While calorie counting may not be novel or sexy, it is one of the most effective and traditional forms of holistic weight loss.
The foundation of the CICO weight loss program is that the calories you consume (calories in) should equal the calories you expend (calories out) for each day.
If your goal is to maintain a healthy weight, you should strive to maintain this equilibrium. If you are seeking to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories each day than you consume.
As you embark on a CICO program, you will want to figure out a rough baseline for your caloric needs.
Your personal caloric needs will vary based on your metabolism and activity level. A popular rule of thumb is that adult men need approximately 2,000 calories per day, and 1,800 per day for adult women. Once you begin tracking your calorie intake and weight loss, you should get a sense of your own daily caloric needs. There are numerous online resources for calculating your own caloric needs.
High energy activities, such as strength training or aerobics, burn many calories. However, your daily calorie use will be increased by any physical activity, including manual labor and walking. If you are currently a healthy weight, this allows you to indulge in a few extra calories during the day. However, if you are seeking to lose weight, you will want to burn more calories each day than you consume. This causes your body to use stored fat for energy, generally resulting in the loss of weight.
Tracking calories consumed can be tricky.
If you eat processed foods, calorie counts are posted on the packaging. Many larger restaurants, including chains, post calories on the menu or online. While this makes it easier to count your calories, it may not be the best strategy for weight loss. Many processed foods are high in calories, and are often low in nutritional value.
Whole foods cooked at home are typically lower in calories, and higher in nutrients, than processed foods. However, it can be much harder to determine the amount of calories you are consuming. There are online resources that can provide you with rough calorie counts for common foods, such as here. These values may not be entirely accurate due to inherent variances in food products (for example, one chicken breast may have more skin or fat than another). You should not focus too much on these differences.
The CICO weight loss program, while presented in a mathematical form, is not a precise exercise.
There will be a natural variance in your daily calorie expenditures based on your activity level, and variations in your metabolic rate beyond your control. This is not to say that the entire exercise is futile, but rather to remind you that it is a rough guide. The homemade, nutrient rich foods you can make at home will help you maintain a healthy weight better than those that provide convenient calorie counts.