What the Heck is a Calorie Anyway?

What is the mysterious calorie that everyone talks about? Are they something that we really need to be aware of, or worry about when we are trying to develop healthy diet habits? Some people say you should count them, and some people say you do not need to. What is the scoop?

What is a Calorie?
  • The calorie is simply the measurement of energy available to your body, or a measure of energy that your body uses. Our bodies can use the energy that we put into them, or store the energy. If your body runs on 1800 calories, and you put in 2200 calories , you will store; the extra 400 calories to use later. If you eat 1800 calories, and your body needs 2200 calories to run, you will use the extra 400 calories from your stored calories. To lose weight, you must eat less than your body needs to run, or increase the number of calories that your body needs to run by exercising. Each person differs in how their body uses calories, and this is called your metabolism. Some people are very calorie efficient, and do not need as many calories to run, so they gain weight easily. Dieting helps your body to become more efficient and work on less.

  • You must eat 3500 extra calories to gain a pound, or decrease your calorie intake 3500 calories to lose a pound. This is an average number though, and people are all different, but it gives you a way to estimate your daily calorie goal, and compare foods by their calorie amounts. It is easy to see how you are gaining weight if you can compare calories. If you do not understand this, then calories will mean nothing to you.


  • It is extremely difficult to lose weight by counting calories, because the average person is off by 25% to 40% in estimating calories, and it is difficult to measure everything, especially combined foods and large meals. Calorie counts are helpful in your decision making process, when you are choosing between two items, or looking for ways to decrease your calorie level.

  • Purchase a small calorie guide and become familiar with your favorite foods. A good one is The Calorie King guide. It is available at Target. I believe that they have a phone app. also. Read labels very carefully, because advertisers will try to trick you. Statistics on a large cookie might seem okay, but then you see a cookie to be two servings so you would need to double the calories. You must always multiply the calories by the servings, if you are going to eat the entire thing. I have seen the calorie stats where they consider a hotdog, 2 servings. Advertisers are very creative to sell their products.


Knowing the calorie counts of the main foods you love will be helpful in making some Lifestyle Solutions and choices of foods that you want to keep in your life, and help you to develop portion control with the more caloric foods.

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