The world of exercise and nutrition is a huge industry with people from all walks of life and there are all sorts of different goals.
No matter what the goal though, we all need a plan to reach our goals.
Now, no matter how good the plan is … it is ineffective if we do not do it.
But that is not the only reason some of us fail to reach our goals.
Sometimes it comes down to a lack of consistency and other times we are not being honest with ourselves.
It might even be unintentional, but many people do not have a clue how calories they are actually eating or how many calories they are actually burning during exercise.
As a part of conducting exercise and nutrition research for the last ten years on populations that have ranged from young, healthy, college-aged men and women to middle-aged, moderately to severely overweight women, some common trends exist related to their own perception of themselves and their habits.
For starters, most people when asked to record their dietary intake for a period of three to four days, a common activity required by dietitians or researchers to determine what comprises an individual’s typical diet, will underestimate the amount of calories they consume.
Studies have suggested that people typically underestimate by 30%!
Thus if a person says they consumed around 2,000 calories they likely have consumed 2,600 calories.
That’s a big difference, and for many people, might be equivalent to a meal or a couple of snacks throughout the day.
This is a problem, especially for individuals who would like to lose some weight before summer.
How does this happen?
Well, it can be a little different for each person but a few of the main reasons would be the fact that portion sizes have grown over the years ... and eating pre-packaged foods or fast food has become more popular over the years.
Overall these foods can be quite high in calories, sugar, fats, etc. but not “look” like a lot of food.
If you’re like me and often determine portion size with your eyes, and feel you need to eat everything given to you (I can thank my parents for that), this creates a problem where people often don’t realize how many calories they are consuming.
One solution here is to track your food, get a better understanding of what a portion size is, and make smarter choices.
Another option is to cook more and eat out less.
Almost always, the food prepared in your own kitchen will have less calories and fat than a similar food prepared by a restaurant.
This message goes out to everyone. I can almost guarantee that when you eat out,the amount of calories you consume will be much larger than you would normally think.
The flip side to this is that when asked to record their exercise habits people will typically overestimate the amount of exercise they complete by 20 – 25%.
Added together a scenario is created where people on any given day could think half of their caloric balance has been accounted for when it hasn’t.
This is also a problem if you are trying to lose weight and get in shape.
So, if you haven't taken the time to add up your workout time for the week ... or really examine how active you are everyday... I would make time to do that right now.
You’ll likely be surprised that the number is lower than what you might think.
But no matter where you are at right now, you can make a change, and you can reach your goals!
The single best way to turn this balance in your favor is to strive to do two things:
1) Track your food for a week. Don't change any eating habits, just track what you are eating right now so you have an accurate understanding of what you are eating. You can download the MyTransPHORMation App for free to do that!
2) Add in a little more movement to your day. This can be extending your workouts an extra 5... 10 minutes. Taking a walk at your lunch break. Or even just simply setting reminders in your phone to get up and move every so often. The bottom line, just start moving a little more.
Notice I didn’t say only eat celery for a week, never eat out again or cook all your meals...
I also didn’t say you need to exercise every day for long periods of time.
That’s unrealistic, but the beginning of the process is to be honest with yourself, track what you eat and figuring out where you stand.
Then simply work to make this week better than last week…
That’s it... keep it simple.
If you are honest with yourself, focus on the process, do the best you can by making good decisions more times than not, and stay consistent...
You can and will reach your goals!
This post was written by Chad Kerksick, an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. Dr. Kerksick is a nerd for exercise physiology and particularly enjoys discussing strategies to lose fat and enhance performance through diet, supplementation, and exercise.
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