Updated: Jan 8, 2019
We’ve all been there. Things have been going smoothly for two or three weeks, making great food choices, logging all our meals, hitting workouts regularly and the weight is slowly but surely coming down. Then all of a sudden-a plateau. It’s baffling–how can you be stuck, or even gaining when you’ve been doing everything right? We may jump to certain conclusions: “I’ve tried everything and this always happens.” “I’m just a medical anomaly.” ” I swear I’ve done everything right and this proves I can’t lose weight.”
I’ve discovered a show on British television called “Secret Eaters” that is pretty fascinating, and, in the typical English style, a little mean. But the content runs parallel to something I’ve seen over and over in my career. The theme runs deep: “I swear I’ve done everything perfectly to a tee and I’m still gaining weight. And the only explanation left is that I must be an exception to the rule.”
In this show, two people who keep inexplicably gaining weight, year in and year out, are interviewed. They agree to keep food logs for a week and go over it with the doctor. They truly are baffled by what seems to be extraordinary weight gain for somebody who can boast of eating only once a day, or only snacking on kale and water. Many of them report that they frequently don’t even eat enough. Once the food diary is turned in, showing only heaping portions of raw fruits and vegetables, a complete absence of carbs, and the occasional lean meat, it truly is baffling how one can gain weight so rapidly. So the contestants agree to let a film crew put secret cameras in their homes so that everything they eat in a 24 hour period can be accounted for.
But what they are not told is that cameras are also planted in the homes of their friends, and that a pair of private detectives will be following them around for the week as well, filming as evidence things they eat out of the home. Now of course, at the end of the week, their food diaries are still magnificently pure. And because they are aware of the cameras in their homes, they eat a little better than they normally would, and any indulgences are recorded as a special–and of course, unusual–treat.
When it comes time to compare the logs to what was eaten, it’s a huge shock to the contestants that their serving sizes were actually triple to quadruple what they wrote down. And they explain it as being an atypical week, so it kind of makes that go away.
But there’s an even bigger surprise when they are shown all the secret footage of what they ate and didn’t record. On average, each person was eating 1,200-3,000 calories more than they logged.
Now, of course, overeating by this amount on a daily basis will lead to steady weight gain, it’s no surprise. But they actually say things like “Who put that there?” And “That’s a mistake, I didn’t eat that.” Now, yes, this is where the show has a bit of a voyeuristic edge that I’m not super thrilled about. But the point is, even when caught on camera, and presented with THE logical answer to the question they’ve been trying to silence, there is still the shocked “No, I would never do that” skirting of responsibility.
Now combine the “I must be a medical anomaly” mentality with the “No, I don’t overeat” after being filmed overeating. What do statements like this convey? They aim to PROVE that weight loss is impossible for these people. Put simply, they end the conversation.
Think for a minute about the last time you told yourself or your coach “But I’ve done EVERYTHING” right. Or “I’ve tried EVERYTHING!” Just how accurate is that? Is it possible that, like many Americans, there is more on your plate than you accounted for? According to a recent poll of 2,000 women, three-fifths admitted that they go into hiding to eat certain foods. Now, before I come off as the Grand Inquisitor, realize that overeating is not always a clandestine, deceitful affair. It doesn’t necessarily present as shuffling off to a dark corner to shove food in your mouth without anybody knowing. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a bite of somebody else’s food, or eating 5 instead of 3 oreos. Maybe it’s not measuring the amount of cheese you pile onto your potato, and grossly underestimating the caloric load. For the average American, the latter is the case. But for many, it’s a combination of both.
If you aren’t tracking your calories and weight loss is not your goal, this is probably not something you need to stress about. But if you ARE trying to lose weight and are tracking calories or macros, this is something you must seriously consider. It takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose one pound of fat. This amounts to a 500 calorie deficit per day. That might seem like a lot, but that extra oreo, that bite of macaroni and cheese, that unmeasured half and half in your coffee, well that’s 200 calories right there.
It might be tedious, but accurately measuring food before you eat it is an unavoidable part of losing weight. Your coach doesn’t make the rules here, your coach just teaches you how to play the game. It’s a lot of work, but you must make the commitment if you’re serious about your goals. Before you say you’ve done everything 100% right and it’s not working, admit the possibility that inaccurate tracking is what’s tripping you up. Because then you’ve re-opened the conversation and absolutely can make headway toward your goals! Don’t ever make efforts in life to prove that you can’t. Don’t close the conversation.
If you are in need of help with calculating a healthy macronutrient balance for weight loss, maintenance, or muscle gain, or need support hitting your current targets, I have programs that can keep you accountable. Don’t hesitate to ask for support!