How much are you really eating?

How much are you really eating? Guess what, it’s probably more than you think. One of the only positive aspects of programmes like The Biggest Loser, is when they show the contestants how much they actually eat throughout the day. And they’re always shocked! That would be the same for most people. Most people probably don’t understand how much they actually eat, and the best thing you can do is sit down, and honestly have a look at how much you’re eating throughout the day.

If you’re putting on weight, then you’re consuming too much. It’s as simple as that. You’re taking more calories in, than you’re burning. That’s the Law of Thermodynamics. Now, at this point, you’ll probably protest. “No, I’m not eating too much.” And my follow up will simply be, do you know roughly how many calories you burn in a day, and are you tightly controlling the amount you eat? If you answer no to either question, or most likely both, then you can’t know for sure. But if you’re weight is increasing, then I know for sure.

So, how many calories do you burn in a day? This is a tough one to measure, but you can still get a rough idea, and work from there. Once you have a starting point to work from, you can adjust everything accordingly. Now, you can either use a TDEE calculator, to ESTIMATE your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or if you’re feeling frisky, break it down. Work out your estimated RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) with the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation. Take 10% of your total calorie intake for your TEF (Thermic Effect of Food), and that’s a really rough number. Then use a calorie counting activity device, they’re not paying me, so I’m not going to mention them. Add that all together, and you have an estimation of your TDEE. That’s your starting point, you can work from that.

What do I mean by, are you tightly controlling the amount you eat? Really, I’m talking about calorie counting, and people who measure out their food. It’s boring, it’s time consuming, it’s meticulous, but they’re the only people who actually know how much they’re eating. It’s not the life for everyone, it’s not the life for me, but if you’re serious, or if you’re struggling to progress, it should be something you look into. There are plenty of calorie counting apps around, so they can do most of the work for you. Without them, when I ask you what you had for breakfast, and you tell me, “Two muffins, and a slice of toast,” if you’re not aware of the calories in them, how do you know when you eat more than you burn in a day? You can’t, you just assume, and that makes an ass out of you and me.

But wait, you’re eating “clean”, aren’t you? Well then, of course you can’t be eating too much, right? Wrong. First of all, you can put on weight eating anything. If you eat a thousand carrots a day, you’re still going to put on weight. Just because they’re carrots and they’re “good” for you, doesn’t mean they don’t count. They are still calories. And secondly, are you aware of how many calories are in supposedly “good” foods? It’s not uncommon for salads to be over a thousand calories per serving. Nuts, nut butters, granola, fruit juices, all healthy foods that can be highly calorific. They might be great for your body, but not so much for your weight or diet. If you burn say 1800 calories a day, and one of your meals is a one thousand calorie salad, because you thought it was healthy, it’s not looking great for your calorie deficit with hopefully two other meals during that day. Be aware of the calories in food, yes, even healthy food. It all adds up.

The reality of this is that if you’re not calorie counting, or measuring your food, it’s very likely that you’re eating more than you think. Personally, I’m a ‘small tweaks over long periods’ kind of guy, because I’m in no rush. If I see a change in my body, I’ll adjust what I’m doing, what I’m eating, and see what effect that has. But I understand most people have a sense of urgency, so getting a rough idea of how many calories you’re eating, and how many you’re burning, is essential. It gives you a marker to work from, and you can make the necessary changes. Just remember, you’re probably eating more than you think, and if you’re putting on weight, then you definitely are. Seeya next week.

Dan Miller

Body Fuel Personal Fitness Trainer