Usually when we ask clients what they eat, they will tell us about what they eat at meal times (whether its 3, 4 or more meals per day). When we then ask the follow-up question "what about in-between meals, do you eat anything then?", we tend to get a response along the lines of "No no, I don't really snack..." which although may be great to hear, is rarely completely accurate. Once we get clients to fill out food diaries, we see more snacks and 'picking' than we had been previously told.
Now, we are by no means calling these clients liars, but it does raise an important point that we should be aware of: the vast majority of us aren't great at reporting what we eat - particularly after the fact. It's easy to forget the small things that we pick at throughout the day, or the sugar we add to our tea and coffee, or the oil we cook with etc...These seem like small occurrences - but what if we told you the reason you are struggling to achieve your goals and lose the weight you want to lose is because of these 'hidden calories' throughout the day? 10 Calories here, 20 calories there might not seem like a lot - but over the course of a day or week, the accumulation of all these instances could be the difference between creating a calorie deficit (necessary for weight loss), or not.
Are you accounting for the oil you use when cooking, the sugar in your tea and coffee, the ketchup or mayonnaise you have with your lunch or dinner? Are you even aware of how much butter you melt on your potatoes or spread on your toast? Do you realise how many times you taste the food you are cooking, or what you pick at while cooking? Do you happen to finish off what your kids leave on their plate at dinner time?
Think about it - those few small instances of 'picking' at food, or adding extra calories: they suddenly seem far more significant, don't they? The question is - how many calories are being added for relatively little or no satisfaction? The answer may shock you. Fizzy drinks and fruit juices fall under the same category - they can add plenty of calories to your day without any satisfaction at all.
We are rarely conscious of when or where we add these calories, and definitely not of how much we are adding! The key is to move from a state of mindless eating, to a state of mindful eating. Measure out the amount of oil you use (and moderate it), the amount of sugar you put in your tea and portion out sauces and spread properly. Believe me from experience, 15g of Peanut Butter or Mayonnaise is a lot less than you think - what you think is one portion could well be equivalent to three portions!
So, what if you are a mindless eater - what can you do about it? The first option is to spend some time (a few days to even a full week) filling out a food diary. This means writing down everything you eat AND drink throughout the day. Most people find that just by writing a food diary, they become more aware of what they eat throughout the day, and reduce how much they 'pick' at foods (as they know they have to write it down if they eat it). This is a really useful way to develop the skills an awareness needed to become a 'mindful eater'.
The second option is to pre-plan your meals for the following day. Plan (and even prep) everything you are going to eat the following day. By knowing what you are planning to eat, it takes a lot of the 'decision making' away from you and makes it easier for you to stay on track - you will think twice before having something that isn't on your 'plan'.
Now, we aren’t saying not to cook with oil use butter or have sugar in your tea - but what we are saying is to be aware of the nutritional and caloric value of what you are adding. Is it necessary to use as much as you are? Probably not. Reducing the amount of hidden, or ‘added’ calories throughout your day is one of the easier ways to create a calorie deficit. This is because usually, they don’t add as much enjoyment or taste as they do caloric value. So, instead of just pouring your oil, or just spreading your butter/peanut butter, look at the portion size and you’ll be surprised how much you add in comparison to the recommendation.
From personal experience as a former 'picker', when I moved from being a mindless eater to a mindful eater, I lost weight almost immediately and without much effort, and I quickly realised that my 'secret snacking' was adding up to over 500 calories a day! So if you’re honest with yourself and understand that you might not be quite as disciplined as you think you are, see the difference it might make!