Am I eating secret calories?
A report published by the Behavioural Insights Team suggests that the rising global obesity crisis could be explained by the under reporting of calorie consumption. The figures that we, as a population, are reporting could be out by as many as 1,000 calories per day. This means that studies where participants assess their own calorie consumption could show skewed results. If each individual eats 30% more per day than they estimate, it is clear why policy makers and governments are struggling to address the ‘globesity’ crisis.
The problem is that this under reporting is not deliberate or a malicious strategy to fool doctors and other weight loss specialists; it is a genuine lack of understanding of the number of calories that are entering your body throughout the day. It’s also a recognised fact that people underestimate the number calories they are burning when exercising but again, this is unintentional.
Everyone knows that if you want to lose weight (or even maintain the weight you have lost) it’s important to burn off more calories than you take in (or balance them) but it really isn’t just as simple as that. There are many factors influencing your ability to burn calories including stress, sleep and hormones. These could in turn lead to weight gain. However, simply eating more than you think you are is an obvious and preventable cause of weight gain. So how does it happen? Here are a few things you might like to consider if you think you should be losing weight but aren’t:
- Forgetting calories in drinks: You forget about your drinks when counting calories: for example, did you know that a large glass of red wine contains more calories than a packet of crisps? Or that a pint of beer has more calories than a large slice of meat pizza? It’s not just alcohol; soft drinks can contain more calories than a slice of bread. The problem with liquids is that they are quickly and easily consumed. They are calorie dense and people struggle to understand that coke, fizzy drinks, fruit juices and energy drinks are loaded with calories. Alcohol as a source of excess calories is again under estimated by many. The average wine drinker in England takes in around 2,000kcal from alcohol every month, which is the equivalent of one full day’s calorie consumption or an additional 12lbs of weight. The excess is more likely to be stored (as fat) than if you took in the same number of calories in solid form. Also, as alcohol is a toxin, your liver works extra hard to remove it from your body as quickly as possible. Since your body is busy metabolising this ‘poison’ into something it can get rid of, the fats and sugars in your body are not being metabolised so they have to be stored. To ensure calorie intake is not under reported people should be mindful of the calories in their liquids. Here are a few examples of the typical number of calories in your favourite drinks:
|Drink||Calories per serving|
244 kcal (pint)
140 kcal (330ml)
110 kcal (25ml)
61 kcal (25ml)
49 kcal (100ml)
- Overestimating portion sizes: You overestimate the size of a portion: unless you are willing to weigh everything you eat, estimating is a very useful tool. However, it is easy to get it wrong and end up overeating significantly. Many things can influence your estimate of a portion size such as the size of your plates, glasses, utensils and cooking pots. For example, eating on a larger plate may make the same amount of food seem like less. Even the colour of your plates can cause you to eat more (avoid plates with the same colouring as your food). The average size of oven dishes, pizza plates, cake tins and even the cup holder in your car have increased over the last twenty years.
- Mindless snacking: It’s very easy to forget about snacking when you’re sitting in front of the TV or computer. For example, you could eat a whole ‘to share’ bag of crisps without thinking and this would add an additional 700 (or more) calories to your daily intake.
We at simplyweight recommend that you keep a food diary to be able to track your food and drink intake more accurately. It not only keeps track of how much you have eaten but it can also make you realise the times when you reach for food as a consolation or comfort when you are stressed, upset or even just bored. A food diary is particularly powerful since it can also bring your attention to reasons for over eating (perhaps because you have left too long between meals and have become too hungry) and can allow you to assess your eating behaviours. Once you can gauge these you have a much better chance of understanding and managing your calorie intake.
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