all calories are the same. For example, 2 500 calorie meals.
doughnuts and coffee with sugar vs scrambled eggs and vegetables on a slice of toast with avocado.
both may be 500 Cals but will obviously have different effects on the body.
Gain assistance if embarking on this to ensure you can achieve your goals in a healthy manner.
Eat whole foods as much as possible
This is not a long-term thing but set a time frame to learn from it so you can instal behaviours to improve your health