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By Mark Rullo
Weight management, particularly weight loss, is simple in that it is all about creating a caloric deficit by expending more calories than you eat. However simple does not mean easy.
One pound of fat is 3,500 calories. That is black and white and straight-forward science. Accumulate seven consecutive days of 500 calorie deficit and you will see a pound loss on the scale. The gray area is in calculating the respective deficit in this weight loss formula, which is based upon how we quantify both how many calories we consume and how many calories we expend.
As I have seen over the years, the biggest reason people struggle or get frustrated with counting calories to lose weight is that most either UNDER-calculate the calories they consume and/or OVER-calculate what they believe they have expended in calories.
In this article, I will expand on how individuals—despite honest attempts to log their food and count calories—UNDER-report what they consume and ultimately fail to see the desired results which causes them to quit in frustration.
WHY ONE MAY UNDER-REPORT CALORIC INTAKE
The main reasons that individuals UNDER-report their caloric intake include:
- Portion Distortion
- Food Label Loop Holes
- Accountability Accuracy of Nutritional Labels
Portion Distortion happens when individuals fail to eat the actual serving size they are reporting/logging. This typically occurs when people tend to “eye-ball” rather than actually weigh/measure what they eat.
Take my breakfast cereal, LIFE®, for example. One serving (¾ cup) is 160 calories with 4 ounces of skim milk. The box also states it has 12 total servings per box. If that is true, why do I only get 4 bowls of cereal per box?Simple, my serving is actually three servings or 480 calories. This is a 320 calorie UNDER-estimate if report only one bowl (serving). Make this error every day for breakfast and it becomes 2240 calories unaccounted for in one week. Because 3500 calories is one pound, this simple UNDER-reporting could either lead to .64 lbs of weight gain per week or erase 320 calories from any daily deficit you may have thought you created through monitoring your nutritional formula.
Also, the people around you can indirectly contribute to portion distortion. Just because your serving is smaller than others around you does not guarantee you have the correct serving size. You may feel good about yourself that you ordered the 12 ounce steak when all your friends ordered the “24 ouncer.” However, considering one serving is 4 ounces, that 12 ounce steak is still 3 servings.
Food Label Loop Holes exist because the FDA allows manufactures to list foods as FREE or Zero content if the serving size if less than 0.5 grams per serving.
PAM Spray for example lists zero calories per serving, so initially this seems like a perfect option for those looking to watch their caloric intake. This is possible because the serving size listed on the label is 0.27 grams, or 1/3 second of a spray. (I give them credit for describing the actual serving size as 1/3 of one second of a spray.) Get a stop watch out and actually try to time 1/3 of a second—not easy to do. So do not expect to do it the next time you use the spray.
If you are not aware, nutritional labels list ingredients by most abundant to least. The most abundant ingredient in PAM Spray is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. When you look at the caloric value of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one serving (1 tablespoon) is 120 calories.
Where did those calories go? They were always there; however the PAM serving size meets the requirement to allow them to state it as FREE or Zero. Providing this information is not intended to tell you not to use PAM, rather just to inform you. This way, you can be aware and account for the calories that, at the surface state zero, but in reality exist.
I use PAM Spray every time I cook to make clean up easier. I may not be spraying an entire tablespoon, but definitely at least ½ to ¾ of a tablespoon or 60-90 calories worth. To be safe, I round up to 100. So when I cook my eggs whites, at 25 calories per egg white, my 5-egg white break-fast is not 125 calories (5 x 25 calories); rather it is 225 calories to account for the PAM Spray. Eat these egg whites every day for breakfast and fail account for this loophole adds up to 700 calories being UNDER-reported.
Accountability of Accuracy of Nutrition Labels: Some states, such as New York are requiring that restaurants with three or more locations must list the nutrition facts of the food on their menus. On the surface, this sounds great for those looking to better manage their caloric nutritional formula. However, who is making sure what is listed is accurate? This same thought crossed the mind of a blogger who thought to randomly evaluate the accuracy of the nutrition information listed at 20 different restaurants. Of the 20 different restaurants, 19 of them all UNDER-reported their caloric value by average 30%, with the worst case having an actual caloric value that was double what it listed. Believe it or not, that item was a “healthy Tofu Burger.”
BLT’s are your “Bites, Licks and Tastes” that we fail to account for. Don’t think BLT’s can have an impact? How many make a peanut butter sandwich and actually measure the serving size? Not many, I would assume. Of the few who actually do measure, I would assume it is common that they scrape and lick the remaining peanut butter after spreading it on the sandwich. At 190 calories per serving, that could be an easy 35- 50 calories. What else do you “Bite, Lick or Taste” that is not being accounted for?
These are why most who struggle with weight loss have a hard time accepting they are eating too much and cannot buy into the “it’s a calorie in vs. calories out” thing.
Understanding these variables in managing your weight loss program is not a one-day or one-week process of logging food. This is why here at My Fitness Kitchen®, we highly recommend that our weight loss clients minimally commit to eight weeks of food monitoring to best comprehend this process. That will ultimately allow food intake to be built around YOUR FOOD, on YOUR TERMS for YOUR RESULTS. Once this caloric formula is mastered, individuals can continue down the nutritional funnel to accelerate even greater results; however, to focus on anything before your caloric formula is in-line is wasting time, energy and money.
The bottom line is that failure to recognize these potential errors of UNDER-reporting can sabotage any weight loss program, create frustration and ultimately cause individuals to give up on their weight loss goals.
For more information, please feel free to consult with any of the fitness professionals at My Fitness Kitchen®. Additionally, as an on-going thank you to the Laurel Mountain Post and its readers, mention this article for a FREE, no obligation, personalized, metabolic nutritional formula and fitness program that will leverage the “Hierarchy of Fat Loss.” If you are serious about achieving a body transformation goal, then you need a program; as any goal without a plan is really only a wish!
As an added incentive for people new to My Fitness Kitchen®, by mentioning this Laurel Mountain Post article and after meeting with one of My Fitness Kitchen’s Fitness Professionals for a private consult as offered above, you will receive $50 “Kitchen Cash” to be used toward any program or service at My Fitness Kitchen®, as a courtesy of the Laurel Mountain Post.