Updated September 29, 2008
Can't Figure out why you're gaining weight even though you're watching what you eat and have been exercising consistently for a while? Two recent studies shed some light.
According to the Berkeley Wellness Letter, the "eye-mouth gap", a term used to describe the common practice of underestimating the amount of food one eats, is prevalent among those trying to lose weight.
The idea is if you ask someone what they ate yesterday the odds are their caloric estimate will be off by a considerable amount. Studies show that up to 80% of the population underestimates their food intake. This includes lean and athletic people, too.
Researchers have found that when queried, many obese people remember eating only about half as much food as they actually consumed. A recent survey found that most adults underestimate their daily food consumption by about 800 calories. Considering that the standard adult diet is in the neighborhood of 2000 calories, these flawed estimates can add up to quite a few extra pounds and inches each year.
What's more, while people underestimate the amount of sugar, refined foods, and unhealthy fats they consume, people also tend to overestimate their daily intake of fruit, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. So we're consuming more calories than we realize, we're eating more junk food than we realize, and we're eating less healthy food than we realize.
There are a few possible reasons why a person might fail to grasp what (or how much) they are putting into their bodies. Explains the Wellness Letter:
Misreporting is seldom a deliberate deception, researchers believe. More likely, it's unconsciously done, perhaps in response to social or familial pressure, combined with wishful thinking. In addition, people don't know how much food they put on their plates. If you're trying to lose weight or improve your diet, don't trust your eyes.
In addition to underestimating how much we're eating, another recent study shows that Americans are overestimating the number of calories they burn during the day (exercising or performing everyday activity)! The overweight population is overestimating their calories burned per day by approximately 900 and normal weight people by 600. These two recent studies certainly explain our expanding waistlines.
Click here to watch the Liz Bonis segment on "Eye-Mouth Gap"
What can you do?
1. Be consistent in your workouts and make them progressive. Simply put, keep working diligently and change your routine frequently.
2. Track your calories. Doctors, fitness professionals and dietitians suggest health-conscious consumers track their meals to have a more accurate picture of what (and how much) they're actually eating. Use some method (the easier, the better) to keep count of how many calories you're consuming. If you want to lose weight, allow for a small caloric deficit on most days of the week - you should expend more energy than you take in by approximately 400 - 800 on caloric deficit days.
Clients at our studio have access to the industry's leading nutrition tracking software, Vitabot. And another great nutrition tool I've found to help track both the quantity and quality of calories is Meal Plans 101, created by dietitian Dr. Chris Mohr, PhD. Regardless of the method, people who keep track of what they are eating are far more successful in their fitness and body fat reduction efforts.
Click here to learn more about Meal Plans 101...
Okay, armed with this new awareness, let's get to it!!
Your friend in fitness,
Brian Calkins – Cincinnati’s HealthStyle Fitness, INC