Don’t Just Watch What You Eat, Write It Down

Don’t Just Watch What You Eat, Write It Down

Tracking your calorie intake can be a good way to lose weight, but it can be a tricky process. Three steps to calorie enlightenment.

Published May 31, 2011

Tracking your calorie intake can be a good way to lose weight, but it can be a tricky process. The basic formula to dropping pounds is to take in fewer calories than you burn, but first you’ll need to know how many you should be eating in the first place.


Step 1: Figure Out How Many Calories You Should Eat. Your magic number, also known as your base metabolic rate (BMR), depends on your gender, age, height, weight, and how active you are. This is the bare minimum amount of calories that your body needs just to stay alive. To calculate you BMR, women should multiply their weight by 10. Men should multiply by 11.


To determine your total daily calorie requirement, multiply your BMR by your level of activity:
—If you rarely exercise, multiply your BMR by 1.2.

—If you exercise one to three days per week, doing light activity, multiply your BMR by 1.375.

—If you exercise three to five days per week, doing moderate activity, multiply your BMR by 1.55.

—If you exercise six to seven days per week, doing vigorous activity, multiply your BMR by 1.725.

—If you exercise every day and have a physical job or if you often exercise twice a day, multiply your BMR by 1.9.


You may choose to burn or cut 500 calories per day from your diet if you’d like to lose one pound per week.


Step 2: Count How Many Calories You Actually Eat and Burn. Take a week or two to add up the amount of calories you eat on a daily basis. Websites like and are good places to start.  Once you’ve got an idea of what you’re eating you’ll know where you’ll need to cut back. Exercise is the best way to create a calorie deficit. You can use an exercise calculator to see how much a particular activity burns.


Step 3: Pay Attention To Your Portions. Maybe you don’t want to take the time to count calories; there are still a few small changes that you can incorporate everyday to limit your intake, minus the math. Use these tips to help you figure out what a healthy portion is:


—Imagine a tennis ball. Most of the time with foods like pasta, yogurt, or cereal a tennis ball equals one cup of food, which is often the recommended portion.


—Never eat from the container. Take out a serving of food for yourself and put the rest away before you start to eat.  It’s easy to overeat without even realizing it, don’t fall into this trap.


—Eat from a smaller plate. Putting your food on a side plate rather than a dinner plate can trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more food than you really are.


(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty)


Written by Brandi Tape


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