Saturday, January 5, 2008

You don't know what you're eating.

"What?? Of course I know what I'm eating! I put it in my mouth, don't I??"

Oh, but honey, unless you are actually MEASURING your food and CALCULATING the calories on some website or on paper, you really don't.

Did you know that according to various studies, most people underestimate how much they are eating by at least 20% and up to 100%?? Some people who thought they ate 1000 calories actually had eaten 2000! Many folks will say they had 100 calories when in fact they had 120-200. It adds up! And if you eat more calories than you need, you get fat. You may THINK you have a handle on how much you are eating, but odds are, you're mistaken.

I spent a lot of years measuring my food and writing it in a notebook. I thought since I had done this for so long, I could eyeball it and be pretty accurate. Wrong! When I pour a "cup" of cereal into a bowl, and then measure it with a cup to see how accurate I am, I can be off by quite a lot, depending on which bowl I use. I might think I have had 1500 calories for the day, but with just a few forgotten bites of food or a bit of extra this or that, it can easily reach 1800 calories without my knowing. So it is key, when eating calorie-dense foods, to measure. (What I mean by "calorie dense" is this: if you eat an extra cup of iceberg lettuce, you are only getting a few extra calories. But if you eat an extra tablespoon of oil or butter, you are getting an extra 100 calories).

I am not really an advocate of measuring and counting calories as a long-term strategy, although it surely works for some people. I just don't have the time or energy to do all that. But I DO have to take time to measure SOME things, like fats or sweets. I do take the time to count out my crackers to make one serving instead of just dumping them in a bowl. You have to find what works for you... how much you can tolerate and stick with it. But what IS very helpful, especially for those who have never done so or haven't in a long time, is to take a week and measure all your food and write down every single thing that goes into your mouth. Every swig of milk, lick of frosting, crust of your child's sandwich, french fry off your honey's plate. Count it ALL. I never had a food scale for this. I just read the labels on things and counted items or used measuring cups and tablespoons. I have used books to look up calories (such as the FAT book) but it is so much easier to log your calories online these days ( or are free and easy to use). Trust me on this, you will learn A LOT about yourself. Try it for a week. Be totally honest and accurate. At the end of the day, add it all up. Look for patterns and mistakes and things you can improve or cut out. You can find the hidden calories in your day and slash them with your new found knowledge.

Just as common as underestimating one's calories is, in my experience, OVER estimating one's intake. This one is some kind of mental trick my fat-girl brain plays on me. Maybe this has happened to you:

I eat a healthy breakfast. But then I sneak a cookie. Maybe a little later, I have a glass of soda. And then a piece of candy... and another cookie. OH NO!!!!!!!!! LIFE IS OVER!!!!!!!!! I ruined my day! I ate too much crap, and haven't even had lunch yet, and now my day is ruined, so I may as well go ahead and eat the world, and start over tomorrow! I go and bake a pan of brownies and eat them all and have pizza and coke for dinner.

Hold the phone!!!!!!!! What just happened?? Let's see:
Healthy breakfast: 250 calories
Cookie: 50 calories
1/2 can of soda: 60 calories
Piece of candy: 50 calories
Another cookie: 50 calories
Total for today: 460 calories.

What??? 460 calories?? Why, that is EASILY within my calorie range for the day. A can of soup and some salad with fat free dressing for lunch (150 calories) and an apple for a snack, and I still have well over 700 calories I can eat for dinner and stay in my 1400 calories goal for the day. Do you see how this crazy thinking can sabotage your weight loss efforts?

Next time you think you have "ruined" your day, stop. Think. Add it up. I bet you can fix it, or at the very least you can minimize the damage. Even if you actually DID binge and eat 2000 calories in one sitting, you can be OK. Skip the next meal (Lord knows you had enough food to last through one meal, right?) and for the rest of the day, choose:
Low calorie clear soups and broths
Low calorie steamed or raw veggies
Salad with fat free dressing
water, unsweetened teas, calorie-free drinks
and, if you are dying for protein, my new best friend: Special K "K2O" Protein Water (50 calories, tastes great, and filling).

