The usual response to “What are calories?” is “The stuff in food that makes us fat”. In fact, a calorie is simply a unit of energy, and energy is what keeps us going.
In South Africa you’ll see kilojoules (1 calorie = 4.186 kJ) on our food labels instead of calories. The kilojoules we take in are used up as we go through the day, and as they run out, we start feeling hungry again.
When people ask me how many they need in a day, I’ll say it depends on the day. And that’s true because each day is different depending on whether you’re lazing on white sandy beaches or dealing with Big City Life. Besides, counting kilojoules is about as frustrating as trying to open a coconut, and most people never liked Maths at school anyway. Our bodies know exactly what they need, and if we eat when we’re physically hungry and stop when we’re full, we don’t need to be counting anything.
It’s a lot easier to become aware of where the kilojoules are coming from. By choosing healthier foods, we get everything we need, we aren’t left feeling hungry throughout the day, and we provide our bodies with the energy they need to go out and do all the things we want to do!