Boston University Sargent Choice Nutrition Center

Calories: our love/hate relationship

The poor, misunderstood calorie. We love devouring them by the hundreds in fast food and hot fudge sundaes. We hate the way they turn into extra pounds and inches around our waists. Mostly, we think of them as the enemies of good resolutions and healthy diets.

But a calorie isn’t good or bad, delicious or vicious. It’s simply a unit of energy. Even total couch potatoes need energy every day for their body cells and organs to function. Of course, the more active you are, the more energy you need.

So how many calories do you need in a day? It depends on several factors—gender, height, weight and age, as well as physical activity. Many young adults actually underestimate the amount of calories they need each day and don’t consume enough. This can begin the unpleasant cycle of dieting, fighting extreme hunger, feeling deprived, overeating, feeling guilty and starting all over again.

Trusting your body to help you eat the right amount of calories isn’t as hard as you think:

The surprising result: You will be able to eat more satisfying portions, more often. Your nutrition will increase, and your calorie amount will better match your energy needs.