Great article by my old trainer Cody Bishop over at 181 Fitness. He really gets into some very key reasons why – even though you feel like you are eating healthy and exercising hard – you may not be losing the weight you think you should be. Give it a read.
In the previous 2 installments I discussed how 1) the idea that 1lb of fat equals 3500 calories could be off so much that it might just neutralize your entire weight loss effort, and 2) that the caloric deficit you start with may not be the caloric deficit you finish with. In today’s final installment I will discuss yet another reason why a 3500 calorie deficit may not result in a 1lb fat loss, because you’re human.
Duh duh duh!!
What do I mean?
Well, we, as humans, are prone to error and bias, and the likelihood of making some of these errors actually increases when we’re motivated to do/perform well towards a goal. We cut ourselves breaks and give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
For instance, we might consider a particular food to have less calories than it actually has just because we categorize it as a “healthy” food. The tendency to make this error is known as the health halo effect. It’s like a halo that looks like a donut, sort of.
Folks who eat foods that are “organic” are more likely to eat more of that food, which in the case of the study I’m referencing is cookies, than if it were not labeled organic. This happened even when IDENTICAL nutritional information was put on the organic and non-organic boxes. This study also showed that forgoing exercise was more acceptable when one was eating organic than when the were not eating organic.
Similarly, in this study, folks who ate a 1000 calorie meal from Subway underestimated its calories by 21.3% when compared to a same-calorie McDonald’s meal. Furthermore, given the choice to order a “healthy” Subway sandwich or a “unhealthy” McDonald sandwich (BTW the Subway sandwich had 50% more calories in this portion of the study), participants were more likely to order high-calorie side dishes like cookies and sodas.
These studies tell us that although we think we’re eating sparingly enough to create a 3500 calorie deficit, we might actually be underestimating the amount of calories in these foods simply because we consider them “healthier” options. Furthermore, we might actually complete destroy whatever deficit we created because we feel become more lenient on account of the healthier choice and give into a high-calorie side. Shit!
It’s important to acknowledge the mindset of a person who’s choosing healthier options and how it’s different from the mindset of someone who “just don’t give a f*ck.” Someone choosing healthier options may be in what’s known as a restrained eating mindset. Whenever I read “restrained eater” I always remember back to a Facebook conversation I saw between a client and her friend that read:
Friend: You on a diet?
Client: Always. =)
The interesting thing about a dieting mindset is the tendency to focus on activity, and not results (One of our client success principles). That is, the client in this case was focused on the activity of dieting and not the results it wasn’t bringing them.
According to this study, restrained eater rate healthy food as poorer tasting than unrestrained eaters. And according to this study restrained eaters also tend to underestimate the amount their eating and tend to eat more than unrestrained eaters without having felt they had eaten very much, let alone TOO much.
I’ve also seen this on the exercise front. Client are upset with their lack of results because of how much “work” they’ve been putting in. We’re all pretty bad judges of our own efforts, this is why we need coaches and objective measurements. Again, we want to focus on results and not activity. There’s a difference between showing up to the gym, and putting some serious, hang-your-head-and-almost-puke, work in.
Well, I hope this series has been helpful and if you want to learn why we’re the number 1 gym in North County San Diego for getting results, give us a ring at 760-415-8291.