Calories are getting a lot of attention these days with all the talk about counting calories, calorie deficit, and reading calories on nutrition labels. Everyone seems to be joining in a combined idea (and rightfully so) that weight loss is a battle of calories in vs. calories burned. Personal trainers, weight loss coaches, and dietitians are all stressing the importance of burning calories and expending energy. Even Coca Cola, with all it’s sugary, high-calorie drink options is running new ads talking about losing weight by burning more calories than you consume.

With all the attention and talk about calories, have you ever stopped to think, “What is a calorie?” Is it something you can hold in your hand? Is it natural or man-made? Why is it so important to weight loss?

The dictionary will tell you that a calorie is:

  1. Either of two units of heat energy
  2. The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 degree Celsius

 In other words, a calorie = 4.18400 joules. It’s basically a unit of energy, and more specifically heat energy.

When you exercise you are using energy. You are either going to get that energy from food you ate earlier in the day or pre-workout, or you are going to get that energy from stored adipose tissue (fat). If you overeat and do little to no exercise, the excess calories from fat, carbs, and protein are going to stick around in places you don’t want. This is why exercise is so important. Calories are the fuel for your workouts. They are not bad things, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Fats have more calories than carbohydrates or proteins.

Calories can’t be held in your hand. They are completely natural sources of energy. You will never be able to avoid calories. You do have control over how many of them enter your body. Take control of your diet and exercise. Monitor your calorie intake against your calorie output on a daily basis, especially if you struggle with weight management. Weight loss doesn’t have to be as hard as many make it out to be. Don’t dread exercise, just feel freedom in the truth that you can lose weight and still enjoy the foods you like if you control your portions and the amount of calories in your food choices. Calories are everything in regards to weight loss. Use the energy from the food you eat wisely and live a happier, healthier life.