I sit down to write this while sipping my coffee with a splash of French Vanilla creamer. What is a splash? The nutrition label says 1 Tbsp is 35 calories. But what about a splash? Is it more, is it less…ah it’s probably close.
Guess what? It’s actually 3 Tbsp worth…105 calories, or a 70 calorie difference.
For a guy like me, 70 calories won’t make or break my day. But this is only my first eating time of the day. I still have breakfast, pre-workout snack, post-workout snack, lunch, dinner, and maybe another snack! That’s 6 more eating opportunities where I could be off by 70 calories.
This makes for a 490 calorie difference by the end of the day…even for me, that COULD make or break being in a surplus or deficit.
Do you see how easy it is to underestimate what we eat?
This is the biggest reason why people can’t seem to lose it, even when tracking food, following a strict diet, or just trying to “eat clean” – you are still consuming too many calories.
It’s popular for some people to say “well, I think I’m in starvation mode, so I need to eat more”. My bodies metabolism has slowed down so much that it won’t burn calories anymore.
This example may sound harsh, but do why don’t starving kids or people with anorexia experience this “starvation mode” phenomenon? It seems to only affect purposeful dieters, but not people who are actually eating too little…
Studies have shown that people underestimate their intake by almost 50%! In the UK at least…
More than 4,000 people tracked what they are for four days. Men reported consuming an average of 2,065 calories a day but were estimated to actually consume 3,119; while women reported 1,570 but actually consumed 2,393.
Good thing the US doesn’t have an obesity problem like the UK…😐
Why are we SO off from what we think we are eating? Here are the biggest reasons:
1) Little Things Add Up
Bites, snacks, sips, etc all add up. I had a client once carry around a gallon ziplock bag and put every snack, bite, sample, candy, etc. into the bag instead of her mouth. At the end of the day, we looked at it and estimated that she was mindlessly snacking on about 1000 calories every single day.
Little things within meals also add up. Let’s look at my breakfast the other day:
Oats, egg, whites, cheese, and ground beef. But what about the oil used to cook the eggs? What about the milk added to the oats? What about the salsa even? These three ingredients added up to 170 calories of this 880 calorie meal.
Little things add up.
2) Your Body Counts Calories, Even if You Don’t
Clean eating tends to give people a free pass on defying the laws of thermodynamics. It’s clean, so I can eat whatever I want!
Calories still matter, and some of the biggest culprits are healthy fats – nuts, nut butter, avocados, and heart-healthy oils.
You can totally eat these foods, but portions still matter! Measure out a tablespoon of oil. Thats about 120 calories. Pour it in a pan. Do you see how little that is? These things add up, and when you aren’t paying attention to them, you can easily miss something.
3) You Starve Yourself During the Week
Okay, maybe you are only eating 1000 calories. Monday through Thursday that is.
Then the weekend calls for fun, and a cheat day or 3. Diets are like relationships. If you start one and are already looking forward to cheating, it’s probably not going to work out well for you.
It’s quite easy to consume A LOT of calories on a weekend. I’ll throw myself under the bus here. Recently, at our cabin, we had a fun-filled Saturday. Full of pancake breakfasts, afternoon boat cruising and sipping beers, grilling out burgers, and all the side dishes to boot. Then more cocktails and smores by the bonfire… and an estimated 7000 calories later, I felt like a tick ready to burst.
So let’s say I ate 1000 calories all week, then had once binge day of 7000. That’s 13,000 calories for the week or an average of 1857 calories per day. Now you see how “I barely eat all week” can turn into a pretty moderate maintenance intake for many people.
4) You Aren’t In Control of Your Food
By this I mean you eat out too much. The chef doesn’t care about your macros, your diet, your health – he just wants you to enjoy your food, and come back again.
What makes a food super delicious? Salt, sugar, and fat. And lots of it.
When it comes to eating at restaurants you can estimate that pretty much every dish has at least a tablespoon of added oil to it, if not two.
Also plenty of salt, and never the leanest cuts of meat.
This is not to say you shouldn’t ever eat at a restaurant, but just be aware that every time you do, it’s a challenge to your intake.
5) You Lack General Awareness
How many calories in this? Is this a high-fat food? Does this food have protein in it? Will this food fill me up?
All things that everyone should have a basic understanding of. But, thank God we know what a trapezoid is.
You don’t have to be a Registered Dietitian to have a good, basic, understanding of food, calories, and nutrients. Creating awareness around your food starts with Step 1 – where are you CURRENTLY at. This is what I have ALL my clients do before we even start throwing out recommendations. We need to see your starting point and adjust from there.
So this is what I recommend to you – find your starting point, literally track everything for a week (weekends count too!), and see what you are truly eating. From there, make adjustments as needed, and off you go.
If you need help getting started, look no further than online coaching. Training and nutrition! Let me help you find the best plan for you – from anywhere in the world.
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