Always Overestimate the Amount of Calories in Food
This is the biggest tip I give to people starting to count calories.
I’ve been coaching/advising a couple of folks locally on counting calories and losing weight. They’re all achieving quite a bit of success by counting calories, eating junk food in moderation, and going to the gym. The biggest thing they’ve realized though, something that I advised them of early, is to overestimate the amount of calories found in food.
Nutritional labels and portion sizes
Your typical cereal is like 110 calories per serving. That’s awesome, right? Well, turn around that cereal box and you’ll realize that it’s 110 calories — per serving, which is about 3/4 a cup. That’s not a lot. So, some people just pour all the cereal they’d like into their bowl, then top it off with about a cup or two of milk.
It’s easy for a supposed “110 calories” go to 500+ calories in just one bowl of cereal. When eating at home, it’s always good to measure everything out exactly when you’re first starting out counting calories. Take an actual 3/4 a cup and use it to scoop your cereal out of the box. Do the same for milk, as well, just so you have the exact amount of calories.
Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll be able to eyeball portion sizes and you won’t need to measure everything out (I don’t anymore). Just be sure to overestimate — if you think you’re eating 360 calories worth of cereal, consider it 380 or even 400.
There isn’t that much of a need to overestimate calories at home, but it’s still worth it.
Eating food prepared by somebody else (restaurants, friend’s house, party, etc)
While the need isn’t great at home, you definitely need to overestimate the amount of calories in the food prepared by somebody else. I don’t care what the nutritional info says on Red Lobster’s website, MyFitnessPal, etc, while accurate, if you eat the entire portion of a meal you’re probably going to be eating more calories than what is listed.
After all, why would a restaurant claim that their food has more calories than it really does? They don’t, and you can rest assured that the calorie count isn’t exactly the number listed. Ultimately, every restaurant in the world has some statement along the lines of “Due to deviations in preparation, nutritional information may be different.” If the cook put more butter on your food, gave you extra fries, added more chicken or sour cream in your burrito, you’ll be eating more calories than claimed.
Sometimes, just a little bit more. Sometimes, 10% or even 20% more calories.
At the end of the day, you’d rather overestimate the amount of calories being eaten as opposed to the opposite — undercounting — which will slow your weight loss. If you have a couple hundred less calories every other day because you’re overestimating that’s fine, but if you have a few hundred more that can slow your weight loss.
That’ll lead to frustration and being discouraged, and that often leads to failure.