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CICO Frequently Asked Questions

What is CICO and which app should I use to track my calories?

CICO simply stands for Calories In Calories Out. Calories in refers to the calories you eat. Calories out refers to the calories you burn daily at rest, exercising, fidgeting, and digesting food. 

Recommend apps: Myfitnesspal, Loseit, MyNetDiary, Carb Manager. We recommend you try out all the calorie counting apps and pick one that suits YOUR individual needs.


Yes, you can. You may feel crappy if you’re eating 100% non-nutritious foods but you can. We suggest a well balanced diet. 80% whole foods, 20% junk foods

How does counting calories help me lose weight?

Losing weight requires an energy imbalance. When you have more energy (calories) than your body requires, it will store the excess calories as fat. When you have less calories than your body requires, it will pull calories from your stored fat – thus reducing fat. That’s it. There’s nothing further, every diet in the world revolves around this main idea (reducing calories in).

Simply counting, regardless of whether you are going over or staying under your goal generally aids in weight loss in the sense that you are actively more aware of what you are putting in your body, similar to the way a fitness tracker may help you become more active simply by telling you how many steps you get per day. This leads to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

1 Pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories so if you eat 500 less than you burn every day for 7 days, you will burn roughly 1 pound of fat. Keep in mind there is a limit to how much fat can be metabolized per day so shooting for those unrealistic caloric deficits every day will not only burn you out quickly, it will also lead to muscle loss.

How many calories should I eat? Should I eat back my exercise calories?

The calories you need to eat will depend on your goals. Use a TDEE calculator such as www.quicktdee.com to find your goals suited to your own needs. Losing 1lb of fat per week will require you to eat 500 calories under maintenance every day for 7 days. 2 lbs will require 1,000. If you are a short, sedentary woman or man, even the 500 deficit may be too large to consider…but don’t worry; this is good news, this means you are closer to your weight loss goal than a lot of people!

Which activity level am I?

Use your best guess to decide which activity level you are. In reality the number you pick doesn’t matter because you can adjust after a few weeks up or down based on your progress. If you want to lose a bit faster after 3 weeks, drop the calories a little. If you want to lose slower, raise them. Keep it simple and don’t stress it. We as humans like to overestimate our activity level and underestimate our calorie intake so the best way to go about this is to just pick a number (or a number between two if you think you are between two levels) and start! Here’s a quick guide we like to follow if you track your steps:

Sedentary/Couch Potato: 0 to 5,999 Steps
Lightly Active: 6,000 to 11,999 Steps
Moderately Active: 12,000 to 18,999 steps
Highly Active: 19,000+

Should I eat back my exercise calories

We do not recommend eating back your exercise calories. Fitness trackers are highly inaccurate and there is almost no way to accurately predict how many calories you have burned during workouts or exercise. This is why we suggest picking the correct activity level for yourself as that will already take into account estimated exercise calories.

How do I count the calories from cooking oil/butter/salt/seasonings? Not all of it gets absorbed into the food, right?

You add it just like everything else. Don’t assume something won’t get absorbed as this may lead to undercounting your calories.

Why did I gain weight, why am I at a plateau, or I’ve been doing everything correctly and why have I not lost weight?

The chances of you gaining a pound or more of fat are unlikely. You would need to eat an excess of 3,500 calories over maintenance to gain just one full pound of fat. Chances are you have a combination of more food in your body, and increased water retention from excess salt or hormonal issues.

Your body can store water weight from having a higher salt diet, hormones, added stress, increased exercise, or many other reasons. The most accurate way to track your weight is to weigh yourself daily and keep track of WEEKLY AVERAGES which can paint a bigger picture of how your weight is trending.

Keep in mind that just one “cheat day” where you go over your calories by a lot is more than enough to wipe out an entire deficit for the week. It’s important to track ALL days, including cheat days.

If you are absolutely sure you are tracking properly, it has been a few weeks and you’re eating at least 1,200 calories per day – it is time to visit a doctor or a licensed medical professional for a checkup.

Should I eat more if I exercise?

