Worse than your bank account though is your waistline, with pretty much every study on food intake concluding the same thing…we’re all pretty bad at determining just how much we’re eating and drinking, especially in the current obesogenic environment.
We consistently under-estimate our intake while at the same time over-estimate our exercise output, we're sabotaging ourselves.
Some studies have used doubly-labelled water to validate their findings, a scientific method of establishing energy expenditure (and intake) and comparing this to the self-reporting.
Time and time again these studies prove that we’re pretty bad at self-reporting, with the greatest discrepancy seen in the obese category. According to one report "People on the whole tend to report intakes that are closer to perceived norms than actual intake". See the video below or any episode of 'Secret Eaters' and you'll see what we mean.
That's not to say anyone is doing this purposely, it just seems to be a part of human nature. Food (and drink) producers know exactly how to manipulate us through almost all of our senses. Taste, smell, colour and texture are all valid marketing strategies to big food corporations. We live in a world of hyper-palatable foods and drinks that are tough to control and constantly available. Add to this how time-poor society has become and it's a perfect storm for over consumption.
In some cases this caloric disconnect can be quite high, as the video shows Debbie under-reported her food by as much as 43%, and that pretty much tally's with the studies.
From our experience most people are genuinely amazed by their own intake after they start initially tracking, so this can be a bit of an eye-opener and the first real step to setting this on the right path for you.
We do also of course conveniently erase from our minds at times, the take-away’s, night’s out, mini-binges, or something as simple as oils and fats that foods are cooked in, all of which can add up to a sizeable amount of calories.
So how do we get things on track?
Track your intake
Seems obvious but a bit like looking at your bank statement, recording your intake will give you an ‘intake audit’ so you can make some adjustments or savings from there.
Again we’ve touched on this before but apps make this a pretty simple job these days, you can enter the data and it’ll give you not only a calorie estimate but also the breakdown of where those calories are coming from.
There’s one caveat to that though, try to record your food, right after you’ve had it as it seems we’re also quite bad at remembering what we’ve eaten too.
Try to focus on your eating, try to turn off, or limit distractions at mealtimes. Try to be conscious of what, and how much you’re eating and even taste… imagine being able to actually taste our food again instead of hoovering it up in the 20minute gap we tend to allow.
A lot of diets seem to fail because they exclude foods, or sometimes whole food groups…this simply isn’t sustainable in the long term. We know from the fat loss fundamentals that overall calories are the number one thing to get in order so make that process as easy as possible.
Don’t make big changes, take what you’re doing now and just simply trim off some of the excess…preferentially from your allocation of processed foods.
Stop relying entirely on willpower
Willpower is not a finite resource, it only lasts so long. Every little stress throughout the course of your day erodes it a little. Usually by the time you’re crashing down on the couch in the evening you’ve got a bag of doritos on your lap.
If you know your choices are poor later in the day, then save some calories for that period to create a buffer, make the whole process to suit you, your lifestyle and build on working on some good habits.
Eat better quality food
All roads lead to increasing the majority of your calories towards whole foods. They're usually lower in calories for the volume of food you're eating, and they usually have a better nutrient profile. Start slow though and build your changes and habits over time.