Then you can start the next day with a healthy breakfast.

So stop guessing your way fat. Stop and think. Measure and count. Be realistic. When you really KNOW what you are eating, you are free to make the changes you need to make in order to lose weight.

And, by way of a little update, I am down 2 lbs to 246. Go me!


justoofat said...

Wow. I just took your advice and checked my calories for the day. I figured I'd had between 1,000 and 1,300... but I'd really had more like 1800. AND almost a third of them were from fat. Amazing! I knew today had been a "bad day" but it was far worse than I'd thought.


On the other hand, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about letting that one cookie and half a glass of soda defeat us when, in reality, there's so much you can do to recover from those kinds of indulgences.

Yeah! This is very good advice. I'll be tracking my calories at FitDay from now on. Thanks!

Oh... and congrats on your 2lb loss. Go you! :)


Teale said...

I am a weight-watcher, and journaling my food is key to my success. Over time, inevitably it slacks though, and I'll just "keep track in my head"... funny how doing that just so happens to co-incide with a "plateau". it's my opinion that a lot of times, plateaus are us being lazy & not keeping proper track & doing JUST what you blogged about

~Diet Goddess~ said...

Journalling/logging my calories is the only thing that's worked for me in the past. Like you said, it's so easy to have those "extras" and underestimate the calories if you aren't tracking them in some way.

Congrats on the loss, too!

Heather said...

that is all very true..the first time I did WW thats exactly what I did. I started off measuring everything out, but then figured that I knew what a cup or a tablespoon was so I stopped doing that. I began journaling and then after a while said, well I know how many pts this is and would jsut keep a tally in my head. a tally that didnt include any "tastes"! needless to say, WW did not work for me, mostly because I didnt put in the effort and all of those tastes and inaccurate measurements made it so I wasnt losing weight as I should have been.

Lidian said...

You are SO right, it really is all those little bits and not KNOWING how much one's eating, that adds up. I am like that with cereal unless I measure it with a measuring cup - I can eat 4 cups and think it is just a nice bowlful.

I hope you wouldn't mind if I linked you, I love reading what you have to say.

And congrats on the 2 lbs!


Susan said...

What a great post! I am so guilty of blowing my whole diet just because I ate something I shouldn't. But putting it into perspective like that is really helpful. I will have to remember that!!

Dinah Soar said...

I'm not obsessive but I do weigh/measure all the food I eat at home...otherwise I cheat myself...either "overcharge" or "undercharge" my calorie expenditure...I prefer to know how many calories I'm eating...also...I have a digital scale that weighs grams and is can weigh something on your serving dish, reset to zero, add another food, so on and so measuring spoons or cups to wash. I keep my scale on the counter ready to use. Great post.

a public diet said...

You know i do the exact same thing. I had a healthy breakfast and lunch and then i have some soda in the afternoon or a few pieces of hard candy or maybe just a little bit of that left over new years day ham. Oh know I've ruined it. Then i sit in front of the calorie counter and discover I haven't really done that bad at all. Or when I think I haven't done that bad I am really really horrible.

This reminds me of when i was in my early twenties. i was working full time and going to school for time and had no time for exercise at all. I thought i was eating terrible food but i still managed to loose weight somehow.

Honi said...

LOVED that post.. excellent excellent EXCELLENT... Tomorrow starts my food logging .. you are very right about measuring.. I do much better when I keep a log and measure... when it comes to cereal.. lets just say I am far better eating it dry and measured out in a little baggie than I am pouring it into a bowl and having it with milk.. I tend to get carried away.. I must confess lol

Stamp Til Dawn said...

Great post! I have often been surprised when I thought I had totally blown it...that the scale didn't show a gain. It just goes to show that I have truly made some lifestyle changes. One cookie is a treat to me. I would never open a bag of Oreos and walk by eating them all day long. Ok, so maybe I would. That's why I don't buy them anymore. :-)