Who do we think we are cheating?

A recent article in the Health section of CBC News has really hit it home with me. It talks about a new discovery of how all diet research “is built on a house of cards” because it relies primarily on research subjects to report correctly and truthfully what they are eating. You say “Du’h, what’s wrong with that?” and I say “What’s wrong with that is that people are not telling the truth about what they eat, they underestimate, they forget, they omit and eschew the information to fit their needs”. Let me elaborate.

First of all, it’s a tedious task to record everything you eat in order to get a clear picture of what’s happening. You have to be very meticulous because everything counts. That candy bar your coworker so gracefully offered does count too and that small bag of chips you just got from the vending machine and the butter you smeared on your toast and every morsel of food you put in your mouth counts too… you get the point, I hope. The job of keeping track of every single bite you take can be greatly facilitated and simplified with the help of various nutritional apps available for smart phones, like MyFitnesPal, for example. So why is it so important to keep track of the food again? If you are trying to lose weight you need to know where you are in terms of food consumption and then work from there to lower your caloric intake.

In order for you to lose weight you first have to evaluate your current situation – See black on
white what exactly you are eating from day to day that’s making you unable to lose weight or making you gain weight. So first step would be to add up the base numbers of what you eat,  that includes every morsel that passes through your lips. How else would you get those numbers if not by adding up the macronutrient value of each food? Now, you can do it with a pen and paper, but in this time and age you might as well use the technology that’s out there to simplify things. You get a number of calories that you are currently consuming and in order to lose weight you will need to calculate your BMR (your minimal energy expenditure at rest) and your TDEE (BMR + additional exercise, play,  etc). So for example, let’s say that your BMR is 1200cal, your TDEE is 1800cal and you have just found out by putting all the foods you consumed in a calorie app that you are consuming 2800cal! That means daily you are over by 1000cal! And this is not unrealistic. In fact if you follow a diet of Mary Browns downed with a litre of Pepsi you might be over-consuming more than 2800cal. So, every day in and day out, you give your body more energy than it needs for sustenance of life. Your body doesn’t need this extra energy and starts storing it for later use in the form of fat. It never gets used, though, because you are never in a situation where you lack food – food is always abundant. It continues to accumulate, until you lower your intake of food and/or increase physical activity.

Once you know how much food you need daily and how much you are over you can really start making progress. But you have to be honest. Emphasis on honest. You have to accurately report what you are eating in your tracking app (or whatever means you use to track your food intake). You can’t really afford to be having food willy-nilly. It all has to be accounted for because it all has caloric value.  At the beginning of your weight loss journey I advise against spontaneous food consumption. Once you start losing weight you can reintroduce eating out and allowing yourself a treat that’s not tracked because you’ll learn when and how much is ok. eat skinnyHaving said that, it needs to be pointed out that some restaurants now offer nutritional value information of their meals that you could easily put into your app to stay on track no matter what.

If you hide or omit to count what you eat, your weight loss won’t happen. You might as well give up because the only person you are cheating is yourself. So be honest with yourself – it’s not for anybody else. Just do it! And stop saying that diets don’t work. They do, if you only gave them an honest try.