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Are You Eating More Than You Think? Want To Know Your Caloric Intake For Weight Loss?
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Hey, welcome to another episode of the SNA Health Class. Today we’re going to be talking about calories. Now, do you know how many calories you’re eating per day? And are you 100 percent sure that’s accurate?
Well, if you’re like most human beings, you underreport your caloric intake by about 30 percent. That’s right. You see, we have a lot of psychological biases that cause us to misjudge many of our actions. We tend to overestimate how good we are, underestimate the possibility of failure. There’re a lot of different psychological biases that we have, and one of them—this actually kind of manifests itself in respect to what we’re eating.
The reason I’m bringing this up today is that there was a new study that came that looked at—this was done in the British Medical Journal. Again, just another study showing that we underestimate the number of calories that we eat, especially, this study looked at fast-food restaurants. What they did is they looked at 1800 adults, 1100 adolescents, and 330 children. They simply just interviewed them at different fast-food joints: McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, all those amazing restaurants that we all love. Not.
Essentially, all they did was they asked the participants to say: “How many calories do you think you’re eating in that meal?” Then they obviously took all that data and put it all together and then compared it to the actual nutrition info of a Big Mac combo, for instance, and looked at that.
The results showed that at least 40 percent of the study participants reported eating at the restaurant where they were interviewed at least once a week. If they interviewed the person at McDonald’s 40 percent of these people said they go to McDonald’s at least once a week. Just over 20 percent of the adults noticed the posted calorie information on the menus or wherever they post it, but only 5 percent said they use that information when purchasing food.
I think part of the problem with this is that not a lot of people understand what a calorie is. We’ve become so calorie-focused in our society, and it’s really shifted the focus away from the quality of the food and we focus so much more on the quantity of it. By quantity, I mean calories.
What does 500 calories even mean? Do you know how many calories you’re burning every day? Because if you want to lose weight, if we’re just kind of really boiling this down to this simple equation—there’s obviously some other intricacies here with respect to hormones and calories coming from different types of foods and stuff, but, really, at the bottom of this all, even if you just ate fewer calories than you’re burning, you’re going to lose weight.
But how do you know how many calories you’re burning? I guarantee you most people have no idea. There’re a lot of quirky equations out there that give you some more advanced and some simple ways of calculating this. We talk about this specifically in Module 6 in the Academy. But unless you know how many calories you’re burning, even if you don’t even exercise—then you really have no benchmark to compare how many calories you’re consuming.
Let’s say, on average, you burn 2000 calories a day, but you’re not aware of that. Let’s just say you’re not aware of that. You go to McDonald’s and you have a Big Mac combo, which is, I don’t even know, probably over a thousand calories. Well, that’s just one meal.
Well, what do you do for the other meals? You might have something else. You don’t even know how they add up. You don’t even know how many calories or so are building up if you’re making foods at home or if you’re taking them out of the box—obviously it’s a lot easier because you can see the nutrient facts.
But unless you have a benchmark of how many calories per day you’re burning, you don’t know how much you should be eating, and, therefore, it’s very easy to get caught up. And, without even realizing, you’ve packed on weight because, again, you have no benchmark to compare things to.
Anyways, back to this study. What they found was that at least two-thirds—this study found that 66 percent of all participants underestimated the calorie content of their meals, with about a quarter of these people underestimating the calorie content by at least 500 calories. They were 500 calories off the mark. That’s huge.
That’s where awareness and education come in. That’s why, hopefully, these restaurants are doing a better job. I think if you go to McDonald’s and get a hamburger, the packaging actually has the nutrient facts on there. But most people, they’re so hungry, they don’t even care. They rip off the package, get to the burger, and then they eat it.
Again, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. I was as guilty as the next person in my teens and early twenties. I remember when I used to work at my dad’s store in retail. I remember every Saturday I’d go to help in the store, and he worked in downtown Toronto, so at lunch I would always look forward to going to McDonald’s.
