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A simple guide to understanding calories and weight loss

weight loss

There are two camps when it comes to the issue of calories and fitness: those who count calories and those who do not.

By basic definition, a calorie is a measure of the amount of energy in food. For us to be able to walk, talk, work, think and for all bodily functions such as digestion, heartbeat, circulation among others, requires energy. This energy basically comes from food. If we eat more than our body is using in energy to perform whatever function, then this extra energy/food is stored. Storage over time occurs in the form of fat. This is when we gain weight. If the contrary occurs and our bodies use more energy that is being fed into it, then we lose weight.

Simple facts on how you gain / lose weight:

I know you see the numbers but relax, breathe easy, it’s super simple to understand.

  • Calories can be measured
  • In one Kilogram of fat, there are 7,700 calories. Therefore if you want to lose 1kg, your body needs to lose /use 7,700 calories
  • At rest, your body uses 2000 calories (about 2500 cal for men) per day. What this means is if you seat on a couch all day and do nothing, your body uses 2,000 calories on its own for things like heartbeat, circulation, brain power, etc, as all these require energy
  • If you eat more than 2000 calories per day therefore, the excess is eventually stored as fat. Therefore if you eat 3,000 calories worth of food in a day, your body has an excess of 1,000 calories
  • If you have an excess of 1,000 calories for 7 days (1,000 x 7) then you will have an excess of 7,000 calories in your body at the end of the week which equates to just under 1kg of fat
  • If you eat only 1,500 calories a day for 7 days then you will have a deficit of 500 calories a day. Multiplied by 7 this equates to a 3,500 calorie deficit in a week which is about 1 pound of fat lost
  • If you eat 1,500 calories a day and work out every day and use 500 calories in the gym then you create a 1,000 calorie deficit per day. In one week, that’s a 7,000 calorie deficit i.e just less than 1 kg lost
  • If you eat 2000 calories a day, then you simply maintain your weight.

See? It’s that simple.

How then do you keep track of the calories you eat? You count your calories. Now I know this sounds like a lot of work. It is, at first. At the beginning of a fat loss/weight loss journey, take the time to know your calories. Depending on how much you want to lose say, per week, calculate your food deficit per day. I personally don’t count calories too often because after a while of counting them, I kind of got to know how many calories are on an estimated plate of food. However, I do know a lot of people who still count calories when they are trying to lose weight. Sometimes I still count them too!

How to count calories:

  • Use a pen and paper – log in line by line each thing you eat e.g 2 eggs, 2 tbspoon cooking oil, 2 slices of bread, sugar in coffee etc and indicate the calories for each item. You can get the calories for any food online. Google is your friend.
  • Download an app that does it for you for example, myfitnespal. I’ve used this app many times and it works really well. All you have to do is search for a food item e.g, banana, pick the quantity and the calories are already pre calculated.

To begin with I would say that for one week before you change your eating habits, start to count your calories either manually or by using an app. See where your excess calories are and start to change from there.

It also helps to be continuously encouraged and I personally do this by watching tones of You Tube videos on people who are on weight loss journeys. You could get so many tips from them and this keeps you propelled toward your goal.


A basic list of calories in many of our staples:

Food Item Calorie Count
1 slice of bread (white) 100
1 cup of white rice cooked 242
1 apple 90
1 banana 109
1 cup kidney beans cooked 110
1 chapati –pan cooked/fried (100g) 240
1 cup of beef stew cooked 160
1 chicken breast raw (100g) 110
1 cups of spinach steamed 41
1 fillet of tilapia grilled (100g) 100
1 cup of cabbage steamed 13
1 egg 67
1egg white 17
1 egg yolk 50
1tbsp sunflower oil 120

Remember, if counting calories is not your thing, that’s fine. However, as a start it’s good to know which foods have high calories and which ones have lower calories plus high nutrition. After that, you can wing it.

It’s good to note as well that you can NEVER out exercise a bad diet. Weight loss is 80% dependant on nutrition and 20% on fitness.

In the end, the basic math to weight loss is the calories you eat need to be less than the calories you burn.

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or fitness professional. This is an article based on personal experience and research based on my own weight loss journey. I am currently still on this journey.

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