I was reading a book yesterday that suggested that a preoccupation with dietary restraint and body weight is not synonymous with dieting and a light bulb went off in my head. This is why so many of us get frustrated. We truly believe that we are dieting and getting nowhere. When in reality, it is preoccupation with food and weight loss. I understand these two things may sound the same, but let me explain.
In order to diet for weight loss one needs to be in a caloric deficit consistently for an extended period of time. That requires action.
Preoccupation with Food and Weight Loss Can Be an Obsession Without Action
The average person under reports their total daily calorie consumption and overestimates the amount of energy expended in a workout. These false estimations leave us feeling frustrated, desperate and defeated.
Let’s work a scenario here. For example, I need to be consuming an average of 1600 calories daily to be in a healthy deficit and loose about pound per week. Let’s assume that I am measuring my food and even logging it in My Fitness Pal. But, after doing this for 4 weeks I see no changes and I can’t figure out why.
What MyFitnessPal Can’t Tell
1. High-Calorie Restaurant Meals
I eat out an average of 2-3 times per week therefore I can only estimate the calories in my restaurant meals. Most restaurants use quite a bit of butter and oil to make their food taste good. On average, a restaurant meal is roughly 300 more calories than we think. Add another 600-900 calories to our weekly total.
When I go out to Eat I probably have 1 or 2 drinks which adds up to 300-400 calories but I don’t log those. If I go out 2-3 times per week that’s anywhere from 600-1200 calories
3. Food Tasting
Just a little taste- I took off of my friends plates at the table or the desert we all shared. You finished the bagel that your kid didn’t finish in the car on the way to school. Or what about your coffee, the sugar, the cream, the sauce on your food, your dressing, your ketchup? They all have calories. Think of the fact that a Dunkin Donuts munchkin has 70 calories. Now imagine how many calories you may have just added to your daily total by “just having a bite”. Probably another 200-300. If we are doing that 2-3 nights per week that’s another 400-900 calories per week.
4. Small Snacks
Just a few handfuls of pretzels or cereal. Or just 1 Oreo at the end of the night. Or maybe just a spoonful of ice cream or peanut butter as we are cleaning the kitchen. Nobody logs that, or we may, but we under report how much we actually ate. Let’s go ahead and add another 300-400 calories to our daily overage. Lets assume we do that 4-5 night per week. That’s another 1200-2000 calories weekly
5. Overestimated Calorie Expenditure
How about my over estimation of calorie expenditure? I know when I am sandbagging a workout. But if my Fitbit or My Fitness Pal says I burned 700 calories, I will gladly take that number. In reality, I may have only expended roughly 300 calories. To add insult to injury, if I am logging my food, It may add those 700 calories that I supposedly burned back to my daily total. When In reality, I am putting myself in a 400 calorie surplus because I didn’t really burn those calories at all. Let’s say that happens 5 times per week. that’s 2000 calories
Let’s calculate the results!
I have just illustrated how we can actually be taking in a surplus of 4,800- 7,000 calories weekly.
We need to be in a deficit resulting in an average of 3.500 calories weekly in order to loose a pound. So while we think that by having egg white omelets and oatmeal for breakfast, grilled chicken salads for lunch and eating yogurt every night, it means that we are doing all the right things and we should be loosing weight. However, we may be fooling ourselves and wasting time and energy on this preoccupation with food.