I’d take my ten dollars or whatever it was, go to McDonald’s, grab a Big Mac combo or a Quarter-Pounder-with-cheese combo and Chicken McNuggets, and I would sit there and that’s it. I would just sit there and eat my food. It was actually pretty nice in terms of mindful eating. I wasn’t eating on the run and stressful and stuff.
But at the time they didn’t have any nutrition information on the Big Mac combo stuff. I remember this because I can see it in my head. This is probably now more than, this is, like, 15 years ago.
If that were the case nowadays, I’d be sitting there eating my combo, and I’d be looking at the Big Mac nutrient facts, and I’d say, “Wow, this has seven hundred calories or five hundred milligrams of sodium.” At least you can kind of become a little bit more educated with respect to the food you’re eating.
But, again, if you don’t know what that means with respect to what you’re supposed to be eating or what you’re burning, it really doesn’t much. Human beings, we work on relativity. How do we know something’s hot? Because we compare it to something that’s cold. You can do this experiment on yourself. If you take, if you’ve got three buckets—one bucket of hot water, a bucket of lukewarm water, and a bucket of cold water.
Let’s say you put your left hand in the hot water, your right hand in the cold water. Hold it in there for a couple seconds, and then one at a time, you put either hand in the lukewarm water. The lukewarm water will seem cold compared to the hot water but hot compared to the cold water. And that’s because that’s generally psychologically, from a sentry perspective, how we compare things is based on relationship to other things. Unless we know what we’re supposed to be eating and burning, then we’re just kinda flying blind with a lot of this stuff.
I think inherently, we know we’re not supposed to be eating this fast-food junk. Hopefully more of us are becoming more aware of that, and, hopefully, the people that don’t know will be exposed to listening to these types of podcasts so they can become more informed about this stuff. That’s why I really appreciate your help in spreading the SNA Health Class podcast to hose who need to now about this, because it is important.
What else can I tell you from this study? Yeah, the main findings here were that. Again, we eat more than we think we’re eating. Again, that’s basically what it comes down to. I want to give you some very simple strategies for eating less to kind of balance things out.
Let’s just say you don’t have any idea how many calories you’re supposed to be burning a day or that you are burning a day. And let’s just assume that you don’t even want to count calories, because I don’t count calories, I don’t care about doing so, but it is helpful to have a general understanding of how many calories are in certain foods.
For instance, you can eat fruits and vegetables all day. As far as I’m concerned, you’re not going to gain weight. But as soon as you start packing in some of those packaged foods and dense foods, you want to know how many calories, more or less, are in there. Even if you don’t, don’t worry about it.
Here’s a very simple way of losing weight without fussing about all the other stuff. Cut your portion sizes by 15 percent. That’s it. There you go. Thank you very much for joining me, and I’ll see you next time.
That’s pretty much all you have to do, is cut your food intake by 15 percent. That’s the safe level of kind of caloric restriction you want to be after in terms of losing weight in a safe and sustainable manner.
What does 15 percent look like? Good question. It’s kind of a tough one. If we think about our plate, if we think about using a big plate, and we’ve got our food on it, if you think about your plate being full of food, if you just carved out one-quarter of that plate and remove it, that would be 25 percent more or less. Obviously, if you took out vegetables, then you’re not really taking out 25 percent of the calories, because they’re very low in calories.
But let’s just assume the plate is homogenously made up of the same thing. Let’s just say you’ve got a plate of pasta. You take out one-quarter of the pasta; that’s 25 percent gone. Fifteen percent would be a little less than a quarter of the plate. As you do that, you can visually see what that looks like, and you can see how much food that is that you’re now taking out.
Another easy way to do things is to simply use smaller plates, smaller bowls, smaller cups. Really, that is probably the easiest way to do things. For instance, if you have kids, there’s no reason that a kid needs the same size plate as an adult. If you’ve got little kids, they might weigh 30, 40, 50 pounds. Human adults, we weigh 150 to 200 pounds, let’s say.
