We're All Lying About How Much We're Eating

Elinor Block

Perhaps this is a rude question but we're all friends here: how many calories do you eat a day? No seriously, be honest. How many do you really eat a day? We'll be the first to admit that we often forget about that sneaky slice of cheesecake we had at dinner or the bag of popcorn we had midmorning, meaning we can go over our daily amount quite easily.

The guidelines suggest that for women it's 2000 and for men it's 2500 calories per day. But apparently, we're all telling porkies about how much food we're actually putting in our mouths (see, it's not just us). According to a recent report by the Behavioural Insights Team, a social purpose company owned by the UK government and innovations charity Nesta, Britons are massively under-reporting how many calories they eat per day, which would go some way to explaining as to why, at the same time, there are also rising levels of obesity in the UK

Keep scrolling to find out about why we're eating more calories and how to properly track how much you're consuming.

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The study was conducted after several national reports and media articles noted that over the last 40 years, official statistics showed a large decline in calorie consumption, however at the same time there's also been an increase in obesity—so how can both be true? 

While there was a suggestion that the reason for this was that physical activity had declined, and therefore fewer calories burned, this still is at odds with the fact that people were eating fewer calories – if that were the case the nation would be losing weight, not gaining it.

The conclusion, therefore, can only be that national reports are not giving a true reflection on calorie consumption (in other words, people are not being honest about how much they're eating).

Said co-author of the paper and director of health at the BIT, Michael Hallsworth, "Our analysis shows that it's unlikely that calorie intake has dramatically decreased in recent decades. Instead, it seems we are reporting our consumption less accurately. We should look at new ways of helping people report what they eat."

So how do we count our calories properly? Unless you know the exact calorie count of everything you're eating (that's serious #memorygoals), the best way is through a calorie tracker such as My Fitness Pal. You can also track your steps daily through something like a pacer app, or the iWatch to check out how many calories you're consuming and burning off. 

And why is it also important to know how many calories we're burning? As Hallsworth says: "Anyone who has been on a treadmill will know what it feels like to look down and see you have burned far fewer calories than you expected." We'll just be putting that cheesecake down, then.

Tell us: Are you eating too many calories per day? Do you think you need to be more aware? 

 

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