Tracking your Calories through Tech

At an unprecedented rate, the advances and novelties in technology have inundated the market. Just when you thought you bought the latest model or upgraded your software, it’s already out of date.

While the above may be linked to household goods, such as your phone or tablet, the world of nutrition specialists and dietary experts use these all-day. Everyday numerous platforms are flung across the internet and show that they, too, can make your life easier.

Part of this lies in one of the ‘proven’ methods that is driving the weight loss market – calorie counting. Getting a deficit in caloric intake equals losing weight. But how many calories a person is approximately consuming within any time window isn’t easy. 

We can look at food labels on packages, we can use apps such as My Fitness Pal or Chronometer as reference tools to keep track. Always with us, they can indeed give us an indication how much we put in our body. Tracking what you consume to align with what your ultimate goal is. 

But are they accurate? Are these apps a tool to precisely track your caloric intake?

Most of these apps are based on the size of food X, the weight of meal Y and the amount of ingredient Z added to your gastronomic feast. To get a more accurate measure, you must be certain your “spaghetti carbonara” weighs 200 grammes and the ingredients match with how this app defines its version of “spaghetti carbonara”.

In almost all these read-outs, the calories shown are hardly correct.

With differences up to 30% and more!

In addition, we are humans. We tend to forget. Quickly eating a banana before going to work, and darn, we did not add this into our app. Research has shown that we are notoriously bad at estimating our food intake. Various studies have proven that those keeping track of their calories regularly miscalculates this by up to 1000 calories.

The mental aspect is another thing that does not always favour to one’s advantage. The obsession of getting up to our target caloric intake has proven to work counter-productive and leaving clients either under or overeating, ignoring their physical hunger cues.

Exact calorie counting can only be done in laboratories. The investments made by universities and research centres in performing highly calorimetric studies are immense. By using pressurized chambers, serving volunteers carefully measured meals, and adding patches and scans to the process to get the most accurate results are the name of the game here. 

I am not saying that these apps are bad. They can be good indicators of how many calories you take in, how your macronutrient split is, and whether you may be on the right track. I mainly use Cronometer of how many calories there are in certain types of food.

But all these measures are based on averages and not on the individual you are. 

Suggest using these apps with caution and when you have your nutritional standards under control. Your own body and mindset is the best app when knowing what to search for when replenishing yourself.

Once you have to start counting calories, it takes away from the joy of eating | Michelle Guiliano

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