You should have already taken your exercise into account when you set up your calorie limit so there is no need to adjust for exercise again unless you are going above and beyond what you originally calculated. Most fitness trackers overcount the number of calories burned and are very inaccurate so it makes it tough to even get an accurate calorie burn from workouts.

How often should I adjust my calories?

There is almost no reason to adjust your calories if you are still seeing progress. If you have lost a considerable amount of weight and your weight loss is slowing, then it may make sense to revisit your calorie intake.

Why haven’t I lost weight this week?

You didn’t gain weight in one week, chances are you won’t lose it in one week either. Changes in the scale can often be masked by water retention from eating salty foods or even a day with abnormally high carb intake. Do not mistake this water for fat, it will release `when your body is ready` and the number on the scale will eventually catch up. Just stick it through! Measure your progress other ways as well such as measuring tape, skin calipers, and weekly progress pictures. These are arguably more important than a scale. 

Do I weigh my food before or after I cook it

Generally it is a best practice to weigh your food raw. If the packaging does not state “as prepared” or “pan fried (bacon)” on the label then it is best to weigh the food as packaged.

How can I lose fat on my (insert body part)?

You cannot spot reduce fat. The only way to get rid of that beer belly or love handles is to lower your overall body fat percentage through diet and exercise. Where the fat is stored first and burnt last will depend solely on genetics.

Why can’t I lose 30 pounds in 7 days like the tv says so?

Because they lie. Healthy and realistic FAT loss is 1-2 lbs per week. Some shorter individuals may need to drop that down to .25 to .5 lbs per week and some more obese/taller individuals can get away with 3 or more lbs per week.

How do I figure out the calories for a whole dish I cooked?

The key is to weigh out the individual ingredients before you cook it. Figure out the calories of everything individually and add them together to get the calories for the whole batch.

Once your food is cooked, you have two options.

  1. Estimate how much of the dish you had. For example if you had 1/4 of the dish, you can divide that total number you found earlier by 4.
  2. Weigh out the entire cooked portion then divide your portion by the entire dish’s portion and multiply by the original (total) calorie count. Example: [total calories of raw ingredients added: 500 | total weight of cooked dish: 300 grams | total weight of your portion: 40 grams] the formula would be:
    40 ÷ 300 × 500 = 66.6 calories

    Let’s break it down:
    40 (your portion) ÷ 300 (total cooked dish weight grams) × 500 (total calories of entire recipe) = 66.6 calories (what you ate)

Do I trust the actual nutrition label on the food I have or one of the 5 million various entries created by lord knows who in the app database?


How much does sodium affect weight fluctuations

A LOT, don’t get discouraged by the scale. 

Can I drink alcohol while trying to lose weight?

Absolutely, alcohol has calories just like everything else, you just have to make it fit into your daily allowance. 

Am I in starvation mode???!!!

Starvation mode is when you eat too little for extended periods of time and your body starts breaking down important muscles, including your heart because you are not adequately providing fuel.

Starvation mode where your body is holding on to all the calories you eat because you’re at a deficit and causing you to gain fat is not true. 

What time of day should I weigh myself?

In the morning, after you wake up and go to the bathroom. Weigh yourself in these conditions every time for the most consistent readings.

What is TDEE?

TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure which is often interchanged with your overall metabolism. Your TDEE is made up of your BMR, NEAT, EAT, and TEF which are covered below. 

BMRBasal Metabolic Rate – The calories you burn at rest (even if you were sleep all day or in a coma). Generally 60% or more of your TDEE/Metabolism.

NEATNon Exercise Activity Thermogensis – The energy you burn moving or fidgeting (not including exercise). This includes tapping your foot, waving your arms around when you talk, cleaning the house, etc.

EATExercise Activity Thermogensis – Calories burned exercising. Examples include jogging, weight lifting, HIIT, etc. 

TEF – Thermic Effect of Food – The amount of calories that are burned by eating and digesting food. This is generally 5-10% of your total TDEE. Proteins will have the highest TEF, carbohydrates next, then followed by fats having the lowest.