Are Calories Bad?

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What are Calories Anyway?

This is the ‘sciency’ bit – Calories and Kilojoules are all units of energy.


Just to complicate things there are 2 types of calories:

               The large calorie, food calorie, or kilogram calorie was originally defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (or one kelvin). The small calorie or gram calorie was defined as the amount of heat needed to cause the same increase in one gram of water. Thus, 1 large calorie is equal to 1000 small calories. [1]



What on earth are Kilojoules?

Kilojoules are a different way of measuring energy.

             The joule, is the unit of  energy in the International System of Units (SI). It is equal to the amount of  work done when a force of 1 newton displaces a mass through a distance of 1 metre in the direction of the force applied. It is also the energy dissipated as heat when an electric current of one ampere passes through a resistance of one ohm for one second. It is named after the English physicist James Prescott Joule (1818–1889). [2]

So now you know – and yep it doesn’t mean anything to me either.

Small calories are not really used to measure food intake – but depending on where you live you will come across Calories (Kcal) and Kilojoules (Kjoules).

There are approx. 4.28 Kjoules to 1 Kcal. If you need to convert kcal to kjoules, or kilojoules to calories, you will find calculators online. Such as HERE 


Are calories bad for you?

The answer is no – they are just a fact of life.  You expend energy just to live (all your bodily functions etc), and then more energy when you get up from the sofa and move about! We eat food and drink to replenish this energy lost – so that we will have enough for the next day’s energy use.

The problem is that sometimes we take in more energy units than we use up and we store those extra energy units around our body, our waist, our hips, our chin(s) etc,. as fat.

Those extra energy units that are stored as fat can have a negative effect on our health. Excess fats stored in our bodies are considered to contribute to Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Strokes, and many other, often life limiting or life changing illnesses.

We know we need to get rid of these pesky fats – but often don’t know how to.

The opposite is also true. Sometimes we use more energy than we take in. And we begin to lose weight.  Being underweight brings its own health risks – such as brittle bones, tiredness, inability to conceive and a lowered immunity leading to frequent illness.

Am I Overweight?

There are several different ways to calculate if you are overweight.

Body Mass Index – This is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in meters squared. It’s not considered to be very accurate because it takes no account of muscle and fat deposits. A reading at or over 30 means you’re probably obese. A reading at or over 40 means your severely obese. If you are lower than 18.5 you are underweight.

Body Fat Percentage – Your body needs fat. It protects your internal organs and provides a backup food supply. Without this essential fat its possible for your organs to go into failure. Women can get away with a bit more fat because it spreads around the body more evenly. Men tend to store fats around the middle more easily so they can be skinny but still have too much belly fat. Fat stored around the belly is called visceral fat. Visceral fat wraps itself round the internal organs and can cause major health issues. There are body fat calculators online such as HERE But only a body scan can tell with any certainty. You’re unlikely to be offered a body scan by your doctor. And to be honest we usually know if we have too much body fat.

Measuring the Waist – Roughly if a woman has a 35 inch waist or more, and a man more than a 40 inch waist you are likely to have some visceral fat stored in your belly area.

A pair of skinny jeans that you can’t get into is also a good indicator that your weight is on the wrong trajectory

Do an ‘am I overweight quiz’. There are a number of these online such as this one HERE

Lose Weight by Reducing Calories

We have discovered that we put on weight by consuming too many calories (energy units) that have been stored as fat around our body – often in the belly area, where they can cause all sorts of mayhem.

Often the first sign that we have put on weight is the clothes that don’t fit anymore.

The only way to lose these fat stores is to reverse the ‘energy storage program’ that we may have been on for a number of years and then begin to reduce the fine collection of fat that we have already accumulated.

Stats say that when we get to somewhere around 30 or 40 years, we begin to put on weight at the rate of about 1lb – 2lb a year. That’s not very much and some of us have done rather better than that!


Let’s do the Maths

With a weight gain of just 1 lb per year, a person who at 40 weighed 140 lbs (10 stone) * will weigh 154 lbs (11stone) ** at age 54 and 168 lbs (12 stone)*** at age 68.  Weight can begin to decrease or stabilize when you get to 60 years or so. So, getting older has an upside.

The shorter you are the more this is going to notice in the mirror.

If you put on just 2 lbs a year which is still not very much per year you would weigh 168 lbs (12 stone) at 54 and 196 lbs (14 stone)**** at 68.

And so on.

