Should You Be Counting Calories?

Should You Be Counting Calories?

If you have ever looked into weight loss, you have seen calorie reduction tips. On every food package you will find “calories” at the top of the nutrition fact label. Often, restaurants are also printing this key word and an accompanying number next to each of their menu items. What is all the fuss about? Also known as a kilocalorie, a calorie is the energy value of a specific food. The calorie is an important part of our every day life, with type 2 diabetes or not.

When you were diagnosed, your physician may have encouraged you to decrease your calorie intake to promote weight loss and help better control your diabetes. Many people are placed on a 1500-1800 calorie diet, and feel that sitting down with a dietitian to go through the diet step-by-step is a good introduction to making these life changes. If you have not yet done so, consider asking your physician for a referral, or make that appointment he or she encouraged at your first visit. It may seem that 1500-1800 daily calories will not be enough for you. There are many factors that go in to calculating your daily needs.

How to calculate daily caloric needs?


Activity level

The more you move, the more calories you need. If you have a sedentary job (think sitting in an office at a computer all day) your activity level will not be very high. Of course, there are ways to increase your activity. Consider taking walks around the office at break time, whether inside or outside. As for days off of work, you could try walking or biking to your usual errand spots. One of my favorite things to do is pick up the kids from school on foot.


Body composition is one of the many ways men and women are different. Men usually have more muscle mass than women and therefore need more calories. That being said, many men get used to eating a robust diet due to high energy needs during high school or college sports and then when the team events stop, they continue to eat the way the used to, leading to more stored body fat with less time to burn it.


Although you have no control over this factor, the taller you are, the more calories your body needs to do regular activities of daily living.

Counting calories can be a difficult task, especially when added to the carbohydrate counting and blood sugar checks you are already doing. Don’t stress! Instead, you could learn the calorie levels of your most consumed foods such as favorite bread, cereal, yogurt or fruits and vegetables and try to stay aware of the portion size and your intake throughout your day.

Portion control is also key to finding the right calorie level. Remember meat portions are the size and thickness of the palm of your hand, cheese portions are the size of your thumb, and salad should be the size of your two fists next to each other. If you are struggling with weight loss, have questions regarding your individual needs or need extra support, contact your physician and/or dietitian.

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