If it’s true that diet is the #1 most important consideration in losing weight and inches, then it follows that what you eat—and how much of it—is vital to reaching your goals. These days, there are a number of apps and programs to keep track of your food intake, so the question is: Should you be counting calories to reach your weight-loss goal?

How Calories Play into Weight Loss

Calories are fuel for the human body. You need to ingest a certain amount of calories daily in order to function. And by functioning, that means everything from breathing to working out. Your body burns calories when it’s resting, so skipping meals can send you into starvation mode. It’s important to know how many calories you need as a starting base so you can tweak them based on your goal.

Your BMR, or base metabolic rate, is how you determine the minimal amount of calories your unique body needs. The Mifflin St. Jeor equation is used to determine your BMR, and it’s different for men and women. It looks like this:

For men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
For women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years)– 161

In addition to the base requirement to fuel your body, you also need to determine how many calories you burn when you workout, your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). If you want to lose weight, you should aim to eat roughly 90% of your TDEE.

Remember that any calculation done at home is going to be an estimate, and if you want a hard-and-fast number, you should go to a lab to measure the oxygen you’re breathing in versus the carbon dioxide you’re breathing out to determine your metabolism rate.

Factors that Affect BMR

While BMR is a good base, there are other components to consider. Perhaps the most important is that nearly everyone has a BMR of 1,200 or higher. That means that you should be eating at least 1,200 calories each day.

Another important consideration is that muscle requires more calories to regenerate that tissue. When you lift weights, you are essentially breaking down the muscle during the exercise, and your body rebuilds it when you rest. Calories are needed to fuel that rebuilding process. That means the number on the scale may increase as you progress along your weight-loss journey—and that’s usually a good thing, as long as you’re seeing progress in how you look and feel.

All Calories Are Not Equal

So you know that counting calories is important, but does that mean you can eat anything as long as you’re reaching your minimal goal of 1,200+ calories a day? Experts decidedly say no.

Counting calories can lead you to stress about how much you’re eating, and the truth is that you could be off in your calculations. Instead of measuring, weighing, and worrying, most nutritionists suggest that you focus on what you’re eating. That means a diet of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy. A piece of chocolate cake will not have the same nutritional benefits as a steak dinner, even if they did happen to have the same number of calories. Most of the time, quantity is not as important as quality. And it’s a plus that whole foods tend to make us feel fuller and more satisfied.

When Diet Isn’t Enough

Suppose you are watching your calories, eating a healthy balanced diet, and working out regularly, but you’re still not meeting your weight-loss goals. You may have reached a weight-loss plateau, which is more than a little frustrating. Jumpstarting your efforts may be effective, but it might leave you just as stuck as you are now.

Thankfully, there is a solution: CoolSculpting.

This FDA-cleared, noninvasive procedure freezes the fat in specific areas so you can see results faster. And if you’re already watching your diet and exercising regularly, you will end up with permanent results that help you feel better about yourself and look amazing.

So stop worrying about numbers so much and focus on how you feel. Bodify has helped thousands of clients, and we can help you too. Check out our before-and-after photos to see some of our success stories. Before you know it, you could be creating your own “after” look!