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Counting Calories

Posted by on March 13th, 2013 with 0 Comments

The advice couldn’t simpler or clearer, “If you want to lose weight, burn more calories than you eat”.
So, all you have to do is figure out how many calories that you’re eating and then subtract the calories that you’re burning.

That’s all…

“The trouble with measurement is its seeming simplicity.”
– Unknown

If you’ve ever tried to do this, you know how difficult it actually is.

To calculate how many calories you’re taking in, you need to:

  • Correctly identify your food/drink
  • Look up the calorie content of that food/drink
  • Measure/estimate the portion size of your food/drink
  • Multiply your portion by the portion size of your calorie reference
  • Note that total calorie figure
  • Estimate (or ignore) the calorie differences for any variations between your food and the food you referenced – for instance, did you add mayonnaise? Or leave two bites of your sandwich?
  • Repeat for all the food you eat in that meal or snack
  • Repeat for all other meals or snacks you eat in a day
  • Total all your intake for the day

And that will give you half of the equation.

To accurately calculate how many calories you’re burning, you need to:

  • Calculate your ‘metabolic burn rate’ when you’re doing nothing
  • Identify any activities you did during the day – running, weight lifting, swimming, sex, etc…
  • Track how much time you spent doing each activity
  • Track the level of intensity with which you did each activity – including variations
  • Look up the number of calories that each activity burns at each level of intensity
  • Multiply the caloric burn rate times the time spent in each activity – factoring in intensity, of course
  • Add up all your activities from the day
  • Add in your ‘non-active metabolic burn rate’ for periods were you did nothing

Subtract this number from the calories you ate and you’ll know how you’re doing.

Clearly this is all getting easier with the use of technology. Tools like pedometers, smart phones, and heart-rate monitors help you track your caloric burn. Applications are making it easier to look up foods and track your intake of calories.

That said, counting calories is much easier said than done. And we haven’t even addressed the question of whether calories are even a useful metric for health.

My point is this: Measurement should enable, not disable.
If counting calories can be this difficult, imaging measuring quality, customer satisfaction, or engagement.

Think about what your measurement initiatives might be doing to productivity.

  • Is measurement causing confusion?
  • Is measurement costing too much?
  • Is measurement causing paralysis?

If so, reconsider your metrics.

SMART as Hell Exercise

  1. List: your key measurements.
  2. Ask: is this measurement causing confusion?
  3. Ask: is this measurement costing too much?
  4. Ask: is this measurement causing paralysis?
  5. Reconsider: your metrics
  6. Act: on new metrics.

Share your questions, thoughts, and comments below.

 

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