In terms of food intake …

It is considered that there are 3500 calories in 1 lb – so a 1 lb increase over the course of a year works out at an excess food intake per day of only 10 calories

Equivalent to 2 strawberries, or 1 cashew nut, or 1 reduced fat Pringle chip….

If you put on 2 lb a year that’s only equal to 20 calories a day – 4 strawberries etc.

Oh Dear!

Or maybe that weight gain was purely down to the more sedentary lifestyle (less output rather than more input) that often comes with age and the fact that we are probably not running round after small children whilst simultaneously trying to decorate the house.

It’s easily done.


Losing Weight Step 1 – Stop putting it on.

This is the bit that most people don’t consider. To go into reverse you must stop accelerating! So, your initial reduction in calorie input (or increased output) may not appear to be having any effect.

If you’re not putting on weight it’s probably a win. At this point you should be able to calculate roughly what your ‘staying the same weight’ needs are in terms of food and exercise.

OR you can also use a calorie needs calculator to work out how much you should be eating to maintain weight such as this one from the Mayo Clinic HERE

Perhaps you can remember when you weighed less, and how long ago that is.  From this you can work out roughly how many calories you have overconsumed in that period. You will then be able to work out the number of calories you need to adjust in your normal daily diet and exercise routine.  Just to stay at the same weight!

Yes – we need to watch our diet just to stay at the same weight!

Lose Weight Step 2 – Decide on your realistic weight loss aims.

Although there are a lot of factors that affect our weight gain or loss – if you want to lose 1lb per week then you need to eat about 3500 calories fewer than your normal calories per week (that is 500 calories per day)

(plus, the ‘stop putting it on’ amount!).

Or a combination of more exercise and less food.

Losing 1lb a week is quite a fast weight loss regime – at this rate you could in theory lose 52 lbs in a year.  Nearly 4 stone.  But it might be difficult to maintain, and we often slow down our weight loss the more we diet.

Aiming for a weight loss of half a pound a week (1750 calories – or 250 calories a day) would still bring in a nice weight loss of nearly 2 stone in a year and it will be easier to keep it going.

The trick is to build your changes into your lifestyle in a way that you can maintain.

Just change 1 (or maybe 2, or 3) small things and incorporate them into your lifestyle.


Exercise Hacks

For instance: parking a little further away from work and walking for 15 minutes a day (for 5 days) will burn between 1100 and 1800 calories per week.

Take the stairs not the lift/elevator that’s about 15 calories per 20 steps. (More if you are heavy)

Take up a new ‘exercise’ class that doesn’t feel like exercise – singing, dancing, boxing or have bit of fun and try Belly Dancing

Volunteer to help in your community – there are lots of opportunities from gardening to elderly care.

Borrow a dog to walk.

Tidy or decorate a room – you will feel great if your environment improves!

If you are not very mobile do some chair exercises for weight loss.

Food Swaps

Food swaps are a great way to feel full but eat fewer calories, look up the calories in steak vs chicken, apple vs banana, rice vs cauliflower rice find out ways eat in a very similar way but with fewer calories.

Swap out half your pasta for greens when having spaghetti bolognaise.

Find a bag of chips/crisps/biscuits that has fewer calories than your usual snack.

Step away from the cake at your local coffee shop. Starbucks Triple Cookie = 377 calories. But their Milk Chocolate Gold Coin ‘only’ has 201 calories – a saving of 176 calories. Or take a couple of squares of chocolate from home.

Use Olive Oil Spray for frying instead of pouring in the olive oil. You could save over a 100 calories per fry up.

Swap your large plate for a smaller plate. You shouldn’t feel totally stuffed and unable to move after a meal. You’ll soon get used to eating slightly less.

Distract yourself when your body starts calling for a ‘nice little snack’ – it will soon forget.

Skip a meal. Partial fasting is known to have numerous health benefits. Check out more HERE.


Remember – you put on weight slowly without even noticing!  You can take it off in the same way.

You’ve got this!


(info details given above are all available via your favourite search engine)

*140 lbs to kg  = 63.5029 kg

**154 lbs to kg = 69.8532 kg

***168 lbs to kg = 76.2035

****196 lbs to kg = 88.9041


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[1]   Accessed 28/10/22

[2]  Accessed 28/10/22



Calorie counting is a very successful way to lose weight but it can have its drawbacks. If you feel that you are becoming too obsessive about your calories, or if you mental health is being affected by this method of weight loss please stop counting calories and see a health advisor. There are many other ways to lose weight if you need to, without counting calories.


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