We weigh four times as much as them, so why on earth should they be eating the same amount of food off the same size plate as us? Yes, they’re growing and they need calories and so forth, but they don’t need four times the number of calories that they need. Use smaller plates; use the same thing for yourself. Smaller plates, smaller cups.
If you’re drinking fruit juice, which I don’t recommend you do. If you’re buying store-bought fruit juice or soda pop, it’s all the same, lots of sugar, and you’re drinking out of a bigger cup, well, drink it out of a smaller cup. You’re still drinking the sugar, but it’s less of it. Obviously, you want to switch to water, but I’m just giving some really basic and powerful recommendations.
This is the kind of stuff that even if you change nothing about the quality of the food you’re eating will make a difference because you’re simply eating less. That’s it. What it boils down to, losing weight, again, fundamentally, is eating less, expending more.
Smaller portion sizes, smaller plates, smaller bowls, smaller cups. Take your time when you’re eating. Take a forkful of your food, chew it, put the fork down. Chew your food, be conscious, eat slowly. There’re a lot of other mindful eating techniques, but those are a couple to start with.
And then, obviously, if you think about your current level of activity, even if you have no idea how many calories you’re burning per day. Let’s just say your baseline is that you walk three times a week. You’ve cut your calories without even knowing how many you’re eating by cutting out 15 percent or so by using smaller plates, smaller bowls, smaller cups. Right there you’re already consuming less even if you don’t know what it is. Who cares?
You don’t now how many calories you’re burning because it’s tough to measure, so you know that right now, you walk three times a weeks, and that’s your level of exercise. So, how do we burn more calories without even caring about how many calories we’re burning? We do more activity.
Let’s say instead of walking three days a week, you walk every ingle day for 30 minutes. Now you know inherently—it’s impossible that you don’t know, that you’re burning more calories because you’re simply more active. So, simply by doing these simple, little strategies where you’re not even counting calories or worrying about these calculations, you’re simply moving a little bit more and eating a little bit less.
That’s it. Don’t worry about the numbers. Everything else will take care of itself initially on the scale. Obviously, as you lose more weight and get fitter and fitter, there’s a little bit more work involved and diligence involved to get those last couple pounds off and really get leaned out. But I think for the vast majority of people, it really starts off as simple as that.
Don’t even worry about counting the stuff. If you want to do Weight Watchers and those other kinds of calorie-counting, fun-point-system things, that’s fine, do that. If that’s what’s going to keep you sticking to it, then, by all means, go for it. But just understand that we underreport or we underestimate how many calories we think we’re eating by quite a bit.
Just cut down your portion sizes a little bit more and get active just a little bit more. Those small, little differences, small hinges swing big doors, as the saying goes. Those do make a profound difference.
That’s all for today’s episode. If you do want more information on body mass index, how much you should weigh, all that kind of stuff, there’s a previous episode on the blog. Just type in BMI into the search on the blog and it’ll come up. You’ll see how much you should weigh for your height and all that kind of stuff and some of the limitations of BMI. I think in conjunction with this episode, you’ll get some really good information and guidelines to help you move forward if weight loss is what you’re after.
So, that’s it. Once again, if you have not left a review on iTunes for this podcast, I’d really appreciate if you could do so today. If you’re listening in the car, which a lot of you do and I appreciate that, obviously, don’t do that right now, but when you get back to your computer, go to iTunes, search in Super Nutrition Academy Health Class, get to that actual podcast page, and click on the “Write a Review” button.
I’d really appreciate if you could do that because, again, we want to get this information to more and more people, and we need your help to do so. We’re all in this together, and it’s all of our responsibilities to help more people. You might just be able to help one other person, and that could change their life. Just imagine that. How awesome is that?
So, I want you to leave a review, share this with your friends, and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode. Have a great day.
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