When it comes to losing weight, we are a nation of half-truthers.
Thankfully, the internet is there with a ton of solutions that require no effort.
Well, I’ve got one for you.
And no it’s not “one weird tip for a flatter stomach”, or “one exercise you should never do”.
Nor is it some expensive clingfilm body wrap, or a yogurt pot which claims to be spiced with a top secret herb taken from the highest mountains of Kenya and sprinkled with fat burning unicorn tears.
If you are trying to lose weight, here it is..
Just stop bullshitting yourself!
You see, if there is one problem which has been persistent in my whole career as a personal trainer, it’s that we lie about our diets.
Seriously, most of us greatly underestimate our daily calorie intake.
Don’t worry, I’m not calling you a failure or a liar.
We all do it.
It’s human nature.
I’ve met thousands of clients over the years who have initially been unable to determine why they couldn’t lose any weight no matter what they did, despite “eating healthily” and “getting regular exercise”.
And while there are certain medical issues which are sometimes behind it – i.e. thyroid problems – more often than not the solution reveals itself when we begin to dig a little bit deeper.
And the step which reveals the answer?
It’s simple – monitoring your food intake!
In a recent post, I revealed that when it comes to weight loss, calories are king.
And while you can certainly improve results by splitting your calorie intake between protein, carbohydrates and fats in a way that maximizes muscle growth, the overruling fact here is that if you are eating too many calories, you won’t lose any weight – even if you are eating foods most of us deem “healthy”.
And time and time again, it’s been shown that we greatly underestimate our calorie intake when we just wing it.
The Calorie Myth
Dieting is a lonely road, and most of us veer off track without even realizing it.
It’s something I’ve seen with countless clients, from athletes, to models, to busy parents.
But it’s also something which has been highlighted in the media several times.
If you live in the UK, you may have seen the popular show Secret Eaters, which aired in 2014.
During the show, a team of dietitians took on clients who reported no weight loss despite appearing to have a near perfect diet, each participant completely lost as to why they couldn’t shift any weight.
And each participant also – rather blissfully – unaware that they were being followed by a camera crew for the duration of the experiment.
As expected, they found the biggest culprit was the fact that participants would slip several unreported foods into their daily calorie intake – some going as much as 3000 calories over what they reported to eat per day.
And it wasn’t their fault.
They literally had no idea they were doing it, because it’s fucking easy to do.
A few biscuits here and there, a takeaway after a busy day, etc.
Like I said, we all do it.
In fact, a 1995 study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition determined that the population as a whole greatly underestimates calorie intake via self report, with some groups faring significantly worse than others. (1)
Of course, the group which tended to fare worst here are those classed as obese.
This is largely due to the fact that those classed as obese also tend to overestimate their daily caloric burn via exercise. (2)
And that’s a deadly combo right there.
If you are underestimating your daily calorie intake but also overestimating how much energy you are burning per day, it leads you down a path of frustration and, inevitably, weight gain.
And rather than realizing what we are doing, a lot of us diagnose ourselves with problems that simply aren’t there.
In fact, during a great 2009 documentary actress Debbie Chazen hit this problem head-on.
Debbie had tried every diet under the sun and got nowhere, and she believed she was simply one of those unlucky people who had a slow metabolism which prevented her from losing weight.
But after undergoing tests by the team of researchers, she discovered that her metabolic rate was perfectly normal for somebody her weight, age and size.
How could this be?
After carrying the belief that “weight loss is just impossible for me because I have a slow metabolism” for years, suddenly she was in a canoe, sailing right up Shit Creek without a paddle.
And if it wasn’t her slow metabolism, what the actual fuck was causing the problem?
Debbie kept a food log over the next 9 days, using a video camera to document her food intake before transitioning to a written diary at the halfway point of the experiment.
With her daily target of 2000 calories, she got to work.
Again, however, the research team had an ace up their sleeve.
Throughout the experiment they were spying on Debbie, using a technique known as doubly-labelled water. This contained special isotope markers which would enable the researchers to analyze her urine at the end of each day and pull her actual calorie intake – as well as total calorie expenditure – from the data.
- during her video diary, Debbie’s reported daily intake was 1100 calories.
- in reality, she was consuming 3000 calories per day.
- when she switched to a written diary, her reported daily intake was still off by a huge 43%.
The Bottom Line
This issue affects far more people than it should.
And it’s pretty easy to sort out.
Heck, if you’re spending 3 or more days a week training hard in the gym, it makes sense to get on top of your diet to maximize results.
The biggest culprits are normally sweet snacks, biscuits, sauces, fruit, etc.
Basically, the things we just eat on the fly.
We also tend to gloss over calories in drinks, as well as calories in foods we consider “healthy anyway”. But they all add up.
We’re not doing it nastily, we mostly just do it without thinking.
And despite what your resident self-appointed health guru preaches at work, you don’t need to stop eating these things.
You don’t need to start living on an off-the-grid farm, drinking hairy green juice and growing your own kale.
And you don’t need their fucking “detox” pack.
It’s just about moderation.
Making Weight Loss Work For Your Body
All of my clients still eat chocolate, pizza, etc – as do I – but the trick is to ensure it fits within your daily calorie target.
The easiest way to do this is by tracking your daily food intake.
You can track your daily calorie burn via a wide range of heart rate monitors but I’m yet to find one which gives an accurate report, so your best move is to simply train hard on a regular basis and take steps to monitor your food intake, which is much easier to do.
There are countless apps available nowadays which can do this for you. My favourite is My Fitness Pal.
It takes time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it there’s not going back.
In a world where everybody is trying to convince you that you need some miracle pill, or “one weird exercise nobody else knows about for a flat stomach”, the vast majority of us can eliminate dietary problems by deciding to stop bullshitting ourselves.
Fancy taking on my challenge?
Simply spend a fortnight doing this, and watch what happens to your body.
Now I want to ask you a question.
Do you agree with what I said in today’s article? Or am I talking BS? Drop me a comment at the end of this article to let me know!
- Heymsfield, S.B. “The calorie: myth, measurement, and reality.” Am J Clin Nutr 1995 62: 5 1034S-1041S
- Pietiläinen K.H., et al. “Inaccuracies in food and physical activity diaries of obese subjects: complementary evidence from doubly labeled water and co-twin assessments.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Mar;34(3):437-45. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.251. Epub 2009 Dec 15