As I repeatedly say on this blog, calorie and macronutrient counting is the single most effective strategy for losing fat. Other strategies can work – and might even be better in some cases – but they ultimately work by creating a calorie deficit one way or another. You can intuitively understand that actually counting calories is going to be the best way to get as close to “guaranteeing” fat loss as you can realistically get.
If someone asks me if calorie and macro counting is going to be the appropriate (read: most effective) fat loss strategy for them, my default answer is yes, it most likely will be – a common problem with weight management is that people are largely unaware of just how many calories they’re actually consuming. Fortunately this common problem has a pretty straightforward solution, much like setting a budget is a fairly straightforward solution to solving a money problem.
The obvious downside of calorie counting, though, (and there’s always a downside of any strategy) is that it’s unavoidable extra work, the degree of which can become rather significant and perhaps seemingly unfeasible depending on how meticulous you try to be. There’s definitely a sort of art to the balance – you want to be accurate enough to actually progress, yet you don’t want the work of prepping and eating food to become utterly neurotic and exhaustive.
A central question that pertains to this balance is whether or not you should actually weigh out your food with a kitchen scale. To the uninitiated, the idea of weighing the food you eat often seems over the top and obsessive. Yet as people get some experience with counting, they begin to feel that using the kitchen scale becomes necessary.
So, should you weigh your food or not? Here’s a preliminary list-summary of my answer to this question, in table of contents form below. You can click each link to navigate to the section of this post where I expound each general point:
Clickable Table of Contents by Section
- Kitchen scales are generally useful tools to have, and they cost like 20 bucks or less – you might as well have one on hand
- Eyeballing portions can lead to enough inaccuracy to stall fat loss, and you might need a kitchen scale to bridge these discrepancies
- Kitchen scales can actually make measuring/counting easier and faster in some cases
- A kitchen scale is ultimately a set of training wheels for calorie counting – you might need to use it initially, but eventually most people only need to use it sparingly
- Obsessive and neurotic behavior is always highly subjective when it comes to dieting
Kitchen scales are generally useful tools to have, and they cost like 20 bucks or less – you might as well have one on hand
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, especially considering, as I’ll explain shortly, that weighing things can actually make measuring and counting easier and faster from time to time.
I bought and like this Ozeri scale, which sells on Amazon for around 15 bucks:
Eyeballing portions can lead to enough inaccuracy to stall fat loss, and you might need a kitchen scale to bridge these discrepancies
Most people who start calorie counting don’t actually have enough formal cooking experience to accurately measure out portions by eye. I really like this Instagram post by Ben Carpenter which really emphasizes how inaccurate eyeballing can lead to wildly different calorie counts, enough so to completely negate a deficit in some cases:
I see this done so many times, and I made the same mistake too at one point: You think that heaping glob of peanut butter or whatever else is one tablespoon, when in reality it’s more like 2-3. These seemingly minor discrepancies can quickly add up to a few hundred calories per day or more. Next thing you know you’re not actually eating at a deficit, then you’re wondering why the calorie counting “isn’t working.”
Solution: weigh it out, and remove all doubt from the matter.
Kitchen scales can actually make measuring/counting easier and faster in some cases
Going back to our peanut butter example, you might find that scooping out a level tablespoon is a pain. This is an example of when a kitchen scale can actually make doing this much easier and faster: You can simply tare the entire jar then remove the correct portion, like so:
Just scoop out the right amount onto your spreading apparatus, and you’re good to go. Not to mention you don’t have to clean peanut butter off of a measuring spoon
A kitchen scale is ultimately a set of training wheels for calorie counting – you might need to use it initially, but eventually most people only need to use it sparingly
One of the major skills that calorie counting develops is the ability to accurately quantify the appropriate amount of food intake – this is something that’s becoming increasingly important to do, as modern fare is insidiously loaded with excess calories.
When starting out, it’s prudent to use the scale whenever you’re not sure about something. As you gain experience though, you’ll start to be able to eyeball stuff with sufficient accuracy more and more. This is especially true if you tend to eat the same stuff over and over again, which most people do. For example, what does 300 cals of cereal look like? Hard to say, so you might consider just weighing it out, and it might look something like this:
But after you’ve measured it once with a kitchen scale, and you perhaps always eat your favorite cereal out of the same bowl, now you know exactly what it looks like visually, and you can just eyeball it from then on out.
Obsessive and neurotic behavior is always highly subjective when it comes to dieting
Said again, the common initial objection to weighing your food, even just some of the time, is that it seems neurotic and obsessive.
Well, it might be – people can certainly get way too meticulous about it, perhaps not eating anything that they can’t weigh out, or bringing their kitchen scale to a restaurant (that’s insane by the way, don’t do that).
OR, it might actually be far less obsessive to just definitively measure out what you’ll eat today and settle the issue, as compared to many other health-conscious people who perpetually agonize over every little thing they eat each day, constantly questioning if this or that is permissible or not. Indeed, a great and highly underrated benefit of calorie counting is that it removes decision fatigue, which is something that insidiously exhausts many health-conscious individuals.
So, in conclusion, to summarize:
- Yes, using a kitchen scale to weigh and measure portions is sometimes necessary to make calorie and macro counting sufficiently accurate, especially for those who are starting out.
- No, you don’t have to weigh everything, all the time. You should eventually only have to use the scale on occasion once you get enough experience with counting.
- Somewhat counterintuitive, kitchen scales can actually make measuring easier and faster in some cases.
- A kitchen scale is a generally useful appliance to have anyhow, and they cost less than 20 bucks, so you might as well get one.
- Judiciously counting and weighing your food can completely remove decision fatigue and honestly make dieting far less stressful in many cases.
Bowl of Cereal – public domain