In my opinion and experience, calories always count. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less than you burn, it's that simple. Advice to eat more food in order to lose more weight makes absolutely no sense to me.
The trick is how to decrease your calorie intake while still being nourished and not being hungry all the time, which is where the Paleo diet fits the bill for me. It naturally decreases my appetite and makes it easy (unavoidable really) to lose weight. According to FitDay, when I was first losing weight, I was eating as little as 1000-1200 calories per day most days and not really feeling hungry. I am 6'1" and various estimates of my "baseline" calorie burn are in the 2200-2700 range (though I think that is high). During this time I lost about 15 pounds and went down 4 notches on my belt. It's pretty clear that I was burning fat during this time.
I have tried losing weight on other diets, and I am constantly hungry, even when I reach my target weight, and have always eventually fallen off the wagon. With the Paleo diet, I am very comfortable with my appetite after losing 20 pounds, and am looking to lose some more.
For me, they count no matter what I eat.
I have religiously counted my food for the last 7 years during a 100+lb weight loss. I changed up just about everything during various plateaus and have found that I gain weight if I sustain a diet of 1400 calories for more than one week. It can be zero carb, low carb, low fat, high fat, vegetarian or high protein. It just doesn't matter for me.
In my experience, yes. It is really easy for me to gain weight especially when I'm eating crap like grains and too many sugars/carbs. I'm quite short (5'0") and often eat upwards of 2-4k calories a day, but as long as I keep it paleo and low carb, the weight doesn't seem to stick...(I also don't really do much exercise, other than social dancing). As such I don't feel too bad about binging as long as it's not crap. If it's crap food, then for sure that weight will stay for awhile.
I went down from 135 lbs to 128 lbs in 4 months eating 3500 - 4000 kcal a day (VLC). It has now stalled, and I am no longer loosing weight unless I cut back some calories.
My experience is that I don't need to count kcals unless I want to get single digit body fat. I've also heard Robb Wolf mentioning the same would go for many (overweight) people beginning low/very low carb.
If you keep your carb intake low enough (It doesn't have to be super low either; I try to stay under 100 g) that you are in fat burning mode, you do not need to count your calories. Just listen to your appetite and stop eating when your hunger is satisfied. You will lose weight that way because your body is getting part of its fuel from your fat stores and making you less hungry to eat.
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