I’ll never forget a client I had years ago. He brought in a ‘perfect’ food diary. He followed his meal plan to the letter, and every calorie (or so he thought) was accounted for. But his weight just wasn’t moving the way he’d hoped. As we talked, I noticed that he kept popping breath mints in his mouth. When he started unwrapping his second roll of mints, I just had to ask –exactly how many mints was he eating every day? “These little things? – I don’t know… maybe 5 or 6 rolls.” Who knew that “those little things” added up to more than 300 extra calories a day?
Sometimes the extra calories are so obvious, you wonder how people don’t notice them. I had a roommate in college who was always dieting (and never losing), and I used to get really amused watching her weigh out the one ounce of cheese she allowed herself for a snack. She always cut too much. She’d weigh the block of cheese, then cut off a little bit….and eat it. She’d do this over and over, until she’d whittled a two-ounce piece of cheese down to one. Completely oblivious, she had no idea she’d eaten twice as much as she was supposed to.
Those who keep food records usually do a pretty good job – at least when it comes to noting what they eat at their meals and snacks. But when I instruct people on how to keep an accurate food record, I make it really clear…. other than water, anything that passes your lips gets written down, no matter how insignificant it may seem or how small. Because those extra little things can really add up. Don’t believe me? Here are some real life examples … courtesy of my clients.
• Free sample of a burrito at the grocery store: 100 calories
• Crusts cut off while making son’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich: 75 calories
• Six steak fries eaten absentmindedly from friend’s plate over lunch: 120 calories
• Last few spoons of mashed potatoes from dinner (not enough to put away for tomorrow): 110 calories
• Three bites of dough while baking chocolate chip cookies: 150 calories
• ½ piece of garlic toast and ½ cup of spaghetti left on child’s plate: 200 calories
• Few bites of leftover chow mein, eaten while standing up at the sink: 90 calories
• Six vodka and cranberry juices every night after work (okay, this client knew he was drinking a few calories… but he couldn’t believe that liquids could add up to 1200 extra calories)
That dash of cream in your coffee, the candy you filched from a co-worker’s desk, a few handfuls of your date’s buttered popcorn – it all adds up. Take a look back over your last few days – have a few extra calories have sneaked up on you?
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.