Diet denial: the lies we tell ourselves about what we eat
We're all guilty of fudging our food intake and then wondering how those pounds slip. Karen Coghlan on on how to get real
H ow much we eat is one of the main drivers for fat loss. But when it comes to our diet, are we in denial about how much we truly eat?
It's true. We tell ourselves lies all the time. We blame the fact that we are overweight on our slow metabolism, our genes, or even that we don't like "diet" food.
The truth is, we are avoiding taking responsibility for our own actions. Our metabolisms, our genes, and our personal preference for food is not to blame. Our over consumption of food is.
The lies we tell ourselves about our diet is possibly one of the biggest obstacles to succeeding with our fat-loss goals.
We deceive ourselves because it helps us to avoid confronting the reality of the situation - that we need to stop overeating to lose body fat.
It's a strategy to avoid addressing the reality of our overeating in the first place. In a way, it is a form of self-sabotage as the lies we tell ourselves about how much we are eating have profound consequences on the outcome of our fat-loss efforts.
We must become more honest with ourselves and face up to our overeating to have the best shot at both successful and maintainable fat loss.
"Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves," Walter Anderson
People tend to overeat without even being aware of it: eating too much when snacking out of a share-size bag of crisps, being served food piled high on a big plate, eating in front of the television or while on the go, and other factors that trigger the consumption of food when not even hungry.
This is called mindless eating and it makes it harder to estimate just how much we are eating when we aren't even aware that we are doing it. Just because the food is not served on a plate at our meal times doesn't mean that it has no calories.
We drastically underestimate how much we eat and drink outside of our scheduled meal times. The leftover peanut butter on the knife. The cake batter in the bowl. The skin off the roast chicken that you're carving for dinner. The one glass of wine that turns into four when free pouring into a glass.
It all counts. Even the extra calories at the weekend that we pretend we didn't eat, they count too. The extra calories taken on board can add up quite quickly and easily put you out of a calorie deficit.
Get real to seal the deal
Research suggests that people who engage in self-monitoring and keep track of what they eat have more success reaching their fat-loss goals and maintaining them in the long run that those who don't.
Instead of hiring someone to install hidden cameras and analyse your daily food intake, simply jot down everything you eat in a food diary. You could also keep track on an app on your smartphone, or an online food log. Even taking a digital picture of your meals may make you more aware of your food choices.
You don't need to stress over exact quantities and portions, keeping the entries short and to the point may be just as effective. Jot down your entries as you go along, as the odds are, you may "forget" some foods if you wait until the end of the day to do it.
It might take something as simple as writing down what you ate for it to dawn on you that you didn't in fact just have that one biscuit with your tea after dinner. You also had two while preparing dinner, and then had another after tea because there was only one left in the pack and you couldn't just leave just one biscuit in the packet, right?
Not only is tracking and documenting your food a great tool for looking back over, and identifying areas where you can make improvements. But it's also a great resource to have if you had a successful week, which can look back over and replicate.
Tracking your food doesn't have to be something that you do forever. However, it is a very valuable exercise if you're struggling to understand why you're not succeeding with your fat-loss efforts, by raising awareness and helping to establish new behaviours and habits around food.
Your food diary is not just for food either. You can also record your mood, sleeping patterns, and cravings you experience during the week. Writing these things down can help identify when you're emotionally eating, eating out of boredom, stress, or sleep deprivation, rather than eating because you're hungry.
If you're struggling with food portions or confused about what types of food you should be eating, then enrol the help of a mentor or nutrition coach who can show you the ropes and help you overcome any limitations that may be preventing you from reaching your fat-loss goals.
Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer and runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programs and hosts nutrition seminars around the country. See www.thenutcoach.com for more details.