The reason you aren’t losing weight may be hiding in plain sight.
Dieting, calorie counting, monitoring the scale — these activities have become a national pastime for many people. Overindulging is easy — pulling in the reins on eating to achieve a desirable body weight can be a challenge.
In some ways, monitoring weight loss is much easier now than ever before. There are countless weight loss programs, apps, and fitness trackers to help in the never-ending struggle to drop that last ten pounds.
And yet, so many of us look at the scale and wonder exactly why our hard fought efforts are yielding puny results. We will shout it from the rooftops that we are doing everything right. We count, we weigh, we measure, we record our snacks and meals.
We think we’ve got it down pat.
It’s not as easy as you think
I am as guilty as anyone of using record keeping as a good way to track my weight loss progress, or my lack thereof. I recently enlisted my husband as a willing participant in the fitness tracking app approach to weight loss.
He jumped in whole-heartedly, recording his little heart out — and eager to brag about how many potential “extra” calories he was avoiding each day, simply by recording everything he ate. He was deep into his bragging rights about how “easy” it was to lose weight once you put your mind to it. He fully expected to log unheard of results at a rapid rate of speed.
But, he didn’t.
Oh, sure, he lost some weight. He is proof positive in our household that men will lose weight more quickly than women, even under the best of circumstances. Still, he could see the struggle, and the easy relapse, that could occur if he let down his guard.
He simply could not understand how, if he was eating 500 calories under what he was allowed each day, he wasn’t dropping weight like a refuge in a third-world war zone.
Taking a closer look
Being something of an old pro at this food tracking thing, I asked to take a look at his food log. What was crystal clear to me was apparently as clear as mud to him.
Sure, he was recording what he ate — on the surface. If he ate a hamburger, that’s exactly what he recorded — one hamburger. If he ate a steak at a restaurant, he plugged in one steak. Same thing with his breakfast cereal — one bowl of oatmeal — sounds super healthy and low-cal, right?
Well, he was overlooking a few things — things that many, many people overlook when they are evaluating their food intake.
In a word — Condiments.
Yep, for those of us who are not strictly plain food eaters (which is probably everyone to one extent or another), condiments are the bombshell added ingredients that can send every meal into the stratosphere of calorie-overload.
That hamburger he recorded — and yes, he did remember to account for the bun — also contained a slice of cheese, a generous blob of ketchup, sautéed onions, a pickle and a few French fried potato straws. Oh, and the bun was buttered and grilled for crispness before being assembled.
The restaurant steak — well, it was not the 5 ounce portion recommended on the food tracking app — it was actually around 12 ounces. As if it wasn’t high enough in fat just by virtue of being red meat, a dollop of butter was simmered on top while it was grilling to add a little more flavor and juiciness.
The oatmeal? What — you ask — could possibly be wrong with oatmeal? Well, for those who are not plain-Jane eaters, ordinary oatmeal is, well, just too ordinary. Instead of 150 plain calories, the oatmeal in question was enhanced with a half cup of whole milk, a tablespoon (or two) or honey, a quarter cup of crushed walnuts and half a banana.
Those adders add up — fast
Condiments — by my definition being anything you or I might add to enhance the taste or appearance of our food items — can easily double the caloric value of anything, and everything, you might eat.
To record a simple food entry, and ignore the condiment enhancements is to throw a monkey wrench into the whole tracking equation.
It usually takes a bit of time and practice to fully understand the best way to accurately record a day’s worth of food and exercise. After all, you can plug in anything you want to on an app, but if it doesn’t translate into a positive result on the scale, what have you actually accomplished?
Beware the restaurant menu
Perhaps the greatest danger zone is the restaurant menu. Do you really know what you are eating? Every entree worth its salt is a combination of secret flavor enhancers and added ingredients.
That’s not meant to strike fear into the hearts of strong men and women, it’s just meant to help you open your eyes to exactly what you are eating — especially if your goal is weight loss.
More and more restaurants are showing nutritional breakdowns, if not on the menu in the restaurant, at least it’s available online if you take the time to research.
Food tracking devices can be helpful companions to weight loss — if you know how to pay attention to everything you’re eating and acknowledge it properly.