My friend recently asked me an interesting question.
”If you could make any food contain zero Calories, which food would you pick?”
Having not thought about this before I was stumped, but clearly, she had it all worked out. Her answer was cheese. I wasn’t in immediate agreement, but after giving it some thought it made perfect sense. You can add the stuff to almost any plate of food and it’ll make it taste better. You can snack on it between meals. You can melt it, bake it, cover it in breadcrumbs and deep fry it, or even have it with a desert. The possibilities are endless, and if it was calorie free, then what’s the harm?
The truth, as they say, hurts. We know that, in reality, most of the foods we love contain all the Calories. That fact aside, when on a diet, we still manage to eat them without realising, measure them incorrectly (tablespoons of peanut butter anyone?), or completely deny their existence while stuffing our face with them every weekend.
If flexibility in your diet is something you love, you’re probably tracking macros. People know that as long as Calories in are fewer than Calories out, doughnuts, booze, millionaire’s shortbread, and even actual non-fantasy cheese can all remain on the menu. However, even the most vigilant user of MyFitnessPal tends to go wrong in three key ways:
- By adding stuff to meals without realising
- By not weighing stuff
- By straight up lying about what they’re eating
How many Calories do you think there are in a heaped teaspoon of mayonnaise? A 15g spoonful ends up at 103 kcal. If you’ve got a sec, get out a plate and have a look at how much that is. That’s right, not much. Yet, this and a host of other sauces are getting slathered on meal after meal, with the rationale that the added Calories won’t add up to much. It’s tough to track everything and it’s more than easy to miss stuff, but when an extra slice, discreet nibble, and heavy-handed dollop get combined with the saucy scenario above, a moderate Calorie deficit can be wiped out in one hit.
If you had a go at the mayonnaise experiment, try this:
- Take out a tablespoon and load it up with your normal amount of peanut butter
- You know, the one that’s supposed to weigh 18g and contain 109 Calories
- Now weigh it
If your 18g estimate came in at a 174kcal containing 30g like mine did, then congratulations, you’ve just consumed 60% more Calories.
When using cups and spoons rather than the horribly accurate food scale, it’s easy to go hundreds of Calories over what you think you’re eating. Which diet sucks more, 1,000 Calories a day or 1,500? Even if due to a few tracking errors, someone was actually consuming 1,500, just thinking that they were on 1,000 Calories a day would be more stressful. In that situation, honing your tracking skills will result in easier weight loss.
- It’s not unheard of in research for people to underreport their food intake by even 2,000 Calories
- In a study from Clark et al., apparent “small eaters” with a self-reported intake of 1,340 Calories were found to be actually consuming 2,586
- Even registered dieticians underreport their food intake by around 200 Calories
Sometimes my clients start losing weight at the kind of rate we’re looking for and then sail all the way to their goal without me having to make a single change to their Calorie intake.. On other occasions, weight loss can stumble out of the starting blocks, or stall hard a few weeks in. In this situation, it can be an easy knee-jerk reaction to reduce Calories to get things rolling, but I almost never go that route initially and neither should you. The first thing I’m going to do is take a peek at a client’s food diary. Nine times out of ten, this is where the problem presents itself.
A major bugbear of mine with a popular tracking app like MyFitnessPal is that anyone with an account can add foods or meals to its already massive database. While this is great if you add a food that might for some reason not be on there (you know, like wasp crackers), it’s not so good if the macros are a mistake or a bad guess.
Taking the time to be meticulous with weighing, and logging until it’s internalised will pay off now and anytime you track macros in the future. This is something I focus on teaching my clients.
One instance this happens is when I look at my client’s food diary, or peak at their MyFitnessPal for a couple of days. I find entries like “cheese sandwich”, “Lasagne”, or “beef stew”. Entries like this, that rely on one person’s idea of a portion of lasagne exactly matching theirs are so varied that you might as well pick a number out of a hat. What’s worse is that on further questioning, some of my clients will admit to searching for something and then scroll through for the entry with the lowest Calories. While being faced with a number on a screen makes it tempting to believe it’s true, the reality is you could easily log a 1,000 kcal meal as 400. Do this once, twice, or three times a day, and a total halt to weight loss or even weight gain is going to be the reality despite the fact you’re “tracking macros” and doing everything right.
Calories count, and if you’re tracking them you might as well do it right. That means taking the time to check you’re logging stuff right, being aware of what else goes on your plate, and being brutally honest with your intake will pay off if you start now.
It’s great that you know that reducing Calories is the way to lose weight, but don’t be your own worst enemy and mess up your measuring or lie about your intake.
Want to lose weight while still going out to eat the foods you love? Get the eat out stay lean system and never worry about eating out again.